Accountability is rapidly becoming an important part of every incident. More and more, people are realizing the usefulness and importance of accountability on the scene. I am talking about having TRUE accountability of ALL personnel at the incident, not just those operating in the "hot zone".
Accountability is not only the responsibility of the Incident Commander, but also every member of the agency. Yes, it is the responsibility of those in charge to set the policies and to see that these policies are implemented. But it is up to each and every one of us to ensure that these policies are followed every time.
It is not very difficult to convince a Chief that he should be using accountability. It is a different story to convince every member of the department of this. It should be as simple as the leadership to saying, "This is the way we are going to do it," and then put it into the SOG which should be the end of it. Unfortunately we all know that is not the case. All too often I hear the excuse that we are just volunteers. My answer to that is yes, you are a volunteer. You volunteered to walk through the door to join. If you want to be a member of this organization, you must abide by the rules and procedures set forth by this organization. End of story.
In my experience with accountability I have seen it do many things for the agencies I have worked with. First of all, everything is done in teams. When you are put on a team you are part of that team for the entire incident. No more freelancing! It is a proven fact that freelancing kills firefighters.
If one member of the team needs air, the whole team goes for air not just that person. I feel that this is a common sense issue. We tell our children at a very young age that they are not to go swimming without a partner so why in the world would we even think about entering one of the most dangerous environments we as human beings could produce, alone?
A team can consist of as little as two members and we suggest that it not exceed six because of the span of control issue. In my experience I believe that teams of two or three work the best. If you need a larger team, it is a lot easier to combine two smaller teams than to make a larger one because once you are part of a team, you should not split that team, unless command determines the need.
There are situations when teams will be split, i.e. if a member must leave the scene or if someone gets hurt. This must be done through command and accountability. If you make a team of six, you now have a team of six for the entire incident. If you combine two teams of three, once you complete your assignment you still have two three-man teams.
These teams are made up to suit the job that they will be performing, not to forget that the team members must be qualified to do the job. In the ABBET-RIT organization, we have adopted a set of "qualification stickers" that are placed in a predetermined location on the helmet to assist in this. These stickers are issued by the chief only after the firefighter receives the proper training and proves at in-house training that they can do the job.
Unfortunately we all know that in some instances we can attend a class, sit in the back row and sleep. And when you leave you get a certificate for attendance. This in no way qualifies you to do the job. That is why we recommend that you prove that you can do the job. You would not want to put your biggest person on the roof of a burning structure to do ventilation, nor do you want all inexperienced people on the same team. A little discretion should be used when assembling teams.
Every team needs someone in charge of them. The "team leader "is responsible for keeping the team together. That means, if a team member starts to go off on their own, the team leader needs to get them back immediately to maintain team integrity. Also the team leader is to ensure that the team's assignment is carried out per command's instructions, as well as reporting any change of location.