How to Nail Your First-Due Strategic Responsibility: Part 4

Back in July (Firehouse ® , July 2012), we described box one of our first-due fire officer “Four-Box Strategic Progression.” Our structured and systematic four-box progression has been crafted so that you nail your first-due strategic...

Back in July (Firehouse®, July 2012), we described box one of our first-due fire officer “Four-Box Strategic Progression.” Our structured and systematic four-box progression has been crafted so that you nail your first-due strategic responsibility every time.


We identified that, according to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1021, Fire Officer I, the first-due fire officer’s strategic responsibility is to complete a size-up; develop and an initial action plan; and then implement the preliminary action plan.


Box one revisited

Box one contains five items that represent the first-due fire officer arrival report; the box one arrival report is brief and meaningful, but does not qualify as a size-up. Your focused and systematic size-up is represented by box two, which we will open in a moment.

Your box one, five-item arrival report consists of:

1. Occupancy and showing – Not building construction or dimensions, but simply the occupancy type (house, multi-family, high-rise, commercial, strip mall, store, hotel, etc.) and one of three showing situations (nothing, smoke, fire).

2. Designate side Alpha – Make sure your designation is perfectly clear to all responding units (“The address is side Alpha,” “Main Street is side Alpha,” etc.).

3. Park responding units – “All apparatus park.” Park is a non-specific location. The general meaning of park is each officer on each unit will park as close to the address (or to staging, if designated) as possible with two important caveats: leave the street open to traffic can get in and out; and personnel will remain with their rig unless other otherwise assigned. This simple assignment serves to herd the cats until you know what the problems and hazards are. It also eliminates annoying radio traffic such as, “On your arrival…” and, “We’re a block out, what’s our assignment?” Talking to people who are responding interferes with your focused size-up.

4. Initiate command – Command that has been initiated is informal and mobile. In other words, no command post and the officer will be doing a size-up. Later, in box four, a command post will be “established” (named and located).

5. Investigation mode – The initial operational mode should usually be the investigation mode as described in box two.

Resist the temptation to cram additional stuff into box one (or into any of the four boxes). For example, if you need a second alarm, police for traffic control or the gas company, make the request before opening box one, after closing box one or as part of opening box four. Shoving an additional item into a box tends to push something out of the box. The point is that we want you to nail box one.

Caveats can be built into the box one arrival report. For example, the announcement “nothing showing” would assign all responding units to park and await your update. Should you announce “fire showing” or “smoke showing,” all units would park “except” – and “except” means whatever your fire department decides it means. Where I came from it means that the second-due engine, first-due truck and battalion chief would continue to the address and all other units would park. The spirit and intent is to

• Immediately capture and control all resources

• Facilitate the need for assembling firefighters at the address

• Prevent a mishmash of fire apparatus clogging the street

• Ensure vehicle access in and out (such as medic unit, tender shuttle, etc.)


Box two: Focused

and aggressive strategy

Box two is filled with focused and aggressive strategic action; box two strategic action is what you do, not what you say on the radio. During a typical dwelling fire, box two strategic action can be completed in about the time it takes to view each side of a typical house: 30 to 50 seconds. It will be the most important 30 to 50 seconds of the entire fireground operation. (You do not receive size-up credit based on how fast you can complete a lap around a building; you get size-up credit for the information you acquire during the lap.)

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