Principles of Fireground Battle (Part 3)
In the third part of our series, “The Principles of Fireground Battle”, we look at the third tactical tenet of battle which is Offensive or as the Fire Service terms it, Pro-Active Advantage. The Pro-Active Advantage allows us to capture, retain and exploit the tactical advantages which we must solidify in order to accomplish our purpose.
Often we find fireground commanders place resources in a defensive advantage in the initial stages of the incident. With that, we find the reflex time to re-position resources to capture the advantage in offensive manners is lost, and the tactical advantage goes to the incident. This is typically a situation where the lack of understanding of the big picture vision is not clearly communicated or lost in the haze of battle. Using the OODA Loop, we understand the faster we move through the Loop, the better we are at gaining the tactical advantage.
The OODA Loop model was developed by Col. John Boyd, USAF (Ret). When Colonel John Boyd first introduced the OODA (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) loop concept during the Korean War, he was referring to the ability possessed by fighter pilots that allowed them to succeed in combat. It is now used by many other Combat oriented organizations. I believe that in order to use the OODA Loop it must be used in conjunction with the Fireground Mindset for it to be effective on the Fireground.
What is Fireground mindset? For the Fireground commander this mindset is the conscious or subconscious willingness to assess the fireground based upon the presentation of facts. Utilizing the knowledge captured in the information exchange and the intelligence phase the fireground commander can rapidly make decisions to better accomplish the purpose and effectively operate in a position of Pro-Active Advantage. When engaging in fireground operations, this particular mindset, more often than not, will be the determining factor as to your success or failure, regardless of technical proficiency. Anybody can train in fireground command, but few have the technical and analytical skill to rapidly exercise judgment based upon the presentation of facts, therefore, they rely upon tactical work-sheets to guide them through the process, hence, we develop check-box command.
OODA Loop defined :( Fire Service Version)
Observation - Scan the Fireground and gather information and Intelligence from it and its operators. Conduct a DRA and capture all seven (7) yes, seven aspects of the structure. Process information and intelligence bases upon structure type, group and occupancy classification. Identify smoke process, fire conditions and structural integrity.
Orientation - Use the information to form a mental image of the circumstances. That is, synthesize the data into information/Intelligence. As more information/Intelligence is received, you 'deconstruct' old images and then 'create' new images. Note that different people require different levels of details to perceive an event. This is often based upon the Meyers theory of RPDM. Often, we imply that the reason certain Fireground Commanders cannot make good decisions, is that they are bad decisions makers, sort of like saying that the reason some people cannot drive is that they are bad drivers. However, the real reason most Fireground Commanders make bad decisions is that they often fail to place the information that they do have into its proper context. This is where 'Orientation' comes in. Orientation emphasizes the context in which events occur, so that we may facilitate our decisions and actions. That it, orientation helps to turn information into knowledge. And knowledge, not information, is the real predictor of making good decisions.
Decision - Consider options and select a subsequent course of action based upon the knowledge captured in the Orientation phase of the Loop. Do not make decisions based upon a check-the-box approach to fireground command. This will lead to improper actions down the road.
Action - Carry out the conceived decision. Once the result of the action is observed, you start over. Note that on the Fireground (or any complex incident), you want to cycle through the four steps faster and better than the incident, hence, it is a loop. This is the component that enables us to make the Pro-Active Advantage decision.
A few Tactical Guidelines which I have found to be true of Fireground Command and tactical fireground operations in general.
- Firefighters will not rise to the occasion; they will always default to the level of training they have mastered.
- Assign resources immediately based upon the presentation of facts and knowledge, not tactical worksheets.
- Watch the fireground, the smoke, the fire and the building…It’s the opponent.
- Call for resources early, front load the incident.
- Intelligence and Information are two different animals. Know the difference.
- Don’t fall back to the residential fire mentality on larger complex incidents. It will bite your ass!
- The fireground is a complex series of conflict. Intelligent combat is the option
- When you're doing OODA "loops" correctly; accuracy and speed improve together; they don't trade off.
- Sit back and enjoy the Cuppa!!