Fighting the Fire Before The Fire

Officers should approach the preplan process with a tactical mindset and not merely as a data collecting task.Oh no, not another preplan! How often has this been said? Why is it that preplanning activities are looked at as a necessary evil by some fire...

Often, making copies of the preplans and circulating them throughout the department only manages to fill trashcans or recycle bins. For firefighters to want to review a preplan, it must be interesting. In our technologically-advanced society, a useful, interesting preplan can be achieved with very little effort.

In order to accomplish this, simply carry a digital camera on the walk-through. Take a few standard pictures, (views from every side of the building) as well as, pictures of anything that others should know about, especially from a tactical standpoint. Once back at the station, one company member should input the "standard" preplan information, while another can create a simple slideshow of the pictures, inserting captions to identify key points.

You can try Google Earth for aerial views buildings. This aerial view can help you pinpoint exposures, water supply and other potential hazards. One is only limited by their imagination, and the more the presentations are played with, the better they will get. Remember, the point; however, is to share key building information with other companies so that they are prepared in the event of a fire.

As Chief Frank Brannigan said, "To know the building is to know the enemy." By adding a tactical mindset, a little technology, and a little imagination to our preplanning activities, we can "fight the fire before the fire", and better prepare ourselves and others for safe, effective fireground operations, so that "everyone goes home."

Brian Collins currently serves as a volunteer firefighter/paramedic with the Pleasant View Volunteer Fire Department, and a career engineer/paramedic with the Brentwood Fire Department, both in Tennessee. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Fire Protection Administration from Eastern Kentucky University. Brian also works with the International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) and Fire Team USA, a fire prevention initiative designed to promote residential fire sprinklers. Brian may be reached at