The Whirlwind. That’s what it can feel like to a fireman on the detail trail – walking into a strange firehouse, to integrate with a potentially unknown crew, riding an unfamiliar rig in an unknown neighborhood. The culture, the characters, the climate, all feels…different.
The same can be true for the crew. Who is this detail guy? Do they know their job? Can we trust the reputation of their house? Who was their instructor at the academy? What did a dude that knows a dude that knows a dude hear about them? The list goes on and on, and unfortunately usually travels a negative path. The historical trend in the fire service is a detailman is a shit-bag until proven otherwise. Guilty until proven innocent.
The real truth is that success in this situation is a two way street. The detailed firefighter must have a desire to integrate effectively with the new crew and the crew must possess a desire to assist that firefighter in the process.
This is not an easy thing to ask of either side:
- One must accept that there are things they might not know, and open themselves up for instruction which is sometimes viewed as incompetence (especially when developing new relationships).
- The other must exercise empathy & humility in the educational process, understanding knowledge is there to be shared, not used as leverage to display dominance.
To further complicate the situation, the time to “onboard” a detailed firefighter is as close to assuming duty as possible. A working fire could strike within minutes of putting your gear on the rig, placing the firefighter in a very real, very dangerous “sink or swim” scenario.
So how do you take years of area specific operational nuances and crew camaraderie and cram it into the first 5 minutes of a shift? Good question.
While nothing can replace hours & hours of training, standard operating procedures and department wide practices, one potential tactic to quickly add context for the unfamiliar member is a “cheat sheet” or “quick reference guide”. While we are sure there are many different variations of such a document, we wanted to include an example of one created by the District of Columbia Truck Company 17, Platoon #4, (created by the members, it is not an official department document).
We are posting this document here for the first time only as a brainstorming reference for those who may wish to employ a similar tactic at their station &/or shift. It was created in 2016 and used by the shift at that time as initial reading material for a detailed firefighter prior to assuming duty. It did not replace hands on training once the shift started, but did shorten the learning curve and started the mutual conversation for growth.
Hopefully it can help other crews attempting to address similar issues as a jumping off point. Stay safe.
(Click the cover page below to view, download or print the PDF)