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    Default Taking Command...

    I've tried using the search feature with no luck and if someone can think of a similar topic please let me know.

    The department I work for is a relatively large combination department. We have 13 fire stations and numerous EMS sites. Our typical response for a residential structure fire is 2 engines and 1 rescue. Our apparatus' is staffed with 1 man per truck. Lines come off 1st in, and 2nd in establishes water supply. Rescue is primarily for packs, tools, etc. Additional man power comes from EMS units and volunteers. It is the first on scene radio transmitting personel's (usually 1st in) responsiblity to provide scene size-up and establish command.

    My question is after establishing command, what actions would everyone best see fit for the individual who established command? Bear in mind that it may be only that person and possible one other for the first few minutes.

    Thanks in advance

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    Quote Originally Posted by CME View Post
    My question is after establishing command, what actions would everyone best see fit for the individual who established command? Bear in mind that it may be only that person and possible one other for the first few minutes.

    Thanks in advance
    For starters:

    Provide a Good Size up
    Establish alarm level or response needed
    Provide instructions to incoming units

    Not a whole lot more you can do until you get more troops.
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    Initial actions of the IC should be the same no matter how many people get there at the same time. The IC should perform a 360, develop a game plan, assess the need for additional units and give assignments to those on scene and enroute.
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    Assuming there is still time after IC has done things mentioned in previous posts, the IC could start pump, get needed tools ready and possible start to stretch a line near the area needed so that when next arriving crew is there equipment is ready. But this is all time and situation dependant.

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    After sizing up, the main thing he needs to determine is if the incident will be dramatically changed if command participates in tactical operations or if the incident can allow for him to be "stationary". For example, if he is the first one on scene and sees someone at the second floor window, it would be incorrect to stand in the front yard. Instead he should throw a ladder and go get the person after radioing his intentions to incoming units. Command can be transferred when the incident is more stable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spencer534 View Post
    After sizing up, the main thing he needs to determine is if the incident will be dramatically changed if command participates in tactical operations or if the incident can allow for him to be "stationary". For example, if he is the first one on scene and sees someone at the second floor window, it would be incorrect to stand in the front yard. Instead he should throw a ladder and go get the person after radioing his intentions to incoming units. Command can be transferred when the incident is more stable.
    This is more along the lines of what I was curious about. I've had times where I have taken command, pulled the first line, performed 360, donned airpack, informed responding personnel and dispatch what I have found, and with a volunteer made entry and put the fire out. However, I have been told that although the right outcome was accomplished, I should not have committed to an interior attack after taking command.

    I understand the reasoning behind this. I also understand the reasoning of a gentleman that responded with "Sometimes you have to let one burn to the ground."

    I didn't know if this was a problem other departments may have faced, and how they may have dealt with issue. I think for me personally I tend to lean towards the bolded statement above.

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    They are right about taking command - on an incident that you think you can mitigate by fast action , dont commit yourself (both verbally and physically)as command- we use the terminology "fast attack" -
    Basically you give a quick size up -and go to work - the next in takes command. Hopefully by the time they get there --- there wont be much incident to "command"
    ?

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    I think the issue here is that we have gotten into the habit of establishing command on everything. From the most basic medical call to a 3 alarm structure fire. Nothing wrong with that, since it gets you in the habit of working under the system, but there comes a time when you have to ask yourself a question: who are you in command of?

    Like the OP, there have been times when I have drove the first in engine, stretched a line, performed a walk around, gave a size up, got dressed and made an attack. It still happens all over the country. And there is nothing wrong with that. Some have the mindset that if there is no stationary IC, who will tell everyone else what to do? Well, when there is no one else this becomes a moot point. To say that someone shouldn't engage in a tactical activity simply because they are the self proclaimed incident commander (most times out of habit) is the most bass akward thing I have heard in a while.

