Leatherhead Thursday:The nozzle person

By James R. Dennison

of the Leatherhead Instructors

It has been a long standing tradition within my organization and many others across the country to allow the senior person on the apparatus to be the “nozzle person”.  The concept of the most senior person being on the nozzle comes from the thought that this particular person is the most knowledgeable, experienced, and trained.  I agree that this person should be on the attack line, but I believe that they should be the backup or second in line.

I bet we could teach a monkey to spray water on a fire, but the ability to monitor the ever changing conditions would be difficult at best.  I have heard a lot of things as to why the most senior person is on the nozzle: they have been doing this a long time, they are really good at attack, they have put the time in and should get to have the best job, etc.  These points have no validity in the progression of the department!  How do you think a new firefighter gets the experience so that when they are a senior member of the department they can teach new firefighters? They won’t if they are not put in the position to be taught.

The fire service is now starting to look at the concept of putting the junior person on the nozzle and placing the veteran member behind them.  This idea comes from a teaching position and the ability of the veteran member to monitor the changing conditions.  The veteran member can guide the nozzle person as to where to spray, how to spray, changing conditions to look for, what the fire is going to do, where the fire is going to go, etc.  This allows for the junior member to receive guidance, and the veteran the ability to effect the progression of the junior firefighter and the department.

The junior firefighter should be competent in methodically searching for the fire and monitoring the stability of the floor, but having the veteran firefighter right behind them will allow for guidance when there is a question.  This approach will allow for a positive experience for both firefighters, and strengthen the individuals on their weaknesses.  It is necessary for the veteran firefighter to understand why he or she is being told to be second in line; they need to know that their experience, knowledge, and training can help shape the future of the organization.

I encourage you to look at the information available on firefighter related articles, blogs, magazines, and websites to better understand this concept!

Stay safe and train hard!