Blog by Christopher Naum
Chief of Training, Command Institute, Washington D.C.

There’s an often overlooked factor contributing to unsafe practices during fire suppression operations, one that we rarely talk about. In short, we need to stop entertaining ourselves during operations and instead focus on comprehending and reacting to evolving risks.

Rather than practicing appropriate risk management, some individuals employ adverse behaviors that occur on a tactical level while incident commanders and company officers believe firefighters are completing their assigned tasks. This compromises accountability. Here’s the short version of something I came up with a few years ago and have discussed during a number of my training programs:

Tactical amusement: Engaging in any practice or tactic during fire suppression, support tasks or operations that place personnel at risk for the sake of entertainment.

Tactical diversion: Diverting from an assignment while engaging in fire suppression, support tasks or operations in such a way that places personnel at risk.

Tactical circumvention: Deliberately getting around an assignment or disregarding risk assessment and incident action plans.

If we’re going to reduce firefighter injuries and deaths, we need to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons, and in the right place. We must stop the entertainment.

The demands and requirements of modern firefighting will continue to require the placement of personnel within situations and buildings that carry risk, uncertainty and inherent danger. Fire suppression tactics must be adjusted for the rapidly changing methods and materials impacting all forms of building construction, occupancies and structures.

The need to redefine the art and science of firefighting is nearly upon us. Some things do stand the test of time, others need to adjust, evolve and change. Not for the sake of change only, but for the emerging and evolving buildings, structures and occupancies being built, developed or renovated in our communities.

It’s no longer just brute force and sheer physical determination that define structural fire suppression operations. Aggressive firefighting must be redefined and aligned to the built environment and associated with goal-oriented tactical operations that are defined by risk assessed and analyzed tasks that are executed under battle plans that promote the best in safety practices and survivability within know hostile structural fire environments, while maintaining the values and tradition that defines the fire service.

Remember one thing. Don’t ever underestimate what you might encounter on any structure fire, or what might change in a second. Focus on the occupancy risk not the occupancy type. And know your buildings, your team, and your capabilities. Here are some valuable links that can help you meet this mission:

 Remembering FDNY Black Sunday … Multiple Firefighter LODDs  
 Chicago: Anatomy of a Building and its Collapse 
 Chicago: Anatomy of a Building and its Collapse-PDF Download 

Also, if you have not had a chance to look over the emerging website,  Buildingsonfire.com , take some time to explore the rich content. It’s still under construction, with an expanding wealth of information, research and data that today’s firefighter, company officer, and command officer need to know.

The authoritative and informational site that provides leading insights on fire service issues related to building construction for the fire service, firefighting operations and command risk management for operational excellence and firefighter safety.

Buildingsonfire.com, coupled with its companion sites CommandSafety.com and TheCompanyofficer.com, will continue to provide prominent and timely information to support the continuing traditions and missions of the Fire and Emergency Services.

About the Author
Christopher J. Naum is a 36-year fire service veteran and a nationally recognized and highly acclaimed fire officer, instructor and author. Chief Naum is an authority on building construction, command management and firefighter safety. Chief Naum is the executive producer of buildingsonfire.com. Chief Naum has developed and delivered training to more than 200,000 personnel nationally and internationally throughout his career. He can be followed on Facebook (facebook.com/buildingsonfire) and twitter (@buildingsonfire).