Riding Assignments for Firefighters - Part 2

The second of the four elements in using riding assignments effectively is the tool assignments for each person depending on where they are sitting in the apparatus. If the first- and second-due ladder companies have to conduct tasks such as forcible...


The Interior Team Firefighter - This member is the other half of the two-person interior team along with the officer and is responsible for forcible entry, search and rescue, and checking for the location and extent of fire. Riding assignment dictates that this member carries a 6-foot hook or pike pole and a 2½-gallon water extinguisher. If first due, the interior team ascends to the fire floor. If second due, the interior team ascends to the floor above.

Tasks Depending on the Occupancy

The final of the four elements that make up the riding assignment concept is the task to be completed depending on the occupancy. This is where training is so very vital. In addition, this is where a department has to really analyze what it does routinely versus those missions that are not as common.

Riding assignments can be tweaked further to identify missions based on the occupancy. Take for example the role of the Ladder Company Exterior Team Firefighter. If the occupancy is a multiple dwelling or commercial occupancy, then vertical ventilation may be warranted first, whereas for a fire on a lower floor of a private dwelling, this member may be tasked with VES operations.

Again, much forethought has to go into the different responses your department can go to. It is important that the more common responses be addressed and that all of your members are reading from the same sheet of music. Effective planning and training can pay enormous dividends!

Identify the Positions

For riding assignments to be effective, members should have a ready-made engraved-plastic or metal-marking system or tag affixed next to the apparatus seat they are responding in. This provides a clear and concise means of jogging the firefighters’ memory. It tells them what tools they should take with them, who they are assigned to work with and what task they are required to perform. See Figures 4, 5, and 6 for examples of engine and ladder company riding assignments. These are just examples and are based on a four-person company. Again, you have to tailor the individual assignments for what works for you.

With this information, a member has a chance to plan his or her actions en route to the scene. This is an advantage for the firefighter. He or she can formulate a plan of action well before their arrival. With pre-arranged riding assignments, so much is already completed and so much less discussion is required upon arrival.

The key to this is training and planning!

Training and Understanding

Training on each of the four elements associated with this concept is critical to any department’s success. Simply identifying what a member carries along with some fancy buzzwords means nothing. All members who can potentially be responding have to know what the role of each position entails.

While on the surface, it sounds like a lot to learn, in reality it includes topics that are covered in some shape or form in most departments anyhow.

Furthermore, riding assignments may differ from department to department. A lot of it has to do with the needs and resources of the individual departments and their operating procedures and guidelines. It’s important not to try to replicate the local big city department, but rather set up these assignments for what actually works in your area. Every department is different, but there are certain tasks that need to be completed at the most common responses. What makes up your bread-and-butter responses? Is it mainly private dwellings, commercial occupancies, industrial-type occupancies? No doubt that if there were a fire in your typical response hazard, you would expect certain general tasks to be completed.

Riding assignments are not a cure-all for every response, though. For example, if you want the first-due engine to establish a sustained water supply and stretch a line to the seat of the fire in a private dwelling, you may have the resources available to make it work. But, if your response were to a fire on the 15th floor of a residential high rise, then these same guidelines would be inappropriate for this situation.