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...

Extinguishment - Is an adequate water supply established to support the operations in place and is the initial line being backed up with an adequate line with the proper provisions in place to not be compromised if integrity of the initial line is (loss of water, pump issue, etc.)?

Overhaul - Has someone ensured that all voids that could contain hidden fire been opened up and that all "hot spots" have been thoroughly extinguished? Remember, a "rekindle" does not exist, it just means that we never properly put the fire out.

Salvage - One of the most underutilized functions on the fireground or one that has been assigned much too late. Are actions being taken to safely save or protect any property that may not be damaged?

A reminder to perform structural stability checks is also provided on the worksheet at different time intervals. Construction of the building that we are operating in has to be recognized early and the way that it will react must be understood. Many newer buildings contain some form of lightweight truss construction which is susceptible to collapse from fire exposure in a very short amount of time (as little as six to eight minutes from exposure.) Is the building that we are in able to support the forces that are taking place as well as what we are applying?

Benchmark Reminders

Reminders for important benchmarks on the fireground are also provided as well as additional considerations that are needed but can often times be overlooked or forgotten until they are needed. Again, the items on the sheet are meant to keep the IC several steps ahead of the incident.

Not knowing the status and location of companies on the fireground can be very stressful for an IC. When a roll call is needed on the fireground, knowing where and who is operating on the fireground becomes the priority -- having a system in place to simplify this process is imperative. On the lower portion of the worksheet is a table to help keep accountability of companies on the fireground is provided. This helps in providing documentation of tasks completed, location of a company and a checklist for personnel accountability reports.

It is preferred that additional command officers other than the IC manage a fireground mayday if it were to occur so that efforts on fire suppression are still being closely managed and not forgotten. These efforts may be integral to the survival and rescue of one of our own. Often times, the IC may be the only command officer on the scene during the initial stages of an incident. If a Mayday were to occur, the IC can become quickly overwhelmed if help is not available. The backside of the worksheet contains a list of items or reminders that can help the IC in managing the mayday until help from other command officers can be provided.

Speaking of RIT operations; it is imperative that a RIT chief or RIT officer get a good understanding of the fireground upon their arrival. Important information that must be obtained includes:

  • Which companies are operating and where?
  • How long have they been operating?
  • How much progress have they made?
  • What type of accountability system is in place?

By no means should a RIT chief or RIT officer take the IC's focus away from the incident for a lengthy dissertation of what is taking place -- most of the information needed can be easily obtained from a well designed and properly filled out tactical worksheet. A quick glance and short verbal exchange of some important points is all that it should take before the RIT chief is on their way.

As we stated prior, tactical worksheets and checklists do not put fires out -- well trained and experienced firefighters and incident commanders are what make the difference. Operating on the fireground is becoming a low frequency and ultra-hazardous event- why would we not want our people operating in key positions to have the tools they need to be successful?