To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login
Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.
Complete the registration form.
It is no mystery why the company officer on Engine 54 jumped off the rig and defaulted to fast-attack mode: it is embedded in the culture. For decades, many fire departments have reinforced (albeit unintentionally) that company officers function as task-level firefighters. Consider this example:
1. To test the tactical competency of an engine company, the training division schedules a timed hose evolution.
2. The tested engine company has three personnel: officer, driver and firefighter.
3. The selected evolution is forward from a hydrant; the evolution evaluator has a clipboard, stopwatch and task-level checklist. The clock starts when the engine stops at the hydrant.
4. After stopping at the hydrant, the firefighter loops the supply hose to the hydrant and signals the driver to drive forward. The firefighter remains to dress and operate the hydrant.
5. After dropping a couple hundred feet of supply hose, the engine stops. The driver chocks, pumps and establishes the hydrant supply to the engine.
6. What does the officer do? (Remember the stopwatch is ticking.) The officer shoulders and extends a pre-connected hoseline.
7. After charging the hydrant supply line, the firefighter joins the company officer, who is at the nozzle.
8. The clock stops when the officer (or firefighter) opens the bale and shows water.
Are you aware that an NFPA standard describes and diagrams this tactical evolution? It’s NFPA 1410, Standard on Training for Initial Emergency Scene Operations. Nowhere in the NFPA 1410 timed-evolution descriptions does it recommend that the officer do strategic-level fire officer stuff. In fact, as described in the example above, according to section 6.1.1 (and diagrammed in A6.1.1), there doesn’t need to be a company officer on the engine to successfully “pass” the evolution time standard.
I can’t think of better justification for a four-person engine company than to liberate the first on-scene company officer to do officer stuff. As described, this fundamental hose evolution reinforces the notion of “fast attack” by sacrificing strategic focus for tactical speed.
Call to action
If you somehow missed the purpose of this article, here it is: What the first-due fire officer does during the first on-scene minutes will make or break the operation. To ensure that the first on-scene minutes provide strategic significance, the officer responsibility has been identified by NFPA 1021, Fire Officer I, 4.6.1 and 4.6.2. To reinforce NFPA 1021, look to NFPA 1561, 4.5.3 and 5.3.12. If that’s not enough, there’s OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134(g)(4), which mandates a minimum of four personnel be assembled on scene before entering a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)-required environment. If that is still not enough, the OSHA mandate is reinforced by NFPA 1500, 8.5.7.
I know that a few readers are thinking they don’t care what the NFPA standards say. Really? If you wouldn’t dare purchase an apparatus ground ladder that doesn’t comply with NFPA 1931, why would you tolerate a company officer who doesn’t comply with NFPA 1021? If your first-due company officers are not going to do officer work, there’s no need for first-due apparatus to respond with an officer onboard!
Your call to action is to understand “The Problem.” Do so by familiarizing yourself with the cited NFPA standards, revisit the OSHA mandate (or NFPA 1500, 8.5.7, which aligns with the OSHA mandate), cross-reference to determine whether your procedures align and factor how the culture of your department might interfere (or discourage) strategic expectations. Is there a downside to ensuring that your company officers comply with NFPA 1021 and NFPA 1561? n
Next: A structured and systematic process – “The Solution” – that lets fire officers nail their first-due responsibility every time.