Accountability is a term that has several different meanings to us in the fire service and it is something that we should all have an absolute understanding of. When I am out making a presentation on firefighter survival, I often ask the people in the audience just what accountability is. I...
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What can you do with a radio that relates to accountability? A company officer who deploys any firefighter to a remote location (away from the officer) must use the radio to maintain contact with that firefighter and assure his or her safety and survival. You must intermittently contact your people and ask them how they are doing with their assignment. Don't call them and ask, "Are you OK?" Just ask them how they are making out on the roof or in the rear yard. Their answer and tone of voice will tell you how they are doing. If conditions dictate, you can withdraw your remote people with a single radio transmission.
These three fairly basic skills are enough to keep most company officers busy from the moment they arrive at a structural fire until they exit the building. We have not even mentioned the assignment that you and your crew were sent in to accomplish. Keep your crew and yourself well versed in these three vital fireground skills and you will suddenly find yourself practicing "real accountability."
JOHN J. SALKA JR., a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 28-year veteran battalion chief with FDNY, the commander of the 18th battalion in the Bronx. Salka has instructed at several FDNY training programs, including the department's Probationary Firefighters School, Captains Management Program and Battalion Chiefs Command Course. He conducts training programs at national and local conferences and has been recognized for his firefighter survival course "Get Out Alive." Salka co-authored the FDNY Engine Company Operations manual and wrote the book First In, Last Out — Leadership Lessons From the New York Fire Department. He also operates Fire Command Training (www.firecommandtraining.com), a New York-based fire service training and consulting firm.