STEP 4. ASSEMBLE TOOLS FOR INTERIOR OPERATIONS
One of the most disturbing trends recently identified as a contributing factor to firefighter fatalities, is that of firefighters entering a burning building ill equipped for the job at hand. While this may seem elementary to some, I believe that our aggressive nature and strict focus on an expedient fire attack has caused us to overlook some of the medial task that support the actual fire attack.
So how do we solve this problem? First and foremost we need to identify what needs to be taken inside, what tasks need to be performed and who needs to accomplish each. Secondly, we have to develop an understanding and culture that promotes preparedness and strict adherence to the assigned task. As company officers charged with the responsibility of crew integrity and accountability, we cannot afford self-initiated, free wheeling efforts amongst our personnel. Each member must be assigned a task and related tools in an effort to support the overall strategy. (Example: Nozzle person - Initiates hoseline deployment to the point of entry - no tools assigned, Back-up crewmember, responsible for forcible entry, assisting with hoseline advancement and opening up the concealed spaces in the immediate fire area - assigned: forcible entry/exit tools and short pike pole, Company officer - responsible for overall direction and control of the fire attack crew, assigned: thermal imager (TIC) for immediate interior assessment and continuous evaluation of changing conditions.
The use of tool assignments is nothing new in the fire service; fire departments across the country have done this for years and reaped the rewards, while others have been less fortunate. It's time to face reality; strict discipline and firm rules of engagement create predictable actions, and with predictability comes manageability, which is undoubtedly one of the most critical items for fireground safety and effectiveness.
STEP 5. ENSURE PROPER STAFFING (IRIT ESTABLISHMENT)
As mentioned earlier, the development and subsequent adoption of regulatory standards in recent years has changed the way we do business. Included in these changes are the way we initiate an interior fire attack. Prior to making entry into and IDLH atmosphere we are required to have four members assembled on the fireground - two of which must enter together and two of which are positioned outside for firefighter rescue if the need arises.
When asked how many departments comply with this standard/regulation 100% of the time, few in a crowd of many can honestly raise their hands. Why? Again, I refer to the desire to act, action-oriented, action-driven mentality of the modern firefighter. We MUST slow down, see the big picture and allow the required personnel to arrive before we dive into an operation that puts our members at risk. We must begin to understand that a building with no outward signs of an occupant rescue is worth the risk of an understaffed fire crew.
Fire departments with limited staffing, prolonged response times and/or questionable day time response crews ultimately will present the argument that by allowing the building to burn, more property is lost and that prolonged burn times increase the risk potential once entry is made. While these are all points of concern, they are points that we must put into perspective as we consider our departments potential. If we are department with optimal staffing - we still have limitations in what we can do. The same holds true for a department that has less than optimal staffing, you have limitations and it's up to us to acknowledge the fact that our capabilities might be less than what is required to safely initiate certain actions.
I'll ask you, is there not enough evidence available today to solidify the fact that we have limitations, some of which are insurmountable with individual brute force, strong will and adrenal courage? If not, standby, history tells us 100 more reasons are forthcoming.