The Diagram below is the Basic "Incident Command Model" that we teach our Junior Officers in the London Fire Brigade. It is derived from the System of Incident Command used by Fire brigades across the UK.
The model acts as a simple guide to allow the Incident Commander to consider all of the facts when making Decisions on the Incident ground. It is as comfortable being used by A Junior Officer in a small one roomed Tenement Fire as it is with a Senior Officer at the Scene of a Multi Alarm Fire in a Plastics Warehouse.
Let?s go through each element of the model to see it in action. The model is divided into two distinct stages; The Thinking part and the Acting Part
Before we go anywhere we need to gather information, this falls into three areas;
- What is on Fire
- Where is the fire Is anyone involved
- Where are they located/trapped
- Use of premises
- Plans of Building
- Responsible person/Owner
- Access to Building
- Assess Potential for escalation
- Consider surrounding risks
- Weather with regard to Incident?wind direction, rain etc
Hazards & Risks Information
- What and where are the immediate hazards; Hazmats, Gas Cylinders etc
- What and where are the secondary Hazards if the incident spreads
- Gather info on risk from Responsible person/Owner
- Local Fire Department knowledge of Hazards (inspection cards etc)
- Can the Hazards be removed, shut down or controlled
- Flashover/Backdraft signs/awareness
- Structural integrity; Stability, construction, collapse risk, collapse zones
- Carry out Risk Assessment
- What equipment Personnel have you got
- Is it sufficient
- Do you need other agencies (Police, USAR, Local Authority, Ambulance)
- Request Additional equipment (More Engines, trucks, Rescue etc)
- Consider RVP?s Equipment Dumps, access to area
Gathering this incident information will give the Incident Commander an idea of what he or she has to do?i.e. they will have their Incident Objectives
These objectives should be simple related to what you need to achieve;
Primary Objectives; Save Life, Fight Fire, Ventilate?
Secondary Objectives; Damage Mitigation, Overhaul, Environmental Issues (contaminated water run off etc)
You need to ensure that the Objectives are specific to the Incident?i.e. you will not need to have an objective involving damage mitigation if you are fighting a large fire at the town Dump.
Make Sure the Objectives are Achievable?For example, if you roll up to a fully involved wooden structure, you will never be able to save it, it as already been consumed by the fire?the Objectives would be to Control the Fire and stop it from spreading to adjacent properties.
So our Objectives at a fire in small commercial premises may be;
- Protect and Save Life in the Building
- Fight Fire
- Mitigate additional Damage to Building
- Protect exposures
From here you will need to make a Plan to achieve your objectives;
Using the above incident our plan may be
- First Due Truck to enter Premises to search for victims & ventilate
- First Engine to Establish Water Supply and take in first Attack Line
- Second Engine to lay out Back up Line
- Additional truck for Salvage and Overhaul
I am not going to talk to much about the incident plan as that will depend on the SOP?s and response in your area. But, whatever, the next part of the Incident Command model is most important?
Controlling and Communicating
You may have a Fantastic first response to an incident some very well thought out objectives and a water tight Incident plan to run with. But, unless you able to Communicate that plan and control what is happening you will never achieve your desired outcome?sure, the fire may go out?but under whose command and at what cost?
- Set up a Command Post, even the front of the first Engine will suffice, there must be an identifiable point for everyone on the Incident ground to identify as a focal point
- Set up a Command Structure; Sectorize and appoint sector commanders. Brief each Officer as to the boundaries of their responsibility, who and what they are responsible for and get them to confirm understanding
- Allocate Radio Callsigns for the sector or Officer in that sector?i.e. Sector Commander Alpha, Sector Commander Bravo?this will avoid confusion over ranks and or names.
- Detail Crews and confirm understanding at smaller incidents without sectors
- Identify & confirm Communication Chains?In the event of a larger incident do not become overwhelmed? if you have too many sectors, appoint a sector coordinator or Operations Commander. Let them ?filter? information coming from the ground so that you only get to hear what is important to you and the overall command of the operation. If a length of hose gets burst in Sector A?let Sector Commander A deal with it?you do not need to concern yourself with that.
- Establish regular feedback from the sectors, this will ensure you are getting regular reports on the progress of your plan.
Once you have your plan up and running and are getting regular quality information back, then you will know how the plan is progressing, of course you will see this for yourself. Is the fire darkening down, have the rescues been made, is the Fireground activity beginning to settle down. If what you intend to happen is not happening then there must be something missing?was this on the information gathering side? Did something change or did the fire spread? This is why constant re-evaluation around the loop is critical. The Incident Command Model is flexible and dynamic. It is not a ?one off? appraisal as you roll onto the job, it is a constant check of information about what is happening that will allow you to plan and deal with what you face effectively.