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...
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In Figure 4, the group supervisor status board shows a single tactical objective – evacuation – and one support objective – rapid intervention – being performed from or at multiple geographic locations. In this case, the functional objective and the geographic work location for each team assigned to the group is shown using status board shorthand shown above.
Let’s say that the evacuation group supervisor is in stairwell B on floor 11. A team would be sent from staging to evacuation group as follows: “Squad 51, report to evacuation group, in stairwell Bravo, on floor 11.” After ascending stairwell B and arriving on floor 11, the team leader surrenders the Squad 51 passport to the evacuation group supervisor and their objective and work location are conveyed face to face. (In case you haven’t noticed, ITAC strives to reduce radio communications and encourages face-to-face communications.)
In Figure 5, the division supervisor status board shows multiple tactical and support objectives being performed from or at the supervisor’s geographic area of responsibility. In this case, each of the division’s functional objectives and geographic work locations are shown for each assigned team using status board shorthand at the lower left of this page.
If the division supervisor was on side A of the building (in this case, the front yard of a house), teams would be sent from staging to “Division Alpha.” Teams would surrender their passports to the supervisor, the passport would be plugged into the Division A action plan, and the team’s objective and work location conveyed face to face. The division status board even reveals the operational mode: Offensive from side A on floor 2.
The important thing to recognize on both boards is that after a quick look at either one, you quickly discern that tactical accountability has been achieved and is being maintained. The glance also reveals that the group supervisor needs one more team to complete the group’s piece of the incident commander’s overall action plan (a team to evacuate floor 15).
Accounting for Volunteer Firefighters
If volunteers respond to the fire station, accountability is simple and straightforward: passports are assembled in the fire station and on each apparatus. A passport and corresponding helmet shield should be maintained in the cab of each apparatus. As volunteers arrive, they mount an apparatus, place their name tags on the apparatus passport and place the apparatus helmet shields on their helmets. As the apparatus responds, the officer examines the passports and confirms that the name tag of each riding member is on the passport (Figure 6).
Should volunteers respond directly to the incident scene, the system is flexible and will adapt easily. Volunteers report to the command post or the staging area and hand their name tags to the incident commander or the staging area manager. Firefighter name tags are placed on “phantom team” passports. A phantom team is represented by a blue passport; a blue passport indicates there is no apparatus associated with the passport; thus, the team is phantom. Once sufficient personnel have been assembled (attached) on the phantom passport and a team leader has been designated, the team is ready to enter the game. (As with any passport, the top name tag indicates the team leader.) Blue helmet shields should be available that correspond with each phantom passport. Team members affix the phantom team helmet shields to their helmets.
Call to Action
For generations, the fire service has nurtured a proud history and tradition of aggressive tactics. The time has come to establish a proud history and tradition of aggressive strategy. My purpose for this series is to demonstrate that achieving and maintaining tactical accountability is important, possible and not difficult. My hope is that you will embrace these principles so that everybody truly does go home.
I’ll leave you with this thought: You are the incident commander four hours into a five-alarm fire. If your implementation system can’t tell you where “Engine 54” is and what those firefighters are doing, what exactly have you been managing using NIMS? A structured and systematic approach doesn’t include broadcasting on the radio: “Engine 54 from Main Street Command, where are you?”
Next: How to nail your first-due strategic responsibility.