Blog by Ed Hadfield
Incident Commanders are often tasked with taking command of an active incident that has developed prior to their arrival. I’m sure all of us have been exposed to those that have called a second alarm from the bunk room based upon reports from dispatch only to discover it was a dumpster fire behind an industrial building, not actually a working fire in an industrial building.
We use this as an analogy to shed light on actions based upon perception, not actions based upon reality.
Individuals who lack the basic understanding of fire ground functions will often base their decisions on a limited view of the situation, rather than a comprehensive view. This is why the old “capture a 360-degree of the structure philosophy” becomes an important ingredient to our success model.
It’s important for all officers in command to capture a complete “360″or delegate to another qualified officer to acquire accurate feedback on the conditions of the structure and the growth of the incident during the first few minutes while establishing an action plan.
This continuous analysis of the situation must become a component of the overall action plan. Adjustments may need to be made based upon feedback received or the evidence visualized. Remember, the building has seven sides, the four exterior walls, the roof, the basement (if applicable) and the interior.
This information will allow you and others the basis to establish a comprehensive and plan for the incident. Equally important is structure identification and understanding building and rescue profiles, as part of the foundation of effective operations on the fire ground.
Given the dynamics of today’s fires and the events of extreme fire behavior in which we operate, the understanding of Hostile Event Recognition, and the understanding of pressure as it relates to rapid fire progression, is important information to be relayed to the incident commander. Particularly in high-volume, big box and wide-rise type structures where hostile events occur in the overhead at explosive levels that can create structural failure in the roof assembly.
As mentioned, the fire ground functions on seven sides. One critical area that is often overlooked is the placement of personnel on the roof of the structure to give the Incident Commander a realistic look from above. Placing personnel on the roof of a structure will provide information to the Incident Commander in order to determine the ability to remain in the offensive position, or take a defensive posture on the fire.
Remember, “If it’s unsafe to be on the roof, it’s unsafe to be under the same roof. This is not to say all occupancies will receive the vertical ventilation treatment. However, Incident Commanders will do themselves a great service by getting a good read on the structure and eyes on the fire by going top-side.
About the Author
Ed Hadfield has more than 26 years of fire service experience after rising through the ranks from firefighter to division chief. He is a frequent speaker on leadership, sharing his experiences within the fire service and also with corporate and civic leaders throughout the United States. For more on Hadfield, please check online at www.firetowntrainingspecialist.com.