SOPs, SOGs & FOPs for Firefighting

Whether you use standard operating procedures (SOPs) or standard operating guidelines (SOGs) or flexible operating plans (FOPs), the issue is about looking ahead. Every fire department would like it’s officers and members to have as much information as possible about a fire or emergency situation before they arrive. Having this information ahead of arrival allows us to think about or plan what actions we may have to take upon arrival.

When you receive an alarm for “smoke in the house” at 2 a.m. on a street that you know is lined with houses, you respond and start to mentally “plan” what you will do upon arrival. You may be thinking about pulling a 1 3/4-inch attack hoseline, another firefighter may be thinking about using portable ladders for access to the second floor for a search. Whatever tactics, tasks or actions you are thinking about are very preliminary “plans” that you have pulled out of your operational tool bag, based on the initial report of a house fire. When you do arrive and it is in fact a house fire, you can now further focus your plans based on the fire location and severity, and any other factors such as victims reported trapped or fire extending to exposed buildings, and any other information you gather during a 360 walk around or scene survey.

If you arrive and discover a factory on fire, some of the “plans” you made will need to be adjusted. A 2 1/2-inch hoseline may be required and you may even need to transmit a second alarm or call for mutual aid upon arrival, based on staffing, respons times and time of day.

If your companies arrive with adequate staffing, you can even pre-assign firefighters to specific tactical duties such as forcible entry, ventilation and roof work. Again, knowing you are “assigned” the job of forcing entry into whatever type of building you may arrive at lets you start to think or “plan” on what tools you may need to carry or use to gain entry to the building.

With established operational “plans” and knowing you are the first due ladder company, you will know what tools you need and where you will be operating, before you arrive. The time spent planning and training on these concepts can only save time during the initial minutes on the scene of a working fire or large scale emergency.

Obviously any situation may require the officer to adjust or change any established plans, but the use or well established, tactically proven procedures, plans and assignments can only enhance the effectiveness of fire companies arriving at rapidly developing fires and emergencies.

Does your department have effective SOPs/SOGs/FOPs in place that help create an attack plan, or are you on your own when you arrive?