What Are You Thinking?

Most departments have a structured order in which apparatus is dispatched and how it should be positioned according to its duties. At times, when companies are on the air, or on the street, when an alarm is dispatched, the order of response is changed...


As he continues to evaluate the conditions, he thinks "Maybe we can get a hold on it before it burns the roof off". Off to his side he sees the driver of Ladder 7 with the driver of Engine 3, and he can hear him saying "If you ever, ever, block me out again, I will kick your...

We can easily be trapped by a fire simply by looking at it. Tunnel vision gets us oriented on just the fire, and we fail at taking in our surroundings, reading the building, developing our personal size-up. Often times little prejudices trap us as well, distracting us from our individual assignments and responsibilities, impacting the fireground.

Apparatus Response and Positioning

Most departments have a structured order in which apparatus is dispatched and how it should be positioned according to its duties. At times, when companies are on the air, or on the street, when an alarm is dispatched, the order of response is changed. The conflict arises when a company arrives ahead of another company and fails to report this over the department radio. In Prince George's County, the third and fourth due engine companies and the second due truck company are responsible for the rear or Charlie side of the address, and position accordingly. If, for example, you are the third due engine company, and arrive ahead of the second due engine company, taking their position, and do not announce this, then the second due engine company will not know to go to the rear and advance their line to the floor above or the exposure. One simple little thing has now kept a line from being placed as it should.

This is especially important for the engine company to do, even when arriving in normal order. Engine officers and drivers need to be aware of whether or not the truck company has made it into the block. If your company is picking up a line at the hydrant, then you need to make sure the truck is on the scene, or can get by your apparatus. Truckmen get easily distracted and need to be right up close to the building. A top notch engine company will pull over or leave room for the truck, allowing them access. In this situation, they engine officer and crew can leave the rig and make their way to the scene if they have to. Trucks also need to ensure that the engine is not going to block them out. If they turn the corner and see an engine company pulling in at the same time, the truck officer may need to call out on the radio for the engine to pull over for a second. Even though truckmen can get distracted, enginemen can only think of one thing at a time, so each has to help the other out. Some engine drivers nose in to a hydrant to utilize the front suction, however they fail to realize that by nosing in, at an angle, they block the street (at least in my area). They fail to realize that that front suction is probably long enough to reach and bend without having to nose in. They also fail to realize that they can take a length of supply line off the back and sleeve the hydrant just as well. Just a few little things that can mess up the whole fireground.

Unit Assignments

Everyone wants to go to work. That's why terms like "lawn shepherds" and "outstanding firefighter" (emphasis on 'out' 'standing') are used in a negative way. Prejudices come up when we think that work is only being on the line, or doing the search. Having to stage or stand fast, and even being the rapid intervention crew, is not popular. After a fire that severely burned several firefighters, one severely, the Prince George's County Fire Department created the assignment that a rescue squad or the next closest special service (squad or truck) would be dispatched and assumes the rapid intervention crew assignment, or RIC. If the due squad arrived ahead of a due truck company, they had to report this, and could be sent to "work" with the chief officer assigning the RIC to another special service. The problem arose in my area with despite being the due rescue squad, we nearly always arrived ahead of the first due truck, and at times even the second due engine, and were still assigned as the RIC. The prejudice comes from individual problems among chief officers and companies. Chief ___ doesn't like Company ___, so if they are going to run their squad, then they'll always be the RIC. My former department even had one instance where, despite arriving ahead of the first due truck, and despite the first due engine making rescues, the chief officer still assigned the squad as the RIC.