Structural Anatomy: Operational Safety at Deconstruction and Demolition Sites

Conventional tactical operations jeopardizes all operating personnel and creates unbalanced risk management profiles that are typically not favorable.

  • High risk/high consequence,
  • High degree situational awareness based
  • Can kill firefighters
  • Are predictably - unpredictable, but manageable
  • Demand competent incident management
  • Require effective company officer leadership
  • Necessitate skilled firefighters
  • Can be (under circumstances) written-off
  • Assume rapid and unchecked fire travel
  • Assume unpredictable transient combustible fire loading
  • Assume increased fire flow demands for suppression effect
  • Assume rapidly changing
  • Consider hose stream deployment time in the absence of supporting fixed standpipe or sprinkler systems.
  • Require pre-planning awareness and pre-incident knowledge
  • Demands air management considerations
  • Timely deployable resource; manpower and equipment
  • Mobilization/reflex capabilities of response companies
  • Incident command flexibility
  • Conservative risk management profiling and conservative tactical deployment
  • Situational awareness management - SAM
  • Identification of the most error likely tactic- MELT

Take a look at what's going on in your first- or second-due area. What about your battalion, the adjacent district or community or area? Chances are there's a lot in the way of structures undergoing construction, alterations, deconstruction, demolition and renovations.

Take the time to do a walk-through, pre-plan and predict. Incident Safety demands it. One last note to ponder; From the New York Time article, "FDNY Tactics, Pre-Plan and Inspections Questioned"

"...a lot of questions are being asked about FDNY's lack of pre-planning and inspections, the failed standpipe system, and firefighting tactics. Investigations are underway into what FDNY, the building's owners and the contractors did or didn't do.

... at one point, more than 100 firefighters were inside the building even though the fire was out of control and wildly unpredictable - and that those men had to be called out. And they were inside even though, unlike the situation in the twin towers, no workers were trapped.

"Clearly firefighters were sent into a deathtrap," said Stephen J. Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. "I think the Fire Department's position is they didn't know how bad it was. We certainly need to find out why they didn't know."

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta directed his investigators to determine why the department did not have a plan in place to fight a fire in the building.

Additional Reference

  • Vacant or Idle Properties or Properties Under Construction or Demolition or Renovation, National Fire Protection Association - NFPA Publications August 2001

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Christopher J. Naum brings 32 years of extensive municipal and industrial experience in fire protection, incident command management, training and field operations within the fire service. He is an internationally recognized authority on urban rescue and structural collapse, building construction, strategic and tactical risk management. Mr. Naum manages a Fire Protection and Industrial Safety Department at a nuclear power plant in the northeast United States and has served as a company officer for over 19 years with a suburban volunteer fire department in Central New York. Mr. Naum also has over 15 years of experience within the areas of architectural design and planning having served as an architect. A member of the IAFC Safety, Health & Survival Section and Volunteer & Combination Officers Section, he is also a Director-at-Large with the International Society of Fire Service Instructors- ISFSI. He can be contacted at To see Mr. Naum's complete biography, click here.