The Ten Command-ments of Intelligent & Safe Fireground Operations

Mark Emery continues this series with Command-ment #4: Thou shall ensure that four sides are seen and compared.

Command-ment #4: Thou shall ensure that four sides are seen and compared. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (fourth edition) offers the following definitions of "size-up": to make an estimate, opinion or judgment; to arrange, classify, or distribute according to size; the...

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Responders should trust that the declared operational mode and corresponding assignments are based on your analysis of the big picture. Augment this report with additional information that responders need to know, but can't figure out on their own (or recognize when they arrive). Here's the key: your state of the fireground address should include only what those still responding need to know and what you want them to remember. After investigating four sides and factoring "The Three That Kill," formulate a concise and meaningful state of the fireground address. Your state of the fireground address should paint a strategic picture of the fireground.

If you don't know what has the most value, who has the most value and what the problems are - in particular, the most significant problem - it is impossible to be a strategically competent fire officer. Your call to action is to become a proactive strategist - poised, confident and informed...rather than a flustered, uninformed, reactive tactician. Since you've just finished reading this article, you've already begun. Remember: It's what you learn after you know it all that's important.

Strategic priority size-up:

1. Life safety

2. Incident stabilization

3. Property conservation


1. Thou shall have ONE competent incident commander.

2. Thou shall maintain teams of at least TWO personnel.

3. Thou shall recognize THREE situations that kill firefighters.

4. Thou shall ensure that FOUR sides are seen and compared.

5. Thou shall not exceed a span-of-control of FIVE.

6. Thou shall operate within one of SIX operational modes.

7. Thou shall perform the SEVEN-step action plan process.

8. Thou shall make EIGHT assignments early.

9. Thou shall address three strategic priorities with NINE tactical objectives.

10. Thou shall evaluate the situation, mode and plan every TEN minutes.

MARK EMERY, EFO, is a shift battalion chief with the Woodinville, WA, Fire & Life Safety District. He is a graduate of the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer program and an NFA instructor specialist. Emery received a bachelor of arts degree from California State University at Long Beach and is a partner with Fire Command Seattle LLC in King County, WA. He may be contacted at or access his website<. STEWART ROSE retired as deputy chief of training and safety after serving 29 years with the Seattle, WA, Fire Department. He served in Seattle as a company officer, battalion commander and has experience supervising engines, trucks and fireboats. Rose is considered the "father" of the original Passport Accountability System. Since retiring, Rose continues to share his knowledge, experience and "tricks of the trade" with firefighters throughout North America.