Communications is a major component in firefighting. One component of communication skills that firefighters can neglect is listening. Yet it is the most important function to the job.
We listen to the dispatch and respond. We than take the information and paint a picture in our heads for what possibly happened and what equipment is in need. On arrival to scene, we listen to make sure the scene is safe from dogs, gunfire etc.
To take it further, we need to acquire the skill of being able to listen to the equipment and apparatus on scene. For instance, knowing what your pumps sound like when working properly. This can be more difficult for the volunteer who isn’t on the fire ground on a daily basis. An earlier detection of failing equipment can not only help save the lives of fellow firefighters but also lesson the cost of repairs.
The most important component of all, is listening to each other. Listen and find underlying meanings to be sure of your assignment and what is expected of you. Remember, all teams are groups, but not all groups are teams. Make implicit assumptions explicit and clear.
Listening to each other after an incident is just as important as on scene, in the heat of the moment. Listen to feedback and don’t take it personal. Take the feedback given to you and work on improving the weak area. We are not perfect; having someone point out where you need to make improvements strengthens everyone in the crew. Relate the feedback to existing performance goals and create expectations for yourself.
So grab a Q-tip and clean those ears! Better listening skills will not only improve your capabilities, but provide a safer environment for all. Making your engine company a sturdier team and an even more robust department.