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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Using this system, the only opportunity a team has to freelance would be immediately after completing an assigned objective. For example, Engine 33 has completed the primary search on floor 2, the team leader surveys air gauges, determines the team has 50% air remaining, looks around, sees something shiny and decides the team should investigate. The moment Engine 33 goes to investigate, the strategic thread is severed and tactical accountability is lost. I guarantee the Division A supervisor does not want to own this situation. (If you were responsible for Engine 33, and you didn’t know where they were or what they were doing, how comfortable would you be?)
The remedy is simple: Company officers need to be front-loaded with expectations. One expectation discussed in part one is the team leader’s responsibility to C.A.R.E. for team members (personnel accountability); another expectation is that when your assignment is complete, you will notify whoever has your passport. This notification should include a general report of how much air the team has remaining, based on the team leader’s gauge or the member with the least air. The report would sound something like this: “Nothing found, 50. Recommend we investigate something shiny on floor 2.” The supervisor can then make a decision: “Affirmative, Engine 33. Investigate and report.” or “Negative, Engine 33. Withdraw.” (I recommend the latter; they will soon be low on air anyway.)
Did you notice that Engine 33 reported “Nothing found”? You may be wondering why Engine 33 did not report “primary search floor 2, nothing found.” The reason is simple: they don’t have to. Because Engine 33 was tactically accounted for, the Division A supervisor knows where they are and what they are doing. That adds even more value: Tactical accountability will help reduce radio traffic. Proactive use of passports will help control radio communications: you always talk to your passport. If you surrendered your passport to the Division A supervisor, “Division A” is who you will talk to on the radio. This ensures that resource span of control is always proportional to communication span of control. (Remember, the passport connects the strategic thread that assures operational congruity and enables tactical accountability.)
But wait, here’s even more added value: Personnel accountability is seamless and tight, yet nobody on the fireground is consciously doing personnel accountability. How is this possible? Again, it’s simple: Once Engine 54’s passport is “in the game,” and nobody has messed with the passport nametags, as Engine 54 migrates from place to place and assignment to assignment, member nametags “ride” the passport.
As discussed, the majority of the time, division and group supervisors are maintaining tactical accountability. However, should somebody need to know who the members of Engine 54 are, the supervisor merely glances at the passport and recites the nametags – including which member is the team leader (top nametag) and which member drove Engine 54 to the incident. For this to work there is one important caveat: When Engine 54 arrived at the scene, the team leader (company officer) initiated personnel accountability by ensuring that the nametags on the passport accurately showed the makeup of the team. For example, if the driver remained at the apparatus, the driver’s nametag is shown upside-down; if the driver accompanied the team as they reported for assignment, the driver’s nametag is turned right-side-up. In either case, the driver’s nametag is positioned directly below the team leader nametag. Because the passports and nametags are not heavy, this should not be a problem for a company officer. If it does become a problem, you may want to recalibrate your selection process.
Chasing tactics with strategy doesn’t work. Unless the first on-scene fire officer nails his or her strategic responsibility, the chase is on. Should the chief officer arrive after one or two companies are on scene and working, it is almost impossible to “herd the cats.” When tactics are underway and there is no command post, the arriving chief is placed in the uncomfortable position of attempting to chase the ongoing tactics with strategy. Compounding this problem is the pressure of additional companies approaching the scene: “We’re a block out. Where do you want us?” or “We’re approaching. What’s our assignment?” That is evidence of reactive incident management.