Volunteer Chief's Aide --  
    Why don't we use them?  
    by WithTheCommand.com Staff  
    In the early 80's I worked the night shift. Before traveling home about 50 miles from work I would travel to the fire station where I  volunteered to sleep during the day time. It was my way of helping and volunteering while catching up on my sleep.   

    One afternoon we got a box alarm. If you were slow to get out of bed, there was a good chance you'd will miss the first piece out the door. Well on the alarm I did not make the first piece out the door There was no second crew. The chief had not left yet so, I walked over and got in the chief's car and away we went. The box ended up as a good intend call no service was needed. As the chief parked next to the engine, he told me to get on the engine and told the driver on the engine to mention to everyone that he does not drive fire fighters to calls.   

    Ever since that call I have always wondered why volunteer chief's don't utilize the use of a fire fighter for a chief's aide? Large metropolitan fire department have chief's aides, these fire fighters learn very quickly that the Incident Command System and are a proven asset.  

    Photo by Jim Davis

    Take a look at what a chief officer has to do before he reaches the scene.The alarm is sounded and right away the chief listens for the address. Most chief officers in my area know their first and second due area's very well. So the location is usually not a problem.  

      But if the chief does not recognize the address he must look it up in the map book before responding. This duty is the responsibility of the engine, truck, squad or ambulance officer responding to a call. And the driver of these pieces of apparatus have a good idea in which direction to approach before the address is located in the map book.
    Being alone the chief doesn't have a person with him so he can do one of three options. Look up the address before responding, this option will be the only option for chiefs responding from home where there is no chief's aide available. Go ahead of his company's apparatus, travel in the direction of the call while watching other apparatus responding to follow and or looking for the address in the map book as he drives, or follow the apparatus due from his company. To most experienced chief officer's this is all elementary, but for new chief's an aide to assist him in these function could make all the difference in the world.  
    After the alarm has been answered chiefs must manage the enroute radio traffic combine with operating a vehicle at sometimes high speeds with agile moves through traffic. This combination has wrecked many chiefs cars. Think about it, some states have banned the use of cell phones while driving. The incidents of auto accidents due the use of cell phones has risen to a level where it has become a problem.  
    Photo courtesy KVFD
    Chiefs responding to a call have a greater amount of distractions than the average automobile operator with a cell phone. This is another reason to have a chief's aide with you, either let the aide drive the chief's vehicle or let the aide manage the radio traffic combined with looking up the address and preplans of the incident.   

    While enroute the chief officer has been informed by communications that he will be the chief officer for this incident. The chief will have to listen to all radio traffic and respond to communication with instructions when needed. In the initial stages of a call, the chief must recognize or be told by communication that he has minimal staffing for all units responding. While operating a vehicle with a radio microphone in one hand steering wheel in the other and sometime reaching for a pen to write down note, the chief is quite pre-occupied.  

    The chief has heard all the units responding and on the information received by communication is satisfied on the initial responding staffing levels with one unit under staffed.   

    Before arriving on the scene communications informs you they have had multiple calls on this incident and the first arriving unit went on the scene with level one operations. Do you remember which unit was under staffed? Communications will inform you of which unit is under staffed and ask you if you like an additional piece. This we know, but there is always the things that go wrong.  

    Lets say your radio goes south and you now find yourself not able to communicate with anyone. You have not arrived on the scene yet but the first arrive engine company has; who has the command now?   

    Communications keeps calling you but you don't respond. Communications doesn't know your radio has stopped working. All they know is something has happen to you. You arrive at the scene assuming you have the command but because you have not answered communications. Command has been passed to someone else. You have no knowledge communications has done this. What would be your first order of command now?  Will you start your size up while trying to locate a radio? You could send the aid to locate a radio and tell communication that the chief is on the scene and has the command. Would a chief's aid help benefit the chief officer in this mass confusion? Additionally won't it make the responds safer for the public and chief officer?  

    Would a chief's aid help benefit the chief officer in this mass confusion? Additionally won't it make the responses safer for the public and chief officer?

      This is just an example of what could go wrong. And most officers will dismiss this situation is not going to happen to them. I do remember this happening and the result was an on-the-air audio argument once the initial chief found a working radio with communications and the officer who the command was passed to. To have a chief's aide will give the chief officer another set of hands. The aide will perform the task of other duties as assigned.

    All of us at one time or another has seen this typed into our job description. And it is in place for those operational needs you just don't think about or has never come up. The chief's aide must understand this role and only perform duties assign to him by the chief.  

    One benefit could be if you arrive on the scene of a working fire at the same time as the first arriving apparatus that is under staffed. The chief could instruct the aid to make up staffing for that engine company.   

    Fire fighting is not an exact science; to prepare for the worst is one of jobs that is why we drill, train, prepare preplans, etc. Go the extra mile, have an extra pair of eyes, ears and hands to help you manage incidents more effectively. Having a chief's aide will send a message that you are taking that extra initiative in being prepared for the unexpected. This is not a sermon, just a thought.

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