The Ten Command-ments Of Intelligent & Safe Fireground Operations

Mark Emery continues this series with Command-ment VII: Thou Shall Complete the Seven-Step Action Plan Process.


Building the Incident Action Plan Fire officers are strategic resources; firefighters are task resources. As a strategic resource, a competent fire officer must have the ability to identify problems and, to address those problems, develop an incident action plan (IAP) that is built upon a...


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Building the Incident Action Plan

Fire officers are strategic resources; firefighters are task resources. As a strategic resource, a competent fire officer must have the ability to identify problems and, to address those problems, develop an incident action plan (IAP) that is built upon a foundation of:

  1. The status of life safety
  2. The determination of risk versus value
  3. Knowing what and where the problems are
  4. Your resource capability

The following seven-step progression will produce a terrific initial IAP:

  1. Step One: Investigation mode (Big Six size-up)
  2. Step Two: Determine risk versus value (Value-Time-Size)
  3. Step Three: List Big Six problems (F-S-VO-PO-E-A)
  4. Step Four: Prioritize problems tactically
  5. Step Five: List Primary Phase objectives
  6. Step Six: Call the Play (T.R.P.O. or D.)
  7. Step Seven: Assign objectives to resources

Attempting to remember this list at three in the morning is not practical. Thus, a simpler, more concise street model is preferred; the ideal model must be consistent and easy to remember yet encompasses all seven steps — and more. Command-ment VII will introduce you to the "Four Box Action Plan" model. This plan is simple, quick, adds strategic significance to your Big Six size-up, and is easy to recall at three in the morning.

Before we get started, I believe it's important to understand that the ability to craft an incident action plan is not some esoteric theory. The importance of size-up and incident action planning is validated by some pretty impressive company, including the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), National Fire Academy, National Fire Incident Management System Consortium and a host of respected fire service leaders and organizations.

So, who says you have to develop an incident action plan? Let's start with the Standard for Professional Fire Officer Qualifications, NFPA 1021, 2.6.2., which states that a first-line fire (company) officer shall:

Develop an initial action plan, given size-up information for an incident and assigned emergency response resources, so that resources are deployed to control the emergency.

NFPA 1021, 2.6.3, continues:

Implement an action plan at an emergency operation, given assigned resources, type of incident, and a preliminary plan, so that resources are deployed to mitigate the situation.

The Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, NFPA 1500, 3-3.35, defines an incident action plan as:

The objectives reflecting the overall incident strategy, tactics, risk management and member safety that are developed by the incident commander. Incident action plans are updated throughout the incident.

NFPA 1500, 8.1.8, states that:

At an emergency incident, the incident commander shall have the responsibility for the following:

  1. Arrive on-scene before assuming command
  2. Assume and confirm command of an incident and take an effective command position
  3. Perform situation evaluation that includes risk assessment
  4. Initiate, maintain and control incident communications
  5. Develop an overall strategy and an incident action plan and assign companies and members consistent with the standard operating procedures
  6. Initiate an accountability and inventory worksheet
  7. Develop an effective incident organization by managing resources, maintaining an effective span of control and maintaining direct supervision over the entire incident, and designate supervisors in charge of specific areas or functions
  8. Review, evaluate and revise the incident action plan as required
  9. Continue, transfer and terminate command (the NFPA does not provide guidance on how to comply; in particular, note responsibilities 3, 5 and 6)

The Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System, NFPA 1561, 3.3.17, defines incident action plan as:

A verbal plan, written plan, or combination of both, that is updated throughout the incident and reflects the overall incident strategy, tactics, risk management and member safety that are developed by the incident commander.

NFPA 1561, 5.2.5 states that:

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