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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There is an incident commander at a command post (not manipulating a hoseline or a power saw)

With a few caveats, these five benchmarks can be accomplished with six personnel. Caveats include that the method of ventilation is not vertical and two people are able to advance the offensive hoseline, factoring stairs, friction points and nozzle reaction. Transitioning to “offensive” with fewer than six personnel ratchets up the risk. Remember, firefighters always arrive with 100% value.

The six contemporary modes are represented by the acronym TRIPOD: transitional, rescue, investigating, preparing, offensive and defensive; of the six, the only one you likely never have heard is preparing. For more TRIPOD information, send an email request to fci@usa.com. Be sure to mention TRIPOD:

 

4. Draft an initial action plan – This recommendation addresses the national consensus strategic responsibility identified by National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1021, Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications:

4.6.1 Develop an initial action plan, given size-up information for an incident and assigned emergency response resources, so that resources are deployed to control the emergency.

4.6.2 Implement an action plan at an emergency operation, given assigned resources, type of incident, and a preliminary plan, so that resources are deployed to mitigate the situation.

In case you missed the significance, “fast attack” and “quick attack” do not align with this national consensus standard. Fast (or quick) attack is the complete opposite of NFPA 1021, and is likely illegal without two firefighters standing by outside the IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health) area. Also notice that the first-due officer is not required to develop the entire incident action plan, just the initial action plan. Using our methodology, the initial action plan for a typical room-and-contents fire within a house would likely be the entire plan; it would not serve as the entire action plan for a multi-family complex with multiple occupancies suffering rapid oxidation.

Development of the initial action plan is the centerpiece of the whole strategic puzzle. Rather than try to produce an inflexible strategic checklist, we recommend a process that is simple, quick, intuitive and adaptable. The planning process always begins with the identification of problems and hazards and the determination of risk versus value. In box two (Firehouse®, February 2013), we introduced the Big Six size-up. Again the Big Six problems are fire, smoke, verified occupants, possible occupants, exposures and access. Your action plan will emerge from the V-T-S determination and the identification of these problems. The basic premise of the Big Six is this: If you don’t see it often, you often don’t see it. In other words, when was the last time you were the first-due fire officer at a building fire? Let’s be honest – for many fire officers in North America, it has probably been a year.

If any part of fireground strategy must be structured and systematic, it is during size-up. It is unwise to rely on a “gut feeling” during size-up; it would be reckless to let your gut determine whether or not there’s fire in the basement. Drafting the initial action plan requires a strategic tool; just as firefighters must know how to use tactical tools, fire officers must know how to use strategic tools. We recommend the ITAC (Integrated Tactical Accountability) first-due status board shown on page 86.

Based on the house fire shown, the Big Six problems are listed down the center. The problems are addressed using ITAC status board shorthand in the six boxes. Assignments are given face to face and passports are (literally) plugged into the action plan.

Because there are only six boxes on the board, your span of control cannot exceed one to six (1:6). For the house fire shown, the plan drafted on the board would likely be the entire action plan. For a more complex fireground, it would be what NFPA 1021 refers to as the initial and the preliminary action plan.