Collapse Rescue 101: Logistics

June 16, 2003
Operating on a collapse building incident requires planning and logistical support well above the normal fire call.
"Operations to command, Rescue 1 advises they need 30 additional 6"x6"'s to finish the shoring. Also, we will need additional water."

"Command is direct, logistics did you copy"?

Photo By Fairfax County FD Set up and maintenance of the facilities needed for the incident fall under Logistics

Operating on a collapse building incident requires planning and logistical support well above the normal fire call. The Incident Commander must build out a functional logistical section that will be the backbone of the operation. Neglecting logistics will ensure one thing, the incident will fail.

Most fire departments are used to operating within the incident command system. Staging is a term familiar to us that is generally used to describe the area that equipment and personnel are located who are not committed to the incident. When the IC or operations officer needs assistance they call the staging officer and request the help. In a collapsed building response, expanding the staging area into a functional logistical section requires planning, training and constant evaluation.

When planning the logistics for a collapse building incident, doing a community risk analysis will help build out the requirements. If your response district has heavy reinforced concrete buildings, you will need to ensure there is enough of the proper type of equipment to support these operations. (That is, if your department can handle these operations!) Generally, you will not need the vehicles, only the equipment from them. A functional Logistics section is far more than just a location for tools and equipment, in fact if you develop this section fully, keep in mind I am talking about a long-term operation; it can look like this on an organization chart:

As you can see, there are many sub-units with a multitude of responsibilities under each branch.


Photo By Fairfax County FD Transportation, Tools and Equipment are one of the primary duties of the Logistics Section. Communications: Responsible for developing the incident communication plan. Ensure all jurisdictions and agencies are able to communicate with each other. Food: Responsible for food for all rescue personnel. Includes working with Safety officer for hand washing stations, secure area, ect. Medical: This is separate from the victim medical care, this is for responders only. Works with the rehab officer to develop a properly equipped and staffed medical check-in and medical status area. Rehab: Responder rehab section. SUPPORT BRANCH: Facilities: Responsible for all incident facilities, command post including equipment, Equipment storage area, ect. Supplies: All incident supplies including fuel, parts, maintenance and repair. This should also include the additional personnel needed to mitigate the incident. Ground Support: Transportation plan for all personnel, supplies, food and equipment. Can also be expected to prepare a traffic plan for the incident. Each of these can have multiple sections under them; build it out as your incident escalates. Getting off to a good start with a Logistics Chief (not necessarily a Chief) assigned immediately, a Support Branch commander and a Service Branch commander will ensure the proper amount of personnel is tasked to Logistics. This is not a one-person job, especially in a long term operation.

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