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Step 2: Assessment Centers - In-Basket Exercise

Step 2: Assessment Centers - In-Basket Exercise

Battalion Chief Paul Lepore

The in-basket exercise has been around forever and is one of my favorites. A candidate is given a list of items that must be addressed within a certain time frame. He or she is asked to prioritize the items and justify his reasons to the panel. It’s up to the candidate to determine what is important, and what is urgent. The exercise gives the department a snapshot of the candidate’s ability to perform the administrative functions of the position. While the Operational portion of the Battalion Chief, Captain, or Lieutenant’s position is very important, so too is the administrative component. This exercise outlines time management, writing, and setting priorities.

Here is an example of a simple in-basket exercise:

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You will have 30 minutes to address the following items and explain your reasoning to the panel. Please place them in order of importance and be prepared to discuss your rationale with your raters.

It is 0800. Official shift change occurs at 0745.

Test yourself: Rearrange the numbers in the boxes according to priorities.
<input type=“text” value =“9” style=“width:20px”> • 1. You have battalion inspection at 11AM today.
<input type=“text” value =“8” style=“width:20px”> • 2. The firefighter assigned to your crew approaches you and informs you that he cannot locate his gloves.
<input type=“text” value =“7” style=“width:20px”> • 3. The Battalion Chief calls you to say there has been a complaint about the way your paramedics were         driving.
<input type=“text” value =“6” style=“width:20px”> • 4. There is a message from Mr. Robert Jones regarding a recent fire prevention inspection.
<input type=“text” value =“5” style=“width:20px”> • 5. The engineer approaches you and says there is a nail in one of the inside rear dual tires.
<input type=“text” value =“4” style=“width:20px”> • 6. A paramedic assigned to your crew approaches you and says he is too hung over to work and asks to be         placed off duty on sick leave.
<input type=“text” value =“3” style=“width:20px”> • 7. You have a message to call Mrs. Smith about speaking to her group about fire safety.
<input type=“text” value =“2” style=“width:20px”> • 8. The paramedics are scheduled to have a ride along from 0800 to 1700.
<input type=“text” value =“1” style=“width:20px”> • 9. A school tour is scheduled at 1115.





ANSWERS

Here is an example of how to prioritize and justify the above list (check it against your answers):

Number 1. The engineer approaches you and says there is a nail in one of the inside rear dual tires.

I would prioritize this as number one as it affects our operational readiness. Just because there is a nail in the tire does not mean that I would take the engine out of service. It may be a short nail and may not have punctured the tire. I want to know if the air pressure is low. Is it leaking? I would instruct him to use a soap and water solution and determine it is leaking. If the tire pressure is low, I will ask him if he is comfortable driving the rig to the shop. If not, I will instruct him to call the mobile mechanic. He will provide the correct tire size to ensure the mechanic brings the proper size tire. I f the tire is low, and the rig is unable to respond, I will call dispatch and advise them of the situation. I will ask them to notify the Battalion Chief.

Number 2. A paramedic assigned to your crew approaches you and says he is too hung over to work and asks to be placed off duty on sick leave.

I would advise the paramedic to stay put and I would attempt to catch one of the off-going paramedics to temporarily ensure my staffing. Once I have staffed the rig, I would notify the staffing pool of my need for a paramedic. I would not allow the off-going paramedic to leave the station, as I am concerned that if he is too impaired to work, he is too impaired to drive home in his private vehicle. This would be a liability to the fire department. I would evaluate the paramedic to see if he is still under the influence. At minimum he will be counseled for showing up to work unfit for duty. This has impacted our operational readiness.

Number 3. The firefighter assigned to your crew approaches you and informs you that he cannot locate his gloves.

I would instruct the firefighter to borrow a pair of gloves from another firefighter. He is to leave a note on the firefighter’s turnouts so the other firefighter is not caught without his gloves. In addition, he is to fill out a lost property report and order a new pair of gloves. Lastly, I will coach and mentor him to take the initiative to do all of the above before coming to me to solve his problem.

Number 4. The paramedics are scheduled to have a ride along from 0800 to 1700.

I would call the paramedics to the office and notify them of the ride along and make certain that they have the proper forms filled out.

Number 5. You have battalion inspection at 11AM today.

I would call the Battalion Chief and ask permission to reschedule the inspection for the afternoon informing him that I had a school tour set up for the same time. While I was on the phone with the BC, I would let him know that I had several pending issues. First and foremost the engine may have to be put out of service (pending the answer from the engineer), I would get the information regarding the citizen complaint about the paramedics driving.

Number 6. A school tour is scheduled at 1115.

I would inform the crew that the station inspection had been rescheduled for the afternoon and that we had a school tour at 1115.

Number 7. The Battalion Chief calls you to say there has been a complaint about the way your paramedics were driving.

I would call the person who had a complaint about the Paramedic’s driving and get the facts of when and where the issue had occurred. I would assure him that I would look into the issue and would call him back after I speak to the paramedic. I would not give him the results of my investigation, as personnel issues are confidential. I would then conduct a fact-finding interview with the paramedics.

Number 8. There is a message from Mr. Robert Jones regarding a recent fire prevention inspection.

I would review the fire prevention record regarding 1234 Main Street. I would review the codes relating to the infraction he was given and return Mr. Jones’ call.

Number 9. You have a message to call Mrs. Smith about speaking to her group about fire safety.

I would return Mrs. Smith’s call regarding the fire safety lecture and set a time we could speak to her group.

Step 3: Oral Presentations

Step 1: Plan for Promotion




Paul Lepore is the author of the best-selling series of career how-to books for firefighters. You can buy them directly from the FireLink Bookstore


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