Part 1 – Introducing a Freelance-Prevention System That Works Let’s get right to the point: If your implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Incident Command System (ICS) does not help you achieve and maintain tactical accountability , your...
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Engine 54 transitioned from the staging area manager’s span of control to the span of control of the Division 6 supervisor. There are four members assigned to Engine 54; thus, the span of control of Engine 54 is one to three – one team leader responsible for three team members. The Division 6 supervisor is supervising six teams, thus Division 6’s span of control is one to six. (According to the ICS, one-to-six span of control qualifies as “ideal.”)
Just like Engine 54, let’s say that each of the six teams being supervised by Division 6 has three members, each with one team leader leading two team members. If the Division 6 supervisor was doing “personnel accountability,” the Division 6 span of control would be one to 18 – well beyond three to seven.
Here’s a big accountability nugget: Division 6 is doing tactical accountability of six teams; the six team leaders are doing personnel accountability of their team members. (That last statement is important; I suggest you read it again.) Division 6 can tell you what Engine 54 is doing and where the members are working; however, the Division 6 supervisor has no idea whether all members of Engine 54 are together, whether each member is OK, how much remaining air the team has, what conditions are around them and the progress of their assigned objective. One person does know: the Engine 54 team leader.
You are the incident commander and “managing” an incident using NIMS ICS. You are directed by NFPA 1561 (and common sense) to maintain an awareness of who is there, where they are and what they are doing. This awareness means all of the people all of the time – no exceptions. Freelancing is prevented and forbidden. It doesn’t matter how big the incident or the number of alarms on scene; nobody is allowed to slip through strategic cracks in your system implementation.
Consider this from another angle: If you’re the incident commander and you can’t quickly identify where Engine 54 is and what those members are doing right now, you have a problem.
The purpose of this three-part series is to help you eliminate freelancing by achieving and maintaining tactical accountability.
Part one will:
1. Establish why tactical accountability is important.
2. Identify National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards that “require” that you achieve and maintain tactical accountability.
3. Introduce important distinctions between personnel accountability and tactical accountability.
4. Identify who is responsible for personnel accountability.
5. Identify who is responsible for tactical accountability.
Part two will:
1. Describe how to quickly achieve tactical accountability (using familiar strategic tools).
2. Describe how to maintain tactical accountability throughout the course of an incident.
3. Illustrate how to establish a “thread” that strategically connects the command post with a firefighter operating a nozzle within the hazard area.
Part three will:
1. Introduce the three levels of fireground freelancing.
2. Describe how to eliminate geographic freelancing.
3. Describe how to eliminate functional freelancing.
4. Clarify the real difference between a division and a group.
5. Introduce strategic tools for controlling the ebb and flow of incident resources.
MARK EMERY, EFO, is a shift battalion chief with the Woodinville, WA, Fire & Life Safety District. He is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer program and an NFA instructor specialist. Emery received a bachelor of arts degree from California State University at Long Beach and is a partner with Fire Command Seattle LLC in King County, WA. He may be contacted at email@example.com or access his website www.competentcommand.com.