Incident Commander

On the fire ground, the incident commander is the person who determines the outcome. With mental illness, you too are in command of the results.

Anyone who has been in the fire service knows that fire-scene incidents can range in size and severity. Regardless of size, there’s almost always one person at the helm. Known as the incident commander, their job is to be “the” person who brings the incident a conclusion that minimizes damage and loss.

Doing so takes a high level of experience and education. This will help the IC to best predict where the fire will go and what tactics work best to efficiently extinguish the fire. In other words, they need to get a handle on the incident – quickly, and before it gets a handle on them and thus everyone on the fire ground.

The officer in charge or the incident commander is generally good at staying a step ahead of their enemy; they have to be. and structure is fundamental. This is arguably more important on bigger calls.

Essentially, you have sector officers, safety officers, accountability officers and more – all of whom need to be put in place to ensure that what needs to be done, actually gets done. Breaking a large scene down into smaller sections is paramount if you are going to be successful.

But that’s not all! You need water supply, staging areas for firefighters, efficient communication systems and firefighter rescue teams at the ready.

Of course, I could go on but I think you get the point. Viewing a fire scene from a distance, all you might see is a disorganized shit show. However, it is actually a well-coordinated and well-oiled machine. We like to call it organized chaos.

How does this relate to mental illness?

Well, on the surface it seems like it has absolutely nothing in common with the incident-commander analogy. However, I will do my best to explain.

Remember when I said that it’s imperative for the incident commander to get a handle on the fire? If not, the fire will get away from them? Their job is to tame that beast and prevent it from destroying lives.

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person in black pants and black shoes sitting on brown wooden chair
Photo by cottonbro on – Incident Commander

In comparison, we can ask ourselves: who’s got a handle on our own mental-health emergency? Using myself as the example – am I the one in command of my illness, or is my illness the one in charge of me?

For example, PTSD is a four-alarm fire and whether you like it or not, you’re in it for the long haul. And like that of being an incident commander on the fire ground, you’re it – there is no going home. Nor can you afford to ignore it; if you were to, the fire would propagate and grow out of control.

Like that of the Incident Commander, you’re it – there is no way around it.

Similarly, you are it, the incident commander in charge of what you do to mitigate the damage done by your mental illness. You get to call in the resources needed: psychotherapy, a fitness instructor, a psychiatrist. They can help you get a handle on your mental health. After all, you know these are the tools one needs to minimize the psychological damage, right? Besides, not calling in what you need for resources on the fire ground would be disastrous and irresponsible.

So, who’s got a handle on you? The four-alarm fire that rages inside of you, or the officer in charge of getting better? Own this incident, my friend, for it is the most important call of your life.

Order my new book collaboration, Lemonade Stand Vol.

Lemonade Stand Vol. III is a collection of 20 authors who have PTSD because of their military and or emergency services background. They bravely tell their stories in hopes that will help end stigma within the services and within mental health in general. Its other objective is to give people who are afraid to speak a voice.

When I read the stories from the other authors, it was like I was reading the story of my own struggles. I quickly realized that this book will not only help those with PTSD but may very well provide their spouses and families with insight into their loved one’s mental illness.

20 Authors tell their story of PTSD
Pre order today

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person in black pants and black shoes sitting on brown wooden chair
Photo by cottonbro on

Categories: Fire Service, Mental Health, PTSD

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