The Ten Command-ments Of Intelligent & Safe Fireground Operations

Mark Emery continues this series with Command-ment IX: Thou shall address three strategic priorities by supervising NINE primary phase tactical objectives.


The strategic priority Action Plan Template (APT) is an easy-to-learn tool that will quickly produce an appropriate incident action plan. A strategic priority Action Plan Template can be developed for virtually any type of incident. It's time to discuss options for supervising and managing the...


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The strategic priority Action Plan Template (APT) is an easy-to-learn tool that will quickly produce an appropriate incident action plan. A strategic priority Action Plan Template can be developed for virtually any type of incident.

It's time to discuss options for supervising and managing the "primary phase" of your square-foot fireground action plan. You cannot competently supervise and manage an action plan without appropriate strategic tools. These strategic tools will enable you to achieve and maintain tactical accountability. This article will introduce you to two strategic tools:

  1. The incident status board
  2. The Action Plan Template

During any incident, you have three strategic priorities: life safety, incident stabilization and property conservation. During many incidents, property conservation is not an issue for the fire department (example: trench rescue). The order of these strategic priorities never changes; life safety is always number one. However, your tactical priority will almost always be incident stabilization. Recall the scenario described in a previous Command-ment article: Car-versus-pole collision, major damage, two unconscious teenagers trapped in the car, a power line draped over the hood, fuel leaking and traffic whizzing by.

  • Do you have a life safety problem? Yes, two "red" patients.
  • Do you have stabilization problems? Yes, traffic, the vehicle itself, the pole, the power line and the leaking fuel.

As mentioned, life safety is always your strategic priority. Given this scenario, your tactical priority is to stabilize the incident — you take care of your people before taking care of the car's occupants.

Phases of Incident Control

Recall from Command-ment VII that the "primary phase" of incident control includes all actions before the incident has been stabilized. The "secondary phase" includes all actions after the incident has been stabilized.

During the square-foot fireground primary phase, nine tactical objectives will address your three strategic priorities:

Life safety objectives

1. Rescue
2. Search and rescue
3. Primary search

Incident stabilization objectives

4. Evacuation
5. Exposures
6. Confine
7. Ventilate
8. Extinguish

Property conservation objective

9. Primary Salvage

Five of the nine tactical objectives comprise my (primary phase) standard offensive game plan:

  1. Primary search
  2. Confine
  3. Vent
  4. Extinguish
  5. Primary salvage

These five tactical objectives (and three support objectives) will always be addressed when the fireground operational mode has been declared "offensive." Should there be someone to rescue, civilians to evacuate and an exposure to stabilize, once the person has been rescued, the civilians have been evacuated and the exposure stabilized, the standard offensive game plan will always be addressed. The standard offensive game plan should be etched into a fire officer's brain.

Offensive Success

There are four benchmarks for success when the fireground has been declared "offensive":

  1. Exposures have been stabilized
  2. The fire has been confined (to the room, floor or perhaps even to the occupancy of origin)
  3. Primary search has been declared "all clear" by the command post
  4. Primary salvage has been completed

Of course, extinguishment is an offensive fireground objective; however, once the fire has been "confined," it will go away when the fuel is gone.

Once primary search has been declared "all clear," the fire department represents the most value. (I'd love to see someone's list of what is more valuable than a firefighter.) There is no justification for compromising the thing that represents the most value on the fireground.

Words (Should) Mean Something

In order to establish a strategic thread that extends from the command post to team members toiling in the hazard area, words need to mean something. The command post declares the overall operational mode and develops the incident action plan. The incident action plan includes tactical and support objectives that will address life safety problems, incident stabilization problems, property conservation problems.

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