    And before anyone jumps on the whole safety aspect, save it. I would hope that anyone in the above situation would have enough expirience and common sense under their belt to know when an attack with a limited crew is a viable option and when it isn't.
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    Quote Originally Posted by slackjawedyokel View Post
    They are right about taking command - on an incident that you think you can mitigate by fast action , dont commit yourself (both verbally and physically)as command- we use the terminology "fast attack" -
    Basically you give a quick size up -and go to work - the next in takes command. Hopefully by the time they get there --- there wont be much incident to "command"
    I agree with this 100%, especially when you take into account that a few minutes may mean the difference between a single room and contents and several rooms involved.

    I also see ChiefKN's point of view in wating for the appropriate number of personnel to arrive before commiting to anything.

    There are many variables that may come into play that may affect one's decision one way or another. I am just hoping to gather as much input as possible from those who have experienced minimal manpower in the early minutes of an incident. Hopefully I can combine a lot of this information in order to better develope a SOP for taking command and choosing to fight fire or choosing to delegate assignments as units arrive.

    I greatly appreaciate everyones responses

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    Quote Originally Posted by CME View Post
    I also see ChiefKN's point of view in wating for the appropriate number of personnel to arrive before commiting to anything.
    Sorry, my post was in reference to what else "command" can do... as command.

    In regards to Command actually starting to engage in tactics, I see nothing wrong with that. To a point.

    It is quite common in wildland firefighting for "Command" to also be the only unit operating and to be VERY involved in the tactics. Been there, done that.

    I would be REALLY carefully about committing to any interior work without support. Look, you got someone hanging out a window or claiming someone is still inside, you think you can make it, I would be a liar if I wouldn't give it a go.

    As Chief, I often did a quick "peek". Very often it was a Cop and I and we'd see what we could see.

    Someone else mentioned a 360. Can't stress that enough.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GTRider245 View Post
    Some have the mindset that if there is no stationary IC, who will tell everyone else what to do? Well, when there is no one else this becomes a moot point. To say that someone shouldn't engage in a tactical activity simply because they are the self proclaimed incident commander (most times out of habit) is the most bass akward thing I have heard in a while.

    And before anyone jumps on the whole safety aspect, save it. I would hope that anyone in the above situation would have enough expirience and common sense under their belt to know when an attack with a limited crew is a viable option and when it isn't.
    Many people (mainly white hats) that I have posed this question to say that you establish command in order to implement the ICS. However, like you have said, who are you in command of? I believe that NIMS has brought about some very good points and changes, but a stationary IC on every single incident is not only not feasible sometimes but outright dumb.

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    I'd opine that if you have a robust command structure, and operate in a like fashion at most incidents, that while the first-in senior officer is indeed the incident commander at that point, he/she can still set the tone of the incident, determine and communicate the need for more (or less) resources, assign tasks to incoming units, then get to work on the tasks at hand.

    An incoming officer should be hearing all of this on the air and can then establish "formal" command on arrival. Another 360 is in order, of course.

    As has been noted, it makes no sense to stand in the yard, "in command," when some action might have mitigated the incident.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

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    You might only be in command of yourself, but you are still in command. Whether you call it "command" or not, if you arrive first and start making decisions, you ARE "command." Give a size-up, do a walkaround to the best of your ability, THEN start pulling lines. While it might work to pull lines before a 360 on nearly every fire, starting doing what will work at EVERY fire. Don't commit to a line until you're sure what you'll need and where. While you're pulling lines, especially with little or no help, you could wasting time when a ladder needs to be thrown to a C-side window for IMMEDIATE rescue. Not only that, you might see a hazard or something on your walkaround that need to be relayed before other units arrive. Likewise, you might need to CALL for other units before you get too far into the incident.

    You can be in command and still engage in active fireground operations. You just need to pass command as soon as an equally competent person arrives that can assume command. Optimally, there would be a face-to-face change of command, but fire scenes don't always allow that, based on size, scope, and what's going on at the time. You can give a decent radio report that will allow the new IC to take command.

    My department engages in what is known as a "fast attack" at nearly every fire, right or wrong. A fast attack is supposed to be for incidents where a single, quick action taken by the first arriving crew will either effect a rescue or put the fire out. VES could be one such action, especially if you have a KNOWN victim in a KNOWN location. Fire attack is another. A fire attack on tank water is basically a fast attack. Once you've got positive water, you're conducting a normal offensive operation. Ideally, fast attacks would not be used for defensive fires, but we find ourselves entering offensive modes, and having to withdraw from fires that we knew from the get-go were going to end up defensive.

