Riding Assignments for Firefighters - Part 1

Fire departments seeking to maximize their capabilities should consider just how effective it would be to implement riding assignments as part of their daily routine.


Departments seeking to maximize their capabilities should consider just how effective it would be to implement riding assignments as part of their daily routine. Riding assignments are a pre-arranged format for responding personnel. Whether the department is a career organization or a volunteer fire company, the advantages of pre-arranged riding assignments offer enormous value.

The issue is this: today’s response assignments consist of a finite amount of resources and it is important that we maximize these resources. Using the concept of “Division of Labor,” we can pre-organize personnel into specific areas or specific specialties. What we will attempt to show in this series of articles is just how riding assignments can enhance a department’s speed and effectiveness and improve its command and control ability as well as organizational safety.

The Dread of Micromanaging

Have you ever been to a scene where the incident commander (IC) ends up micromanaging many individual tasks? For example, the IC tells the first-due engine to stretch a line or orders the first-due truck to force entry into the fire building, or orders the second-due engine to establish a sustained water supply and feed the first-due engine. While all of these tasks are critical, such commands on the part of the IC takes away from his or her time to size-up the building and concentrate on strategic factors and safety issues such as warning signs of flashover, backdraft, building collapse, as well as a host of other issues.

What if many of the tasks associated with the first two engine and ladder companies were pre-assigned for the most typical responses? For example, what if every first-due engine company knew it was their responsibility to establish a sustained water supply and stretch the first line to protect the greatest life hazard? Or the first two engine companies team up to assure a line is rapidly placed into operation? Or that the first-due ladder company always provides an unimpeded path to the seat of the fire?

Such a pre-assigned series of tasks would alleviate the IC from having to micromanage these more common activities. This is the benefit of riding assignments. For the more typical responses, being pre-organized allows the IC to concentrate on the larger picture. Will there be times where pre-organized plans will not apply? Of course! But for the more typical responses you participate in every day, certain common issues arise. Think about it … at the typical building fire, do you want a line stretched? Do you need a door opened? Do you need to search for victims? Do you need a water supply? Your companies can go into action instantly without the IC having to order numerous assignments.

Riding Assignments

While riding assignments are suitable for the more typical responses, they are not a cure-all for every response. Rather, they are geared towards the simple tasks that would be expected of the first-due companies at the most common incidents and responses. These assignments would be the typical actions expected unless the situation presented something unique from the norm.

Pre-arranged tasks and pre-arranged tool assignments offer exceptional flexibility to the most common incidents. For example, the actions of first-due companies to a small room and contents fire in a two-story private dwelling will generally be similar to past operations. The actions while operating at a call for a report of a smell of smoke or an alarm activation in a commercial occupancy along Main Street, USA will have similarities to responses in the past. Riding assignments allow the IC to know that certain responsibilities are already being covered or ready to be covered if so needed. This is based on past experiences and knowing what has worked successfully in the past for the more typical incidents.

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