Times May Have Changed, But Somebody Still Needs to Be the Barn Boss

Blog by Brian Ward
Training Director in Madison, Ga.
This column is a throwback to the history of the fire department – back before we had custom cabs and 100-foot aerials, back when our equipment consisted of a wagon and a fine breed of horses.
Just how important was the “barn boss” to ensuring the equipment, or the horses, were ready to respond at any time? What exactly was the barn boss responsible for? Most importantly, who in your department is filling that role now?
The barn boss doesn’t wear trumpets, but their necessity is beyond any individual in the department. Obviously, there has to be chiefs and officers for day-to-day operations and incident command. However, there is not much to command or operate if the chiefs and officers do not make it to the scene. In addition, if the troops or firefighters are not prepared to respond as quickly as the horses, there’s not much to operate or command.
In order for things to run smoothly the most influential firefighter should step up and be prepared to take the responsibility of making sure personnel are trained appropriately and the equipment is capable of handling all necessary tasks.
We all have our days when we don’t feel like a million bucks, but we never know what call is coming next and it’s essential we are confident in our equipment’s capabilities. Today may just be that day. Think if that was your family, which fire apparatus and which firefighter would you want responding!
The barn boss also needs to make sure all firefighters are fully capable of handling their duties with efficiency and competence. In order for this to happen, firefighters need to be exercised everyday just like the equipment on the apparatus.
Firefighters need to be trained. They need to practice the basics and be introduced to new techniques. Time after time firefighters start off full-tilt with new information but hit a road block and stop learning. Equipment, procedures, best practices, technological developments, standards, research developments – all of these are introduced regularly. A small piece of information may save your life or the life of a crew member. Or that new knowledge might help you work more efficiently.
These are critical tasks for a barn boss. Any chance you have to pass on information and knowledge – cherish that opportunity. You may not receive thanks or a pat on the back, but you will have done something incredibly important to our mission. Keep in mind, you have to lead by example and do the job first. This shows dedication, heart, and commitment to the people around you.
Be the example. Set the bar. Be the barn boss for your department.
As always, train hard, take care, and be safe.
About the Author
Brian Ward is the training director for Georgia Pacific in Madison, Ga. He previously was an engineer/officer with Gwinnett County Fire Department in Georgia. He is a past training officer, chairman of the Metro Atlanta Training Officers and currently serves on the Honeywell Advisory Council. He is a State of Georgia Advocate for “Everyone Goes Home” and the Membership Task Force Co-Chair and Live Fire Instructor for ISFSI. Brian was recently awarded the National Seal of Excellence from the NFFF/EGH.

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