A battalion chief is a key member of the management staff for a fire department or fire agency. Battalion chiefs are usually third in command behind the fire chief and his or her assistant, and they achieve their positions after years of training and experience. Openings for battalion chiefs are commonly filled from the ranks of firefighting personnel, with most people rising to this position by staying with a particular fire department. Battalion chiefs usually receive benefits including medical benefits and paid leave in addition to their salaries.
Battalion chiefs often have college degrees along with experience as firefighters. They are fully trained and certified firefighters who have maintained their certifications and often built on them during their time with the fire department. They are also emergency responders with medical training, and sometimes battalion chiefs have specialized firefighting skills and certifications.
The battalion chief is responsible for managing day to day operations. When on shift, she or he coordinates emergency responses and manages fire crews large and small, supervising the fire captains who handle individual groups of firefighters. Being a battalion chief requires a very diverse skill set along with a high degree of organization and the ability to engage in complex and varied tasks.
In addition to being a part of fire response, the battalion chief is also involved in fire prevention. This includes community education, fire inspections, and advising community members on how to address specific fire risks. Battalion chiefs also manage fire station equipment, review maintenance logs, and make sure that the fire crews have the supplies they need. In addition, battalion chiefs supervise training, make sure that their fire crews stay fully trained and certified, and arrange training and practice exercises, sometimes coordinating with other fire departments on big projects such as disaster drills.
Someone who wants to become a battalion chief is usually a career firefighter. Training includes attending firefighting school and getting a college degree. Some battalion chiefs get their degrees first and then train as firefighters, while others may pursue their educations while working on fire crews, taking night classes or requesting schedule modifications to meet their needs. Firefighters interested in promotion work hard to distinguish themselves in their departments and take any opportunities for additional training, certification, and experience. Fire departments usually administer promotion exams on a scheduled basis and employees can apply to take the test as soon as they are ready.