    Back to command- establishing command, giving a size-up, and calling for any additional resources is NECESSARY. It doesn't help you, it helps the next arriving units. It lets them know what they're coming in to. It lets them know WHO they're coming in WITH, and who is in charge when they get there. This should apply to fire alarms all the way up to working fires. Even if you're inside fighting fire, you're in charge until you're not anymore.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CME View Post
    This is more along the lines of what I was curious about. I've had times where I have taken command, pulled the first line, performed 360, donned airpack, informed responding personnel and dispatch what I have found, and with a volunteer made entry and put the fire out. However, I have been told that although the right outcome was accomplished, I should not have committed to an interior attack after taking command.
    I have a question. I noticed you started this thread stating that it might be you and possibly one other firefighter on scene. Above you stae that you've established command, done a scene size up, and gone interior with another volunteer before. Did you have an engineer/driver/operator at the pump? Please tell me there was an engineer/driver/operator at the pump when you did this. Pumps are machines and machines left unattended tend to do weird stuff sometimes. Once inside of a burning structure, that's not the place you want to be and have our pump do some weird stuff on you and not have someone there to correct it. I've seen this type of operation to bad before, yeah it's rare, but is it worth the risk?

    Mind you, I'm not trying to be a safety Sally here, I believe that wih the job comes certain risks. But what are you really accomplishing? Are there possible victims inside? How are you going to help them and hold off he fire with a two man crew and no one at the pump, especially if the pump whacks out on you with no one there to correct it? That may be what they're getting at, if that is indeed he scenario. But if there is someone operating the pump and two of you on the line, well, go get it brother.

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    Quote Originally Posted by firefightinirish217 View Post
    I have a question. I noticed you started this thread stating that it might be you and possibly one other firefighter on scene. Above you stae that you've established command, done a scene size up, and gone interior with another volunteer before. Did you have an engineer/driver/operator at the pump? Please tell me there was an engineer/driver/operator at the pump when you did this. Pumps are machines and machines left unattended tend to do weird stuff sometimes. Once inside of a burning structure, that's not the place you want to be and have our pump do some weird stuff on you and not have someone there to correct it. I've seen this type of operation to bad before, yeah it's rare, but is it worth the risk?

    Mind you, I'm not trying to be a safety Sally here, I believe that wih the job comes certain risks. But what are you really accomplishing? Are there possible victims inside? How are you going to help them and hold off he fire with a two man crew and no one at the pump, especially if the pump whacks out on you with no one there to correct it? That may be what they're getting at, if that is indeed he scenario. But if there is someone operating the pump and two of you on the line, well, go get it brother.
    I have done it with and without a pump operator. Was it the best idea in the world? Probably not. But I unless you know for sure, which is almost certainly never, you have to assume their may be a victim. I am not going to be nearly as aggressive when manpower is lacking, but I still have to make an attempt. Unless you have been in this situation before, it is hard to relay the feelings you have when you are alone or with little help on a scene.

    I may not have taken the best course of action in the past, but I am also starting to see the other side as well. Regardless of how I feel, this kind of input is what I am looking for in trying to put together the best possible tactics into a department SOP. Thanks for the input.

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    Quote Originally Posted by footrat View Post
    You might only be in command of yourself, but you are still in command. Whether you call it "command" or not, if you arrive first and start making decisions, you ARE "command." Give a size-up, do a walkaround to the best of your ability, THEN start pulling lines. While it might work to pull lines before a 360 on nearly every fire, starting doing what will work at EVERY fire. Don't commit to a line until you're sure what you'll need and where. While you're pulling lines, especially with little or no help, you could wasting time when a ladder needs to be thrown to a C-side window for IMMEDIATE rescue. Not only that, you might see a hazard or something on your walkaround that need to be relayed before other units arrive. Likewise, you might need to CALL for other units before you get too far into the incident.

