Fireground Operations: How to Nail Your First-Due Strategic Responsibility: Part 5

Although the term “aggressive strategy” may be new, the concept is not. Consider the following. My dad was hired as a firefighter in 1950. His academy graduation photo shows a dozen proud recruits posed in front of a brand-new, four-door, fully...

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5. Identify hazards such as overhead wires, Dobermans, septic tank or well covers and lightweight structural systems. An LPG tank would be listed as a Big Six exposure.

Box Three: “Paint the Picture”

Box three is the radio report of what you discovered during your focused strategy in box two (Firehouse®, February 2013). Again, the reason there was not a big radio speech in box one is because an arrival report does not qualify as your size-up. Don’t try to paint an oral picture while peering through the windshield when you have not yet seen the whole picture; wait until your size-up is complete and you have had time to think. Once you know what the whole picture looks like, you will paint the picture by delivering a clear and concise state of the fireground address. Box three is opened after box two has been “closed.”

Here is what a typical box-three radio report would sound like: “Dispatch from Engine 54, update...(pause to make sure you have connected with the dispatcher). Large, two-story house. Fire floor two, smoke from attic, unknown if occupied. Engine 54 is transitional from side Alpha on floor two.”

Although clear and concise, the radio report is not a meaningless narrative; it is based entirely on the script that you drafted for this incident during box two. Your box-three script was based on the building and type of occupancy and problems identified during your Big Six size-up.

Now, let’s examine each component of the preceding box-three radio report and finish with the drafting and implementation of an initial action plan:


1. Building snapshot – “Large, two-story house.” Now that you’ve viewed and assessed as much of the building and situation as possible, you will briefly describe – an oral snapshot – the building itself. Describe the general size, number of floors, type of construction and significant structural features or hazards. (Unless otherwise described, a “house” is lightweight wood frame.) When talking on the radio, always use the least number of words possible. Thus, “house” (one word) is preferable to “single-family residence” (three words). Also, in many cities there are multi-family houses.


2. Big Six report – “Fire floor two, smoke from attic, unknown if occupied.” This represents a condensed report of the Big Six problems identified during your box-two size-up. You need only report a Big Six component if there is a problem there. For example, if there is no smoke or fire in an attic, don’t mention the attic; if the basement appears clear and stable, you need not mention the basement.

If you determine the status of life safety is (literally) unknown if occupied, you would report “unknown if occupied.” “Unknown if occupied” conveys the following important information:

There is not a verified occupant who requires immediate rescue

There is no compelling evidence for conducting search and rescue

Should “offensive” be declared, it will be a coordinated, “two-in/two-out” operation

Life safety will be addressed with primary search (if occupant viability is determined). Recall from previous articles that primary search is not synonymous with search and rescue. Words should mean something.


3. Update operational mode – “Engine 54 is transitional from side A on floor two.” Declaring the mode “offensive” is a declaration that there are at least four personnel on scene (“two-in/two-out”). Never forget that, for the first time in history, declaring the mode “offensive” is a legal declaration of “two-in/two-out” compliance. We believe there should be a minimum of six personnel on scene before declaring the mode “offensive.” We also believe that five coordinated benchmarks must be achieved before declaring “offensive.” Thus, “coordinated offensive” means that:

Water supply is established

Ventilation that is effectively directing heat and products of combustion away from firefighters and occupants has been achieved (ventilation in progress is not effective ventilation)

A “two-out” standby team is in position with a charged hoseline

A confine-and-extinguish team with a charged hoseline is ready to go