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

Part one of this series (February 2011) referenced the 1960s sitcom “Car 54, Where Are You?” to establish that freelancing and lack of accountability may be funny on TV, but are not funny on the fireground. The concept of tactical accountability was...


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Part one of this series (February 2011) referenced the 1960s sitcom “Car 54, Where Are You?” to establish that freelancing and lack of accountability may be funny on TV, but are not funny on the fireground. The concept of tactical accountability was introduced and the article discussed why tactical accountability is important and who is responsible for tactical accountability.

Part two (July 2011) discussed how to achieve and maintain tactical accountability using simple strategic tools and processes that can eliminate freelancing and make tactical accountability work. Part three will:

1. Introduce the three levels of fireground freelancing.

2. Describe how to eliminate functional freelancing.

3. Describe how to eliminate geographic freelancing.

4. Teach how to capture and account for volunteer firefighters.

5. Clarify the true difference between a division and a group.

If you are just joining the series, what follows is a brief overview of tactical accountability. For those of you who have read parts one and two, additional information clarifies and reinforces the principles of Integrated Tactical Accountability (ITAC).

 

Tactical Accountability Review

Tactical accountability is a strategic benchmark that is achieved and maintained throughout an incident. A benefit of tactical accountability is that nobody is allowed, or needs, to freelance. Achieving tactical accountability means somebody at a strategic level knows who they are responsible for, where they are and what they are doing at all times; nobody slips “through the cracks.”

The process, or system, for achieving and maintaining tactical accountability is called Integrated Tactical Accountability. The word “integrated” was chosen because ITAC brings together each element of contemporary incident management into one implementation “system.” These integrated elements are the National Incident Management System (NIMS), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Incident Command System (ICS), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and passport accountability (Figure 1). Each element advises what you should do, but does not provide a comprehensive template for compliance or implementation. ITAC offers methods and techniques that unify the guidance these groups and documents offer into a single, integrated implementation system.

For example, this seamless integration means that, in the context of ITAC, you cannot talk about a division without including:

How a division supervisor achieves and maintains tactical accountability

How and in what form does a division supervisor receive their piece of the overall action plan

How a division supervisor conveys a division status report

How a division supervisor obtains additional teams

How a division supervisor withdraws all assigned teams in an calm and orderly fashion

How a division supervisor coordinates a roll call

Each bullet describes how a division supervisor supervises, which ventures well beyond knowing that a division is “geographic.” ITAC does not compete with or replace NIMS or ICS. Think of ITAC in this context: ITAC is to NIMS ICS what Microsoft Windows is to the robust MS DOS computer operating system; Windows provides an implementation interface that makes MS DOS intuitive, user friendly and easy to use (Figure 2.) In short, ITAC provides an integrated implementation interface for NIMS, ICS, NFPA and OSHA.

ITAC targets four strategic components that are essential for an incident to be managed competently; these four components are so crucial that they form the core of the Integrated Tactical Accountability methodology (and thus the acronym ITAC):

Incident command that is competent

Tactical accountability of all personnel at all times

Action planning that is quick and easy

Communications that are clear, concise and disciplined

Ignore (or botch) any one of these core strategic components and the after-action review will not go well. In fact, if you want to determine the strategic competence of an incident, simply ask four questions during the after-action review:

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