Scouting for Fire Officer Talent

By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

I’m sure that many of you have seen this list, perhaps in a different picture, posted on social media. Like most memes 20161221_zero-talenton social media, it grabs our attention, perhaps makes us think for a moment or two, and then our limited attention span “kicks in” and we move on to the next post.

“Talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it” [Maya Angelou]

What is talent? A couple of definitions from the on-line The Free Dictionary:

  • A marked innate ability, as for artistic accomplishment: She has a rare talent for music.
  • Natural endowment or ability of a superior quality: The play has a cast of immense talent.
  • A person or group of people having such ability: The company makes good use of its talent.

Baseball people, e.g., scouts, managers, and general managers, talk about talent in terms of “tools”: He’s a “5 tool” player. Meaning that the player has talent in all five areas critical to baseball success as a non-pitcher: he can hit for average, hit for power, has base running skills and speed, throwing ability, and fielding abilities.

Such players are rare, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle rare. According to Major League Baseball’s Statcast there are currently eight 5-tool players: Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez, Yoenis Cespedes, Lorenzo Cain, Hunter Pence, Ian Desmond and Marcell Ozuna.

So, if you’re “scouting” the potential officer talent in your fire and EMS organization to see where your future officers might be coming from, what should be your scouting criteria? For the answer to that question and much more, see my contribution to Fire Chief Digital’s Winter 2016 issue, 9 TRAITS OF A GOOD COMPANY OFFICER CANDIDATE. My article begins on page 8.

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail,