Fireground Operations: How to Nail Your First-Due Strategic Responsibility Part 2

NFPA 1021, Fire Officer I 4.6.1 Develop an initial action plan, given size-up information for an incident and assigned emergency response resources, so that resources are deployed to control the emergency. 4.6.2 IMPLEMENT AN ACTION PLAN AT AN...


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NFPA 1021, Fire Officer I 4.6.1 Develop an initial action plan, given size-up information for an incident and assigned emergency response resources, so that resources are deployed to control the emergency.

4.6.2 IMPLEMENT AN ACTION PLAN AT AN EMERGENCY OPERATION, given assigned resources, type of incident, and a preliminary plan, so that resources are deployed to mitigate the situation. (This requirement takes into consideration the officer’s ability to give orders, direct personnel, evaluate information, and allocate resources to respond to the wide variety of emergency situations the fire service encounter.)

This national consensus standard recommends that the first on-scene officer complete a size-up, develop an “initial” Incident Action Plan (IAP) and (this makes it interesting) implement that plan. How can a fire officer accomplish this strategic evolution outside the building while performing a tactical evolution inside the building? The intent of this standard is for the first-on-scene officer to function as a fire officer rather than a firefighter.

Also notice that NFPA 1021, Fire Officer I, takes into consideration the officer’s “ability” to give orders, direct personnel, evaluate information and allocate resources. I guarantee that the intent of the NFPA 1021 committee was not for first on-scene fire officer to jump off the rig and dash into the building with a hoseline.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that the Engine 54 officer did complete a focused size-up and did develop an IAP based on a risk-versus-value appraisal. Where should the Engine 54 officer be positioned in order to “implement” the preliminary action plan? Advancing a hoseline doing fire attack? Crawling through smoke doing search and rescue? On the roof with a power saw? Negative; those are tactical positions and task-level firefighter duties. The officer implementing the action plan (in this case, “Main Street Command”) must be outside the immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) area and command from a strategic position called a command post.

There’s another NFPA standard that dovetails nicely with NFPA 1021:

NFPA 1561, Standard for Emergency Services Incident Management System

4.5.3 The system shall include a specific means to identify and keep track of responders entering and leaving hazardous areas, especially where special protective equipment is required.

5.3.12 The incident commander shall initiate an accountability and inventory work-sheet at the beginning of operations and shall maintain that system throughout operations.

If I’m not mistaken, these NFPA 1561 citations describe what a fire officer called “Main Street Command” should be doing. What Engine 54 did is provide a bunch of words that sound important on the radio, most of which don’t mean anything. What Engine 54’s arrival report fosters is reckless, unsafe and in many states illegal. It ignores often-repeated National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) fatality investigation recommendations and ignores consensus standards such as NFPA 1021, NFPA 1561 and NFPA 1500.

 

Fast-attack flaws

What the arrival report by Engine 54 describes is a dubious operational mode called “fast attack,” which describes an offensive mode with the following corners rounded:

As each corner is rounded, risk increases and the operation departs from best practices established by NFPA standards and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandate, not to mention that fire department liability escalates. If you are a mature, common-sense, strategic thinker, you probably share our judgment: the term “fast attack” needs to be whacked and buried deep so that nobody will find it. “Fast attack” encourages reckless, unsafe and illegal behavior. (We are not advocating that Engine 54 loiter on-scene until the cavalry arrives. There is plenty to do, both strategically and tactically, before throwing the offensive switch.)

Timed hose evolutions

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