    You can be in command and still engage in active fireground operations. You just need to pass command as soon as an equally competent person arrives that can assume command. Optimally, there would be a face-to-face change of command, but fire scenes don't always allow that, based on size, scope, and what's going on at the time. You can give a decent radio report that will allow the new IC to take command.

    My department engages in what is known as a "fast attack" at nearly every fire, right or wrong. A fast attack is supposed to be for incidents where a single, quick action taken by the first arriving crew will either effect a rescue or put the fire out. VES could be one such action, especially if you have a KNOWN victim in a KNOWN location. Fire attack is another. A fire attack on tank water is basically a fast attack. Once you've got positive water, you're conducting a normal offensive operation. Ideally, fast attacks would not be used for defensive fires, but we find ourselves entering offensive modes, and having to withdraw from fires that we knew from the get-go were going to end up defensive.

    Back to command- establishing command, giving a size-up, and calling for any additional resources is NECESSARY. It doesn't help you, it helps the next arriving units. It lets them know what they're coming in to. It lets them know WHO they're coming in WITH, and who is in charge when they get there. This should apply to fire alarms all the way up to working fires. Even if you're inside fighting fire, you're in charge until you're not anymore.
    These are all very good points, the only concern I have is with the last part. I'm afraid that some Jack Wagon may arrive on scene and do something stupid that may cause either themself or someone else to get hurt. And I would not want that coming back on the incident commander/myself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CME View Post
    These are all very good points, the only concern I have is with the last part. I'm afraid that some Jack Wagon may arrive on scene and do something stupid that may cause either themself or someone else to get hurt. And I would not want that coming back on the incident commander/myself.
    Are you referring to someone freelancing because of the lack of a IC at a command post handing out assignments? That can be handled in a few ways. One the initial person in command can start making assignments for units that have identified themselves as in route, before they commit themselves to an assignment such a VES or initial fire attack. Another is the timely arrival of an officer whom will be IC throughout the incident. The biggest most important factor is discipline, no freelancing.

    Hope this helps.

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    I guess before I'd suggest anything I'd want to know how long before someone arrives to assume command at from the initial IC? At what point can the initial IC still actually command personnel when directly engaged in tactical operations? How many personnel are under the IC's command while he/she is tactically engaged?

    I ask this as an officer of a combination FD with one station, but more first due personnel. We've nearly always utilized the "Fast Attack" and have been largely successful, but we've learned that we've not done a great or even good job of true accountability or even initial command when our first due officers are tactically engaged. We are transitioning to a much more rigid non-combative commander on the first due response to establish a command post, monitor initial actions and direct incoming units. Unlike the OP's situation we often will have more than one action happening on arrival, such as confining the fire and search. We also typically arrive with one Chief Officer and one Lieutenant so our IC's are typically not going to be relieved of command. The initial IC will always have the leeway to become involved when that option is the most logical, but we're changing the scale from heavily weighing toward combative commander to true IC.

    We too have typically operated with one line off tank water with no pump operator, with no issues. Our pumps don't do strange things with only one line out. Is this the best case scenario? No way. But along with many other things short staffing does to us, the situation dictates the tactics. Do this also requires heads up crews to not get sucked into true fire extinguishment but to remain in the confine mode.

    John Norman's first chapter, the 5 Concepts speaks volumes to how the initial commander should deploy resources.
    Last edited by RFDACM02; 12-30-2011 at 12:11 PM.

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    It really boils down to two factors: Are you going to be the "fast attack IC" or "stationary IC" on arrival and how does that decision dictate your first actions on scene. It seems that in this specific case the decision is made slightly easier in that you're arriving either by yourself or with only one other person. To me that makes me lean more heavily toward stationary IC until more personnel arrival. Obviously that is VERY scene dependent but it may be better to stay outside, perform the sizeup, form a plan, and coordinate the resources to hit the ground running on arrival.

