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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First of all, get your team going, in other words, have team members start doing something: stretch handlines, establish water supply, position a fan, etc. While they are busy at task-level jobs, you will exit the apparatus and complete your Big Six size-up. While identifying problems, you will also do a quick risk-versus-value assessment (value-time-size). Using abbreviations, list your problems (I use a status board and grease pencil). Big Six problems are listed as F for fire, S for smoke, VO for verified occupants, PO for possible occupants, E for exposures and A for access problems. Don't worry about listing details such as sides; just capture each problem and the general location (your brain will hold the details). As an example, consider the simple house fire shown in the photos 1 on the following page.

While investigating, each Big Six problem would be listed as shown in the left column:

Problem: You would know what each problem abbreviation means:

F 2 There is fire venting from side C on floor 2

S 2 There is smoke venting from sides-A and C on floor 2

PO 2 There are possible occupants on floor 2 (no verified occupants)

E ATT There are exposed attic voids to investigate

PO 1 There are possible occupants on floor 1

EX 1 There is exposed property on floor 1 (in fact, the most value is on floor 1)

While viewing each side of the fireground it will take no more than a few seconds to list these problems. These few seconds will add tremendous value and significance to your fireground investigation. Notice that the list of problems has been prioritized tactically. (It also demonstrates another reason why floors should be designated numerically and exposures designated alphabetically.)

Incorporate the "Three That Kill" (Command-ment III, Firehouse®, May 2007) into your investigation and you would further increase the value. You would register that there is not a basement and that floor 1 is clear and stable (thus no fire below while operating on floor 2). Thus, the greatest risk to the greatest value (firefighters) would be a hostile fire/smoke event on floor 2 and hidden fire growth in attic voids.

Because you investigated the fireground, you know what and where the problems are; because you listed your problems, you know what needs to be done; because you know what needs to be done, you have produced your initial incident action plan (refer to NFPA 1021 at the beginning of this article). Close box two.

Open Box Three: Big Six Report

Now that you know what the problems are, and you know what needs to be done to address each problem, you are prepared to give your Big Six report. You will now deliver your speech, your "State of the Fireground Address." This is where you'll paint a clear and concise oral picture of the fireground situation. Along with the Big Six, you would report the usual stuff: type of construction, size, status of life safety and any other pertinent information. You would also call the play by updating the operational mode (T.R.P.O. or D.) and, if needed, request additional resources. By calling the play, you have verbally communicated your initial action plan. You will also decide whether to remain a team leader or establish (name and locate) a command post. This report would sound something like this:

"Engine 33 update. Small two-story frame house, fire venting from side C on floor 2, unknown if occupied. Engine 33 is transitional from side A on floor 2."

If you decide to remain Engine 33 team leader, close box three; if you decide to establish command, open box four.

Open Box Four: Establish Command

Once two fire officers are on scene, one of them must establish a command post. Recall from Command-ment I the systematic process for "establishing" a command post. As part of establishing command, you will organize apparatus and personnel; you will park or base apparatus and have personnel report to temporary staging at the command post. Objectives and resources will be coordinated. Span of control will be managed (Command-ment V, Firehouse®, July 2007). Establishing command would sound something like this:

"Engine 33 establishing Main Street Command at Engine 33. First-alarm apparatus park, personnel report to temporary staging at the command post (let the dispatcher repeat this). Main Street Command is now offensive from side A on floor 2."

Box Four remains open until Primary and Secondary Phases have been declared "complete" and command is terminated.

Big Six Action Plan

Each of the problems listed would be addressed using the Primary Phase standard offensive game plan:

  • Fire floor 2 — Confine and extinguish
  • Smoke floor 2 — Ventilation
  • Possible occupants floor 2 — Primary search
  • Exposure attic — Investigate and report
  • Possible occupants Floor 1 — Investigate and report
  • Exposure floor 1 — Primary salvage