Occupancy Performance and Tactical Patience

Today’s incident demands on the fireground are unlike those of the recent past, requiring incident commanders and commanding officers to have increased technical knowledge of building construction with a heightened sensitivity to fire behavior, a...


Today’s incident demands on the fireground are unlike those of the recent past, requiring incident commanders and commanding officers to have increased technical knowledge of building construction with a heightened sensitivity to fire behavior, a focus on operational structural stability and considerations related to occupancy risk versus the occupancy type.

There is an immediate need for today’s emerging and operating command and company officers to increase their foundation of knowledge and insights related to the modern building occupancy, building construction and fire protection engineering and to adjust and modify traditional and conventional strategic operating profiles in order to safeguard companies, personnel and team compositions.

Strategies and tactics must be based on occupancy risk, not occupancy type, and must have the combined adequacy of sufficient staffing, fire flow and tactical patience orchestrated in a manner that identifies with the fire profiling, predictability of the occupancy profile and accounts for presumptive fire behavior.

The dramatic changes in buildings and occupancies over the past ten years have resulted inadequate fire suppression methodologies based upon conventional practices that do not align with the manner in which we used to discern with a measured degree of predictability how buildings would perform, react and fail under most fire conditions.

We predicate certain expectations that fire will travel in a defined (predictable) manner that fire will hold within a room and compartment for a predictable given duration of time; that the fire load and related fire flows required will be appropriate for an expected size and severity of fire encountered within a given building, occupancy, structural system and given an appropriately trained and skilled staff to perform the requisite evolutions, we can safely and effectively mitigate a structural fire situation in any  given building type and occupancy.

Past operational experiences, both favorable and negative; gave us experiences that define and determine how the fireground is assessed, react and how we expect similar structures and occupancies to perform at a given alarm in the future; this formed the basis for the naturalistic decision-making process.

Implementing fundamentals of firefighting operations built upon nine decades of time-tested and experience-proven strategies and tactics continues to be the model of suppression operations. These same fundamental strategies continue to drive methodologies and curriculums in our current training programs and academies of instructions.

Are you aware of the defining changes in structural systems and support, the degree of compartmentation, the characteristics of materials and the magnitude of the fire-loading package in today’s buildings and occupancies? When was the last time you were out in the street with the companies, or spent some time doing a walk-through of construction or renovations site? Have you asked you commanding officers, division or battalion chief or your company officers for insights into what operational demands and risks are being imposed upon them while operating in the street and within the buildings, occupancies and structures that comprise your jurisdiction?

The structural anatomy, predictability of building performance under fire conditions, structural integrity and the extreme fire behavior; accelerated growth rate and intensively levels typically encountered in buildings of modern construction during initial and sustained fire suppression have given new meaning to the term combat fire engagement.

The rules for combat structural fire suppression have changed; but no one has told us. The IAFC Safety, Health & Survival Section (SH&S) spent that past year refining and updating The IAFC Ten Rules of Structural Fire Engagement. First published in 2001, the original Ten Rules of Engagement for Structural Fire Fighting provided a set of principles and parameters that incident commanders, commanding and company officers could utilize and implement during incident operations to decrease operations risk, increase and amplify personnel safety of operating companies.

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