Jeffrey R. Barlow
The Fire Officer’s Guide to Management and Leadership: A Scenario-Based Approach will help aspiring officers develop their critical decision-making skills. The fire service has long emphasized the importance of emergency response size-up: a proper size-up and its associated actions can be the difference between a successful operation and a compromised one. Training texts, seminars, and academies emphasize officer skills but rarely does the aspiring officer receive practice in assessing personnel issues within the fire station and putting appropriate decisions into action. Even though the vast majority of situations for which an officer is solely responsible are in the station, an officer frequently relies on on-the-job training for guidance as he or she gains rank and promotes up the chain of command.
In order to prepare aspiring officers to take on the challenges of their position before they are officially tasked with handling station issues, we must allow them to practice their decision-making skills. To truly practice sizing up station scenarios, the aspiring officer must approach situations from an officer’s point of view with officer responsibilities, information, and expectations. The scenarios in The Fire Officer’s Guide to Management and Leadership: A Scenario-Based Approach allow aspiring officers to critically assess various station issues so that they are prepared to make sound judgment calls that result in the best possible outcomes if and when they face similar station issues as chief officers.
The scenarios are designed to identify situations at various levels of the organization, and are divided into Company Officer, Battalion Chief/Shift Commander, Operations Chief, Fire Chief, and Chief Elected Official Scenarios. Specific ranks are not always identified in the scenarios because agencies or departments may use various terminologies. Although the scenarios are fictitious, they are grounded in first-hand experiences from a variety of sources in volunteer, career, and combination fire departments.
Some of the scenarios are repeated across levels. This is because officers at different levels, with different domains of responsibility, will size up the same situation differently. As an officer escalates the organizational chain of command, he or she will find that one issue will require different approaches for how best to handle it.