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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If you know how to use your strategic tools, drafting this plan takes no more than 15 to 20 seconds. This initial action plan is not the entire action plan; notice that floor 1 has not been addressed. However, as an initial action plan, it's a pretty good one. Sure, you may address some of the problems differently, but the value of knowing what the problems are and having this initial plan provides enormous strategic value.

This initial action plan will serve as the strategic roadmap for the entire operation; it will also serve as a strategic baton that can be passed from the first on-scene officer to the first formal incident commander (and could be used later by a division supervisor).

Notice that Engine 34's company officer ("Lieutenant Bill Ding") chose to remain Engine 34's team leader and assigned his team as shown in Block One of the status board. This decision means that Lieutenant Ding initiated command responsibility rather than to establish (name, locate and manage from) a formal command post.

Here's the cool part of this initial action plan: The second officer on-scene, Engine 11, would grab the board (found leaning against the stairs, with Engine 34's driver, or at the hoseline deployed for the standby team), establish a command post, transition the mode to offensive and continue with the plan.

When a chief officer arrives with his command rig, the chief can assume and relocate the command post or (this is the cool part) make the former incident commander a division supervisor. The division supervisor will use the same plan (board) to supervise that piece of the overall action plan. The new incident commander says to the former IC: "You keep this piece of the plan as Division 2. I'm going to assume command and send you three teams to complete your piece of the action plan. I'll take care of floor 1."

Once each block on the board has a team's passport plugged in, the tactically engaged span of control of the division supervisor would be one to five (one to six if you count the rapid intervention team).

By using this strategic tool, notice that tactical accountability has been achieved. The division supervisor will know who, what and where for each team assigned to the division. By now, you should recognize the significance of the first on-scene officer nailing his or her strategic responsibility. Those few seconds during size-up will produce enormous strategic value.

Don't Forget Those Support Objectives!

Commensurate with the needs of the incident, there are support objectives must be addressed. These objectives support your life-safety, incident stabilization and property-conservation efforts.

Support — Water supply, standby team (two-out), access (including forcible entry), utility control, rapid intervention, backup team, lighting, rehabilitation, alternate egress, etc.

Once the primary phase has been declared "complete" by the command post, an overhaul safety survey will be performed, personnel will receive rehab and then the secondary phase will commence. During the secondary phase, there are three tactical objectives that will address your three strategic priorities.

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

"Secondary phase complete" informs anybody listening that all secondary phase objectives are done and all that's left to do is to finish (or initiate) the cause and origin investigation, perhaps deploy a fire watch, ensure occupancy security, assist occupants with their needs, demobilize resources and terminate Main Street Command.

Final Thoughts

As the first officer to arrive at an incident, you must identify problems, determine value and quickly develop a meaningful initial incident action plan. Your initial action plan must dovetail with the plan developed by whoever establishes a formal command presence. When everybody is on the same page, passing the strategic baton to another officer will be simple, quick, consistent and logical. I believe the incident status board and the Action Plan Template offer the most simple, straightforward and consistent square-foot fireground action plan "system" available. Because both are based on strategic priorities, it is unlikely that important objectives and strategic considerations will be delayed or overlooked.