The Science of Command and the Commander
It is interesting to discuss the “Art” of Command as opposed to the “Science” of Command. If one was to believe Command is an art, then the Incident Commander shall be an artist. Thus, he would have inherent natural talents which make him a Commander. Yet, if one accepted the belief that command is in fact a science we would understand that all commanders have the ability to become functional at the level of command.
It must be understood that artist are gifted at their given craft. No matter how hard I train, study, learn and perform I do not have the God given talents to become a singer. Although, my children haven’t figured that out and they think I’m the next Johnny Cash (At least that’s what I tell them). On the other hand, one can take an average Fire Officer and provide them with the training, study, development and opportunity to greatly increase their understanding and abilities in the Craft of Command and we can in turn have a highly functional Incident Commander. Why? Simply, Command is a science with very basic principles and underlying foundation of elements in which most all those who desire can with expanded (not limited) educational process operate at a highly functional level. Just as scientists understand the basic principles of science, so should the Incident Commander.
An Incident is an event that may cause or causes a crisis. A Crisis is an emotionally stressful event or given situation involving an abrupt and decisive change. Typically we as humans see a crisis as bad and negative. Yet, a crisis is only something that may turn out to be bad. This is dependant on a number of basic foundational elements. One thing is a given, a crisis will almost never get better without some type of intervention and even with intervention the outcome is uncertain.
So we know an incident causes a crisis. Particular to an incident is the fireground, which is a Conflict. One would ask, “Why is it a conflict?” Because a conflict is any situation in which there is an irreconcilable battle of opposing wills. The fireground is a classic illustration of conflict, where the Incident Commander is imposing his will upon that of the incident and the fireground.
When we look into the elements of crisis, we have identified through study that five (5) common characteristics of the crisis are shared. Confusion plays an important part of the overall understanding for the Incident Commander. There is always a lack of reliable information and what is available is usually incomplete, ambiguous and at times, conflicting. Although it is the primary goal of the Incident Commander to assure tthe confusion is reduced to increase the overall effectiveness of the tactical operations on the fireground. This uncertainty requires the Incident Commander to make strategic and tactical decisions based upon the probabilities of the outcome for which he is invariably missing accurate and timely information. Keep in mind, decisions will and must be made based upon missing, incomplete and contradictory information.
The Fog of Battle is a term used to describe the level of ambiguity in situational awareness experienced by the Incident Commander on the fireground. The term seeks to capture the uncertainty regarding Incident Command capability, fireground capability, and fireground intent during an operation. This fog is that condition which prohibits the Incident Commander from obtaining the needed information in a timely fashion and implement action based upon that information in relevant time to control the incident. The Incident Commander must fully understand and accept that risk is a part of the situation and the elimination of all risk is never possible. Only through capturing timely and accurate information can the Incident Commander reduce risk and factor in the uncontrollable element of chance.