Unity of Command Answers the Conflicting Order Dilemma

Recently, I saw a discussion regarding a situational question that is at times asked at firefighter oral interviews. Though this question might test the candidates ability to use reason to decipher the answer, I saw the question in fact evoked many differing responses, none of which answered the question well, which did not help the candidate seeking a response they might use but also might leave a candidate in a lurch if faced with the situation in a real time incident.

I thought it prudent as well educational to readdress the question and offer a specific answer and explanation that is based on recognized terminology and practice.

The Firefighter oral interview question: “Given a task by your company officer at a fire ground, you encounter another Captain who gives you a different task. What is this situation and how will you handle it?”

  • Unity of CommandThe concept that every individual within an organization reports to one and only one designated supervisor. This principle is intended to clarify reporting relationships and eliminate confusion caused by multiple, conflicting directives.

This is a recognized concept. The correct answer is for the firefighter to inform the second captain that they have an assignment and to refer the second captain to the firefighters supervisor, either by radio or face-to-face communication, if any change is required or needed.

It might be argued but the fact is that the firefighter has been given a task, by their captain, that is factored into the entire mitigation or stabilization of the operation. That firefighters captain was given the responsibility to fulfill a tactical operation that factors into the strategy of the Incident Commander. Any deviation affects the whole plan and leaves a critical segment unattended or unfinished.

As with any circumstance beyond the decision making ability of the firefighter, this should be deferred to their supervisor. The second captain can contact the firefighters supervisor by radio or face-to-face, if they need to use the firefighter for another task. In addition, it ensures that the firefighter is supervised in the new task.

A candidate that understands this concept can answer any question of this type easily!

Education, Opportunity and Execution!


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One Response

  1. Robert Says:
    October 3rd, 2012 at 5:26 AM

    Thank you for your valuable information.