Integrated Tactical Accountability “Engine 54, Where Are You?”

The absence of tactical accountability on the fireground is dangerous and has contributed to the death of many fine men and women. Part one introduced the concept of “tactical accountability” and described why it is important. Part two details...

Welcome back to Integrated Tactical Accountability, the freelance prevention and National Incident Management System (NIMS) implementation system that works. In part one (February 2011), we reminisced about the 1960s TV sitcom “Car 54, Where Are You?” The sitcom theme was the comical exploits of...

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3. Conditions above Engine 54 – In this case, the attic; observing soffits, gable vents and the roof for evidence of deteriorating attic conditions.

4. Conditions around Engine 54 – Observing floor 2 windows for evidence of escalation/deterioration of conditions.

5. Conditions below Engine 54 – Observing floor 1 windows and open doors for evidence of heat.

The side-A position of the division supervisor serves as life insurance for Engine 54 and the other teams assigned to Division A. Additional insurance is provided by a backup team protecting egress, a rapid intervention team stabilizing utilities and perhaps raising an egress ladder, and an incident safety officer viewing the other sides of the house. If the division supervisor was on floor 1, inside the house, the division supervisor’s focus would narrow and the risk to Engine 54 (and the supervisor) would increase. Notice that the division supervisor attaches Engine 54’s passport into the Division A action plan. This begs a question: Where did the Division A action plan come from? The following strategic caveats will reveal the correct answer:

1. Division and group supervisors do not generate their own action plans; that would be strategic freelancing.

2. Division and group supervisors are assigned a geographic or functional piece of the overall Incident Action Plan (IAP). This means that division and group supervisors must obtain their piece of the overall action plan from an individual farther up the Incident Command System (ICS) food chain.

3. During this house fire scenario, the supervisor received the Division A action plan directly from the incident commander.

You should not hear something like this broadcast on the radio: “Battalion 2, on your arrival establish Division Charlie.” That assignment gives Battalion 2 the green light to freelance strategically on side C. Better to let Battalion 2 park, report to the command post, attach Battalion 2’s passport to the command post board and hand Battalion 2 the Division C action plan, which the incident commander had time to draft because of the proactive assigned of Division A.

Conveyance of the Division A action plan would be done using a simple yet powerful strategic tool: the division status board. Notice that the division status board uses shorthand to list objectives and work locations within each of the six blocks. The six blocks ensure that the division supervisor’s span of control does not exceed six teams. (Teams are represented by passports.) Running vertically along each side are strips of Velcro for attaching passports. Engine 54’s work assignment and work location have been listed using status board shorthand: “PS” for primary search and “A2” meaning that the team will enter from side A and work on floor 2. When Engine 54’s passport was attached to its assignment, tactical accountability was achieved:

Who – Engine 54, represented by the passport with member nametags

What – Primary search (PS)

Where – from side A on floor 2 (A2)

As if achieving Engine 54 tactical accountability isn’t cool enough, here’s added value:

1. Engine 54’s assignment and work location were conveyed face-to-face, eliminating radio chatter such as “on your arrival blah, blah, blah.”

2. Engine 54’s work assignment and work location are congruent with the “offensive from side A on floor 2” operational mode.


How to Establish A “Strategic Thread”

The logical medium for establishing a “strategic thread” is passports and nametags. First, you must understand a concept I call “operational congruity.” This always begins with problem identification, or size-up. Using the chart below, let’s establish operational congruity for one of the problems identified at the house fire described earlier: the smoke on floor 2.

This operational congruity is the product of, first, knowing what the problems are; second, knowing what the operational mode is; and third, selecting appropriate tactical and support objectives that will solve each problem within the margins of the declared operational mode – also known as your IAP. All that remains is to assign tactical and support objectives to teams. If necessary, you may also want to assign a method for an objective.