A Tactical Worksheet for the Dynamic Fireground

One of the key elements to the success of any fireground operation is the ability of the incident commander to keep several steps ahead of how the incident is unfolding. Proper planning and deployment of resources has a direct impact not only on the...


An engagement evaluation should be completed as a part of that analysis. The probability of success of an operation must be considered in relation to the degree of risk presented. Rescue profile, fire stage, savable property and danger level to firefighters are all categories that make up this evaluation. Each category is scored 1 to 5 with the higher scores equating to an increased risk level to firefighters. The scores are also color coded with 1 being green progressing to blue, yellow, orange and then red for a score of 5. This is done to serve as a visual reminder with green generally signifying that it is okay to "go" or red to "stop."

If the majority of the scores are lower numbers or more towards the green, the overall incident strategy may allow firefighters to be in an offensive mode undertaking interior operations. Scores that are higher or more towards the red may signify that a defensive posture from the exterior may be the proper strategy. Again, there are no absolutes to this method but it can serve as a quick tool to formulate a true perspective of the conditions being presented.

Fire flow is another major part of the risk-hazard analysis. In very general terms, if the fire flow capability of available resources exceeds the required fire flow, an offensive attack on the fire can usually be made provided that the proper resources are available to support the operation and circumstances or conditions allow. If the fire flow requirements can not be met, a defensive mode of operations is required.

Fire flow should be determined by the National Fire Academy Formula (taking the length multiplied by the width of the building and dividing it by three will provide the requirement for one floor at 100-percent involvement; numbers should also be rounded to make the math simple). If multiple floors are involved (including attic spaces) this final number should be multiplied by that factor (number of floors) also. It is also recommended that one firefighter be on scene for every 50 gallons of water flowing to support operations. Again, not absolutes but points that need to be considered.

Once strategy is determined, tactical objectives can be considered. A simple but effective acronym passed down to me from retired Chicago Deputy District Chief Ed Enright is SCSCVEOS. These eight letters basically run down the most essential objectives that need to be met on every fireground (Size-up, Calling for help, Saving lives, Cover and contain, Ventilation, Extinguishment, Overhaul and Salvage.) To better meet today's requirements and needs the letter R is also added into the mix to serve as a reminder to ensure that the Rapid intervention function is filled and implemented on the fireground.

A separate text could be written on each area but a quick simple thoughts on each;

Size-up - Consists of getting a proper perspective (conditions, resources) of the situation and establishing the IC process. What does a 360-degree size-up of the building reveal? If you can't get a look at all sides (including the roof and basement), do you have the ability to get someone to those positions to get you (and others on scene) the needed information? Do you know where the fire has been, where it is at, and where it is going (BAG). Incident size-up plays a key part in completion of the risk-hazard analysis.

Calling for help - Are adequate resources available for the situation at hand; does the alarm need to be upgraded? Remember, it is easier to return someone if they are not needed rather than to not have them there and available if they are.

Saving lives - Are primary searches and the rescue of civilians assigned?

Cover and contain - Is there an effective attack established on the fire and do exposures need to be addressed to keep the fire from spreading? The most effective life-saving effort on the fireground is to advance a hoseline and attack the fire. This may include protecting egress paths for trapped victims as well as elimininating the danger of the fire itself.

Ventilation - Search and rescue efforts should always be accomplished simultaneously with an aggressive fire attack and ventilation efforts if possible. In addition to life safety provided by ventilation, it is imperative in helping to keep a fire confined.

Rapid intervention team (RIT)- Is the provision for a rapid deployment rescue team for the purpose of rescuing lost or trapped firefighters in place? NFPA and OSHA standards state that at least two members of the initial attack crew must be assigned this task as the initial rapid intervention team until resources for a formalized team are on scene. It does not matter what rule, standard or regulation that we are trying to comply with - the bottom line is that firefighter safety must be the main objective. The RIT must be established as soon as possible and be made up of properly trained and equipped firefighters.