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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When a fire officer is ready to place both feet in command responsibility – at a command post – command will be established (named and located) and the officer anchored to that command post. In other words, no more wandering around or doing task-level engine or truck stuff. Any person called “command” has committed to doing 100% command-level pursuits at the command post.

5. Investigation Mode

Virtually all incidents will (should) begin in the investigation mode. Our “Four-Box” process has been designed to reduce stress and eliminate talking to people who have not yet arrived; we want the first-due fire officer to focus on an aggressive size-up. As such, and perhaps most important, the investigation mode conveys this nugget: stop talking and leave me alone. In the investigation mode you should never hear “We’re a block out, where do you want us?” or “We’re approaching, what’s our assignment?”

By front-loading agency-specific expectations, declaring the investigation mode can provide an optional method to herd the cats. For example, if you declare “smoke showing” or “fire showing,” all apparatus will park except the first-due ladder truck, second-due engine and first-due chief. On the other hand, if you declare “nothing showing,” all responding units will park. “Nothing showing” may also reduce responding units to non-emergency mode (no lights or no siren), whatever your department decides based on time, distance and the size of your response.

That was a lot of words describing the contents of box one.

In practice, the box one arrival report would be brief: “Engine 54 on scene at 1234 Main Street. House with fire showing. Side Alpha is Main Street. Responding apparatus park. Engine 54 initiating command in the investigation mode.”

Clear, concise and meaningful. It’s important to remember that the box one arrival report does not qualify as a size-up (that’s in box two) nor is it intended to be your size-up report (that’s in box three).

Next: Focused strategy.