101 Things the Fire Department wishes you knew



Sunday, August 9

Sunday Fun - What Makes a Chief?

We dove into why we wear a bugle to signify rank a few weeks back, but some of our readers are wondering "How many bugles signify a Chief?" We get at least 5 hits a day from google with just that question, so here goes:

It depends.

Allow me to explain.

The Chief Officer of a Fire Company or Department is most often signified by five overlapping bugles pointing in all directions, signifying that that person is in charge of all aspects of the Company. From this rank down we remove bugles, but they always remain crossed, signifying that the person is a Chief Officer.





A Deputy Chief or Administrative Chief such as the EMS Section Chief or Deputy Chief of Operations will likely have 4 crossed Bugles, all pointing down. This signifies that the wearer is below only the Chief Officer and can serve in that capacity should it be necessary.






The highest rank in the field, responding to calls, should be your Division Chief. Division Chiefs cover a geographic area and supervise Battalion Chiefs. This rank is signified by 3 crossed bugles, again all pointing down. You can see that as you get more bugles you are in charge of more people.






A front line supervisor of multiple Companies is the Battalion Commander, or Battalion Chief. This person supervises multiple companies in multiple specializations. A Battalion Chief covers a geographic area and often serves as the Incident Commander at most incidents.



(All these insignia available at Chiefs Supply)

In most jurisdictions gold bugles signify a Chief Officer, but pay close attention to how many are present to see who you are addressing. When on duty, the Chief Officer should be addressed by rank, given full attention including you standing and facing them, a smart salute (when appropriate) and an offer of a hand shake introducing yourself. You should then stay in their presence until excused or given an order. It sounds overly formal, but when respect is given your workplace becomes a more respectful and professional place. And saluting the Chief in shorts and tennis shoes is just silly.

In addition to collar insignia, Chief Officers should be wearing a white helmet with a gold shield. This differentiates them from line personnel with a simple glance.

A white turnout coat should be reserved only for the Chief of Department. In a major emergency or MCI this Chief can be easily spotted in the sea of white helmets at the command post.

Next week we'll talk about the rest of the Department and how we should be dressed, marked and labeled.

Until then, *snaps to attention* "Thank you, Chief"

2 comments:

medicblog999 said...

Sorta makes my 'two pips' look kind of shabby now!

Ohio Medic said...

When I was taking an Officer Candidate Leadership class, a well-respected chief from a neighboring department told a story about the gold collar brass that always stuck with me:

He said "a lot of people think these are bugles. They're not. They are commode plungers. The higher up the management ladder you climb, the more shit you need to forcefully push in all directions to get anything meaningful accomplished".

Words of wisdom.