Time management and effective fire companies

CarolinaFireJournal - Douglas Cline
Douglas Cline
10/14/2010 -

All firefighters realize and understand the importance of time when it comes to responding to an emergency incident. Time is recognized as one limited resource that must be maximized in every aspect. A difference in seconds may mean the difference between a fire being confined to the point of origin, verses a fully engulfed room, or a person clinically dead verses biologically dead. Time is critical in every case.


But, how do we as company officers, view and utilize time between emergencies? It is common that most fire companies spend less than 10 percent of their time responding to and mitigating emergencies. The remaining 90 percent should be spent preparing and engaged in accomplishing the department’s mission.

Time management should be a consideration in the life of the fire department company officer. Failure to maximize available time, impacts the overall effectiveness of the company. It is critical that time management be a part of the predicated skills of a company officer. The more efficient your time management is, the more you can focus on the effectiveness. It is the goal of this article to give the company officer, a place to start, regardless of the condition or type of the organization you are involved with.

This starting point will give you guidance to implement a plan for yourself and the individuals of your company. This will enable the entire company to become a more effective unit and be utilized to its fullest potential.

There was a time in the history of the fire service that all we did was sit and wait for the alarm to sound and then we would race to the fire. The outcomes of these fires were never questioned. The integrity of the department was unquestionable. Well, times have changed and changed drastically. Citizens expect much more from their fire departments and they should receive it. In the economically challenged times we are faced with today, we are expected to accomplish more than ever before. Most times with less human resources and funding

The first thing you must do as a company officer, if you are to effectively manage your time and utilize the company effectively, is to look at the framework in which your company operates. Ask yourself, “Does the company have goals, objectives and action plans?” When you evaluate your answer ask, “Are these goals, objectives and action plans designed for the company or companies and personnel assigned to my station?” When you answer both questions, then ask the final question. “Do I have goals, objectives and action plans?”

Obviously the key word in all three of these questions is PLAN. Without planning, no fire company will ever be the cohesive, well-trained, productive unit we all strive for.

Planning is a continuous function that reaches well into the future. Planning creates the Global Positioning System (GPS) road map for the accomplishment of certain goals within a given time frame.

Douglas Cline, is a 29-year veteran and student of the Fire Service serving as Training Commander with the City of High Point (NC) Fire Department and Assistant Chief of Administration with the Ruffin Volunteer Fire Department.

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