How to Nail Your First-Due Responsibility Part 3

Back in 2007, Firehouse ® Magazine published the first installment of Mark Emery’s 11-part series “The Ten Command-Ments of Intelligent and Safe Fireground Operations.” The series began by identifying 13 “fireground indiscretions” that...


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Back in 2007, Firehouse® Magazine published the first installment of Mark Emery’s 11-part series “The Ten Command-Ments of Intelligent and Safe Fireground Operations.” The series began by identifying 13 “fireground indiscretions” that have injured and killed scores of firefighters. It is possible – no, it is likely – that a lot of our friends would be alive today had North American fire departments ensured that the 13 “fireground indiscretions” were not transgressed and that each of the “Ten Command-ments” obeyed. Although it is too late to change history, the acuity of hindsight provides an opportunity to influence the future.

The concept of value

When a firefighter dies because he or she is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the incident commander knew (or should have known) that the firefighter represented the most value on the fireground, was the incident commander making decisions that would ensure everybody goes home?

Beginning in the mid-1980s, and for the first time in history, American Heat videos became available that showed firefighters dying while executing random and uncoordinated tactical activities at fires in unoccupied, no-value buildings. At about the same time, again for the first time in history, fireground fatalities were investigated and reported by the federal government. Today, you can find a plethora of websites that offer video depicting random acts of tactical violence due to the lack of aggressive strategic frontloading. Within minutes, notification of a firefighter fatality arrives in your email inbox.

 

A brief history of strategic responsibility

Is aggressive strategy a contemporary concept? Decide for yourself after contemplating the counsel offered by Lloyd Layman in his book Fire Fighting Tactics (published in 1953):

“Success or failure of a commanding officer on the fireground depends upon his ability to estimate the situation, weigh the various factors, apply basic principles, decide what action should be taken, formulate a plan of operation, and see that the plan is executed promptly and efficiently. Regardless of the efficiency of the individual fireman and his tools, his efforts must be directed and coordinated by intelligent and capable leadership if satisfactory results are to be achieved on the fireground.

“On the fireground, it is not possible to tear a complicated situation into definite parts but it is possible to train the mind in the habit of surveying and analyzing a complicated situation in a systematic manner. Size-up is the responsibility of the officer in charge of the first alarm units and becomes the responsibility of any officer who may later take charge of operations at a fire or other emergency.

“A commanding officer must quickly survey and analyze the situation, weigh the various factors, apply basic principles, decide what action should be taken, formulate a plan of operation and exercise command. Success or failure on the fireground depends to a large degree upon the ability of a commanding officer to perform these essential functions in a practical and skillful manner. Unit commanders should be given definite assignments in compliance with the plan of operation. Each should know where his unit is to be employed and the objectives to be achieved.”

And, for you who advocate fast attack, we offer this final Lloyd Layman:

“Firefighting units should not be allowed to rush into action but should be assigned to definite missions in keeping with the plan of operation.”

What we are about to share is a structured and systematic process for the execution of aggressive strategy. What we will offer is a simple, quick, logical and meaningful strategic process that will address the tenets of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and will ensure compliance with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1021, 1500 and 1561 standards. Keep in mind, though, that NFPA standards, NIMS and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) do not offer guidance on how to implement and comply; standards and mandates identify what you should do, not how you should do it. Interpretation and implementation are up to you, the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

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