The Ten Command-ments - Command-Ment II

Mark Emery explains why fire-rescue commanders should maintain teams of at least two personnel.


The Ten Command-ments Of Intelligent & Safe Fireground Operations By MARK EMERY Command-ment II: Thou Shall Maintain Teams of at Least Two Personnel To achieve strategic benefits, a competent incident commander assigns tactical and support objectives to companies and teams. Under the...


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The Ten Command-ments Of Intelligent & Safe Fireground Operations By MARK EMERY Command-ment II: Thou Shall Maintain Teams of at Least Two Personnel

To achieve strategic benefits, a competent incident commander assigns tactical and support objectives to companies and teams. Under the direction of team leaders, teams complete the tactical work that solves strategic problems. Command-ment II identifies and describes the fundamental role and responsibility of a competent team leader.

You are the Engine 34 company officer and team leader. Life is good - Engine 34 is staffed with four personnel: you, a driver and two firefighters. As team leader:

1. What is your responsibility?

2. What is your radio designator?

3. To whom do you report?

4. How do you manage team member risk?

5. What are the elements of a team status (progress) report?

If your fire department doesn't have a specific answer to each question, your fireground procedures could benefit from some fine-tuning. This article will provide answers to each question.

Company or Team?

First of all, Engine 34 is staffed and responds as a "company" (apparatus and personnel together). Once on scene, Engine 34 personnel leave the apparatus (with the possible exception of the driver) and function as a team (or crew, if you prefer). Distinguishing between company and team may appear to be splitting hairs, but the distinction is important. In the spirit of words meaning something, consider the following:

"Engine 34, report to Division C."

Do the members of Engine 34 drive to Division C with their apparatus or leave their apparatus and walk to Division C, their hands filled with tools and spare air cylinders? To know for certain, Engine 34's team leader would have to clarify with the Division C supervisor.

Now, consider:

"Engine 34 company, report to Division C."

This assignment means that Engine 34 - personnel with apparatus - will drive to side C and report to the Division C supervisor. (You can't simply say "Company 34 to Division C" because there may be other 34-designated apparatus at the incident.

"Engine 34 team, report to Division C."

This means that Engine 34 personnel grab tools and spare air cylinders, leave their apparatus, walk to side C and report to the Division C supervisor.

A key element for clear, concise and disciplined radio communication is to reduce the number of words needed to convey a clear and concise radio message. Consider the following radio transmissions:

"Engine 34, I need you guys to move your rig to the rear of the building and report to the Division C supervisor for assignment." Because it is conversational - and uses 23 words - this is not clear, concise and disciplined radio communication.

"Engine 34, report to Division C with your apparatus." Better, but uses seven words.

Both radio transmissions contain the same basic message, but they are adorned with unnecessary words that can distract from the core message. In addition, more words mean more time with the radio microphone keyed and jaw flapping. During the course of an incident, the net benefit of trimming conversational radio "fat" can be a significant reduction in radio traffic. Now consider the concise version described previously:

"Engine 34 company, report to Division C." Clear, concise and trimmed of conversational fat, this transmission conveys only essential information and uses just five words. Of course, this will only work if everybody knows what the words mean. What Is a "Team"?

A "team" is comprised of at least two personnel: a team leader and a team member. It doesn't matter if the team is staffed with two, three, four or more; the team leader will keep the team together (this is known as "team integrity"). On the fireground, a company/team is represented by a passport; individual team members are represented by nametags attached to the passport. A large team (four or more members) should use the Team B passport. Should the need arise, this allows for quick separation into two two-person teams.

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