www.firefightingincanada.com

Features Blogs From the Floor
From the Floor

June 19, 2012, Winnipeg – I am not anywhere near the world’s greatest fire apparatus driver: I’ve blown alarms and made my share of mistakes. But I have some experience, and in my first few years on the job, I had really good mentors who showed me the tips and tricks that got them through the rigors of their driving years.

June 19, 2012
By Jay Shaw

Topics

June 19, 2012, Winnipeg – I am not anywhere near the world’s greatest fire apparatus driver: I’ve blown alarms and made my share of mistakes. But I have some experience, and in my first few years on the job, I had really good mentors who showed me the tips and tricks that got them through the rigors of their driving years.

Having a great working relationship with your officer while driving the rig makes your life less stressful. But what happens when that relationship is less than stellar? How do you deal with it? Sometimes you get a new officer, and you have to adapt. Other times, you’ve probably had to bite your tongue. So, what’s the secret to a stress-free relationship?

Here are my three Rs of fire apparatus health and wellness when it comes to getting along with your officer while on the road.

Rules
Know your department’s driving rules well – all of them; review them frequently and follow them to the best of your ability. If you do this, it is really hard for others to argue against anything you do on the road. If you screw up, miss something on morning checks, blow an alarm, or make a mistake, own up to it immediately, and apologize – it’s even harder to get on a driver who apologizes and fixes his or her mistake. Study your streets more; I’m often guilty of this one, but it is simple logic that if you review you district it helps with your confidence in knowing where you are going.

Racing
Slow the heck down! This goes for your speed and your mind. The No. 1 issue that contributes to accidents and arguments in the front of the truck is your speed. When you are not in control, your officer is on edge and looses confidence in your ability to do your job effectively. Making your officer’s head hit the roof because you nailed a speed bump way too fast is not great for relations, or the truck. Think about who’s emergency it is, and who’s job it is to respond professionally. The risks you incur for the extra five seconds you may or may not save, are not worth it. Driving to conditions does not mean driving the speed limit. You have to have some forethought on that 4 a.m. call when the temperature has dropped 10 degrees and it has been raining. Slow down your mind by having confidence in your abilities. You do this by following the first R.

On one night shift we had a few four-fers! That’s when you go out for one alarm and you get three more before you get back to the hall. Nothing messes with a driver’s routine more than taking a call on the road. Where are you? What’s the best route? After I messed up and picked a slower route, and the rest of the company beat us into a call that we were closer to, I could feel the laser eyes from the other side of the rig burning right through me. You’ve got to recover, slow down and get back in the game.

Respect
This is the most important of the Rs when it comes to harmony in the front half of the engine. You work in a para-military environment in which the officer is in charge. If the officer is in charge of you, and you just happen to be driving, well then he is still in charge. Even though you have the wheel and it is your driver’s license, the officer should be listened to explicitly, in my opinion. If you are certain of a new route, a memo that explains a closure, or you know something specific about the alarm location – such as a side entrance, or where the panel is – then speak up respectfully. After the call, in private, ask to speak to the officer and get clarification on what the routine is that he or she would like you to follow.

If you follow the first two Rs and limit your mistakes and increase your confidence, you should be able to speak up and ask for clarification on how, or what way, things should be done differently.

We, as drivers, have to adapt, not the other way around, if we want to earn the respect of our officers. Communication is, again, always the key in these situations. Remember that the guy telling you what to do was once in your seat, and can now draw from both perspectives. Work as a team, and use the back half of the rig to assist you en route. Your senior firefighters in your hall are great resources; ask questions and be respectful of the system. Others before you have done what you are doing now. This is a tough lesson to learn, and you have to be the one to bend, listen, and respect the knowledge around you.

On the lighter side, firefighters are some of the best bargain hunters around. So, let’s plan a vacation. What’s the best firefighter vacation spot? Disney, perhaps, for the family? I’ve seen a lot of young guys take off with a backpack to the other side of the world and they always seem to have a great time. I’m going to plan three awesome trips on a shoestring budget. If you’ve got any tips, I’d be happy to share.


Jay Shaw is a 10-year member of the Winnipeg Fire Department who has worked in hospital emergency rooms, rural ambulance services and with the Canadian Forces fire service. He is completing graduate studies in disaster and emergency management at Royal Roads University. Contact him at 911writer@mts.net or follow him on Twitter @911writer.


Print this page

Related



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*