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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During the primary phase of incident control, there are three tactical objectives that will directly address a fireground life-safety problem:

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

If there is nobody to rescue, and there is no compelling evidence indicating the need for search and rescue, your primary phase life-safety plan is simple: primary search.

There are five tactical objectives that will directly address problems that you have classified as incident stabilization problems:

  1. Evacuation
  2. Exposure protection
  3. Confine
  4. Ventilate
  5. Extinguish

If there is nobody to evacuate and no exposure to protect, your stabilization plan is a piece of cake: confine, vent and extinguish.

During the primary phase, there is just one tactical objective that will directly address property conservation: Primary salvage, which means that salvage will be performed before the incident is stabilized. For example, if the fire is on floor 2, a team would enter floor 1, quickly deploy salvage covers and then promptly withdraw. Primary salvage is performed expeditiously; in other words, in-and out, no fooling around. Nothing is moved or sorted. During primary salvage, it's OK if a lamp is knocked over while throwing salvage covers. Using the phases of incident control "system," fireground planning couldn't be easier; once tactical and support objectives have been selected, all that remains is to assign the objectives to teams and to supervise the plan.

Once all primary phase tactical objectives have been declared "complete," the incident commander will announce: "Dispatch, Main Street Command primary phase complete."

Scenario Demonstration

Situation: Tuesday, 2:30 in the afternoon; two-story multi-family on Main Street; fire venting from sides A and D on floor 2; smoke venting from the attic; exposures on floors 1 and 2, unknown if occupied (Photos 2, 3 and 4). On the status board keep it simple and quick; you don't need to list the details. (Because you identified the problems, you've got the details in your brain.) The point is to capture the problems and to nail your strategic responsibility.

The problems listed would be: fire floor 2, smoke floor 2, smoke attic, possible occupants floor 2, possible occupants floor 1, exposures floor 2 and exposures floor 1. Problems would be listed on the status board (on the front or along an edge). Listing the problems using this simple method takes about 10 to 15 seconds. If you are poised and have confidence in you strategic ability — and you know how to use your strategic tools — this will be the most important 15 seconds of the entire fireground operation.

So far, so good. Given the list of problems, your primary phase strategy for this scenario is fairly simple (this is your thought process; it's not listed on the board.):

  • Life safety — Ensure that the building is unoccupied
  • Stabilization — Confine fire to the apartment of origin; stabilize the attic; evacuate and stabilize the exposures; protect the neighborhood; extinguish the fire
  • Property — Conserve property on floors 1 and 2

Commensurate with an initial operational mode of transitional from side A on floor 2, the initial primary phase action plan is drafted by the first officer on scene. Notice that Engine 34's officer stepped off the apparatus with Engine 34's passport affixed to the status board.

What follows is an explanation of the initial action plan drafted on the status board. The initial plan includes tactical objectives and support objectives. Abbreviations are used on the board to make the process quick and easy (listed counter-clockwise starting at the top left block):

  • Block One — Confine and extinguish from side A on floor 2, water supply, natural and hydraulic ventilation
  • Block Two — Standby team that will transition to backup from side A on floor 2 once a rapid intervention team is deployed
  • Block Three — Primary search, from side D at floor 2 window (the only survivable area in the fire apartment)
  • Block Four — Confine and extinguish the attic from the A-B corner using a penetrating device called the "Water Lance"
  • Block Five — Evacuate and stabilize floor 2 exposure B-1.
  • Block Six — Rapid intervention team on side A and stabilize utilities