    It's different if you're pulling up with a full crew (3-6) or if you know the next-in or BC is right behind you.. in those cases having the first in officer operate as a 'fast attack IC' or even pass commend to the next in become more viable options.
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    If you are required to operate at a tactical level on arrival, then you cannot effectively fill the role as IC as defined by ICS, in my opinion. Just arbitrarily establishing command on arrival is just that; words. It seemed that doing so was just a ploy to get people in the habit of using the ICS system, when in fact the opposite was actually true. Having the first arriving unit establish command every time on every incident when it was damned well known that those few arriving units would be commited 100% at a tactical level is just a bastardization of the ICS system. Until an officer can arrive on scene and fill the role of command as it is intended to be filled, establishing command serves no real purpose at all. You cannot be an effective IC if you're directly involved in hands-on interior fire suppression or rescue operations. Your department has two choices: hire/recruit and train enough officers and personnel to commit a dedicated IC to every working incident, or accept the fact that establishing command is just lip service and serves little purpose more than assigning liability and establishing a single point of communication for dispatchers to use.

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    Whether he says "in command" or not, that first guy who makes the decision to do something (handline, search, etc) is in command. Until someone gets there to take over strategically, he is the one directing in that role. Everybody else will be looking to him for direction until that strategic change takes place. Is it a best practice? No, but it may be the only option for them at this time.

    Also, by stating "Engine 1 establishing Elm Street command, need to transfer to the next in officer" he gives incoming units another piece to the puzzle as to what the situation is. He also establishes who the next officer needs to talk to to find out what the conditions, progress and needed resources are. This is especially important when the next in unit may not have an officer or no BC is soon to arrive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    Sorry, my post was in reference to what else "command" can do... as command.

    In regards to Command actually starting to engage in tactics, I see nothing wrong with that. To a point.

    I would be REALLY carefully about committing to any interior work without support. Look, you got someone hanging out a window or claiming someone is still inside, you think you can make it, I would be a liar if I wouldn't give it a go.


    Someone else mentioned a 360. Can't stress that enough.
    Doing a 360 if feasible. Most of my area has attached buildings. Some go the entire block corner to corner. Many times you just have to go with what you initially see. If you feel dropping your 500 gallon tank can make a difference between loss of life or more property (500 gal can knock down a room or 2 when applied properly) before others arrive, I don't think it would be the wrong thing to do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by len1582 View Post
    Doing a 360 if feasible. Most of my area has attached buildings. Some go the entire block corner to corner.
    No doubt...

    I always think of a specific fire in a SFD where during my walk around I found a half-deployed escape ladder hanging from a second floor window.

    In the end, didn't matter, but not for lack of effort on our part.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    No doubt...
    .
    Despite ICS, NIMS, N-FIRS and whatever else people think should be done to "standardize" the fire service, one size does not fit all. We can all lean from others, but each department needs to do what works for them..

    Even though we can't do a 360 many times, one main job of a truck company when they get to the roof is give a report to the IC of what's going on out back..

    Have a good 2012 and hope I didn't hijack this thread too badly.

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    CME
    This is a loaded question. There are so many differing opinions on this matter. Some will make sense, some I am sure won't, and I will bet that many of us will be saying the samething just using different words to get our ideas across.

    First I work for a small paid Dept. Now reading how an initial assignment is requested for your dept I am going to say," oh boy"! One guy on 3 peices of apparatus for a 1st alarm is less than poor. You jakes are way behind the 8ball before you even get a chance to get going!

    For me(where I work) command is establisbed by the 1st due Officer or Engine Co. and as more people arrive, command is transfered to the more senior staff. As with most places the size up and command statement is given by the 1st arriving. Most of us on this post will agree with this. It's routine! Now again, I know there are differences here, but this is what works for us. Once the command statement is made, the mode of command must be given(this maybe different for some). We have formal command which is followed by the command posts location. Next is Investigation mode, then there is Fast Attack mode, and finally Passing command. The situation dictates which command mode is initially stated.

    If you would like more info on the modes of command and general guidlines on when to use which one go to NJ division of fire safety and look up Fire Service Reference Booklet 9, Model Fire department incident Management Standard Operating Guide. To explain them all here would be very long.

    Just a side note I recently was speaking to a DC officer and found out that first due Companies give size ups, but do not establish command. The chief Officers on their arrival do. Very different, at least for me! But it works for them. That's what is most important. Whatever works and provides accountable and safe fireground operation for your dept is the route you should go.
    Hope this helps
    Be safe

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