Changing positions at your work helps you grow and mature

By: Frank R. Myers

While I was a firefighter in the Emergency Response Division for my former department, I sincerely looked forward to every tour of duty. Even though I took my job seriously, in a positive way, it was fun.

However, I never saw the “other” side of my department and understood what happens behind the scenes. It was not until I was awarded the position of driver engineer instructor for me to realize what occurs. It brought my professionalism up to the next level.

When I first reported for my first day in my new position, it was great. Sitting in my new office and working with another instructor reviewing some hydraulic equations, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I said to myself, “This is great.”

Soon after, I learned the many other aspects involved with this position. Then, I really started getting into the “nitty gritty” of things.

One of the biggest responsibilities was having to deal with the personnel issue and counseling. I became very familiar with the “red line memo” process and mastering the writing of them and feeding them through the proper people in the chain of command. Never did I think that assessment center tutoring would come into play in a realistic way.

I had to deal with some emotional “meltdowns” from some driver engineer candidates. Pressures of the testing procedure had become overwhelming for them. I had to learn to change gears and become a friend and not “Lieutenant Myers.” I had to give them advice and use the different resources available to me and to the department to get them the assistance they needed.

Another aspect was learning to communicate to my superiors not only from a reporting aspect, but also from an “advice”-seeking aspect. The interaction, vocabulary, language and correspondence in many ways is much different when talking to your managers and directors than it is with your co-workers at the fire station. All those skills that had been practiced in preparation for becoming an officer had come to fruition.

There was also a learning curve in how to deal with the different departments and agencies, both internally and externally. I once had to go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Center (EEOC) to address their personnel regarding a complaint filed against one of my co-workers/supervisors while at the Training Center.

Many times, I had to deal with the legal department concerning accidents with fire department vehicles and subsequent litigation. I had to go to the city attorney’s office and lawyers’ offices for depositions since I was the trainer and subject material expert (SME).

Many times, my position required exposure with the public. While working at the training center, we had ceremonies, visitations, group tours, etc. Interaction with other fire departments also occurred involving the parameters of the driver engineer instructor’s position. I was also involved with some of the recruit training, which enabled me to become familiar with many new faces not part of the “station life.”

There is no doubt that the familiarity with the policies and procedures took on a whole different look, unlike those at the station level. Record keeping was of the utmost importance as well as documenting everything.

The writing of procedures occurred on a regular basis to include unique response guidelines, i.e., tunnel responses, marine (fire boat) interaction, specialty vehicles like scooters, trailers, etc. Maintaining qualification and training lists of personnel was an ongoing task. I became familiar with driver’s license procedures and the Division of Motor Vehicles’ requirements to address any licensing issues with personnel, not only for emergency responses but all vehicles used by fire department personnel, inspectors, staff, public education, etc.

I soon realized that many hats had to be worn. Probably the biggest change was that my wife had seen how I had changed. I approached different issues with a new “sense” of skill and mindset.

I was reminded that I needed to work in the “city’s” best interest. In other words, I needed to protect the City of Miami as an establishment, even if it negatively impacted a subordinate or co-worker.

Mistakes happen, and bad judgment occurs. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. One of the best pieces of advice from a person outside the Fire Department was, “You need to look at yourself as an advocate for the citizens.”

It is the citizens that are trusting my expertise to assure that anyone with the fire department is going to operate, get trained, and provide safe operations of fire department vehicles — for their protection and the protection of others.

Frank R. Myers is a retired lieutenant with the City of Miami (Florida) Fire Rescue, where he served for 32 years. He works as a consultant for, a technology service that helps fire departments across the country automate their apparatus, equipment and inventory checks.