The emergency scene simulation, also called the fire simulation, the fireground simulation, the tactical exercise, the tactical problem or some other similar name, can be one of the most challenging portions of a fire service promotional examination assessment center. More and more fire...
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The emergency scene simulation, also called the fire simulation, the fireground simulation, the tactical exercise, the tactical problem or some other similar name, can be one of the most challenging portions of a fire service promotional examination assessment center. More and more fire departments are challenging their company officer and chief officer candidates with a promotional assessment center that may include an emergency scene simulation. Many fire departments require a candidate to obtain a minimum score of 70% in these exercises to pass the overall assessment center, not to mention the emergency scene simulation, to be eligible for promotion.
Typically, an emergency scene simulation will consist of a picture or pictures of an emergency scene, most likely a fire in a type of environment you would likely find on your department (residential structure fire, commercial structure fire, high-rise structure fire, wildland fire, strip-mall structure fire, apartment/hotel fire, etc.). The simulation will last anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes, depending on what your department wants to evaluate in its promotional candidates. I have seen departments show a different picture every 30 to 60 seconds, with the expectation that the candidate provide a first-in officer radio report and discuss assignments to the first-alarm companies, to a 20- to 30-minute simulation with multiple issues or challenges for the candidate.
In the end, every point counts on a promotional examination. Thus, it is critical to be detail oriented and ensure you dot your i’s and cross your t’s. What’s the difference between an overall score of 80% and an overall score of 81%? Well, possibly a job! Let’s look at what I have experienced or have been told are the top 11 reasons candidates have been unsuccessful at an emergency scene simulation exercise:
1. They did not prepare for the position. Take the time to focus on the position you are aspiring to; that way, it should not matter what you are faced with during the simulation and more importantly, real life. Too many candidates just try to get through the test and end up cutting corners in their preparation.
2. They focused too much on being a “check-the-box” incident commander. It’s OK to have checklists, as they help jog the memory and ensure you are covering the bases. However, don’t get so focused on checking the box that you cannot defend or explain what you are doing. For example, if you are the incident commander, it is one thing to say “Truck 1, you are assigned as ventilation group.” It’s another thing to have the raters now turn the tables and say “OK, you are the Truck 1 captain – please explain the direction you would give to your crew, what ventilation considerations you would have, etc.” Too many candidates focus on just assigning the task that they don’t think it out if they were put on the hot seat, how they would actually do the task.
3. Lack of knowledge of building construction, fire behavior, and strategy and tactics. These are the big three, in my opinion, and something we can do a better job at learning and teaching others, especially with all of the changes in building construction and fire behavior over the years. Lightweight-truss roofs are failing much sooner than conventional roofs and rooms are flashing over much faster due to fire loading and the make-up of the contents. Take a look at firefighter fatality reports and you’ll see these three items usually in the top 10 contributing factors of line-of-duty-deaths.
4. Inability to use – and appropriately use – the Incident Command System (ICS). Like it or not, the ICS is a valuable tool to assist with managing and organizing the incident. Look at firefighter fatality reports and you’ll see ICS-related items, such as span of control, accountability, command and control, and communications as being contributing factors to firefighter line-of-duty deaths.