Blog by Ed Hadfield
As a member assigned to a truck or engine you will be tasked with a variety of objectives. Many require operating somewhat independently. Case in point, the duties of being the Inside Man, or as I like to call it, the Interior Situational Awareness Officer.
Now I understand this is a mouthful, but the concept is more important than the name. Generally, the Inside Man is responsible for bringing a blower to the door, pulling ceilings in the immediate overhead, coordinating the use of PPV with vertical ventilation and working with the fire attack team to do search duties. This job is very important in the overall success of an operation.
This assignment, however, should have a direct link to the Incident Commander, providing him with accurate data to understand the situation from within, rather than from the exterior of the structure a block away.
This person would be responsible for conducting an outside exterior scan of the structure. Any identifiable structural collapse considerations, hostile-event recognition factors or roof assembly exposures would be immediately communicated to the Incident Commander and the companies operating in the interior.
Additionally, building profile identification is key and would include the age and type of the structure. This determines the fires strengths and weaknesses based upon the building profile and construction components.
In addition, the conditions at the point of egress must be taken into consideration. Reading the rapid development of pressurization should be communicated if it is a threat to the safety of personnel on the interior.
The use of a TIC should also be considered as a tool to determine fire in the overhead and potential collapse in the area of main egress from the structure. While making that determination it is important to identify the proper use of PPV.
Remember there are five recognizable elements in determining if PPV is appropriate or not. If any of these five exists, PPV should not be considered as the primary source of ventilation.
1) Working an attic fire or a fire in an overhead concealed space that would impinge upon roof features while personnel are inside the interior of the structure.
2) Unknown location of the fire or an inability to locate the fire by interior crews.
3) Inability or lack of an adequate-sized exhaust portal for PPV usage.
4) Imminent or confirmed rescue of a civilian or down firefighter.
5) Structure that is over-pressurized for the use of PPV or rapid fire development.
All of the considerations above are generally recognized by the Inside Man while performing exterior job assignments. This helps them make adjustments to their plan and provide a higher degree of safety for interior personnel with concise communications to the Incident Commander.
Once the Inside Man transitions to the interior of the structure, their threat analysis increases. First, their understanding of the roof assembly and the destructive effects of fire and exposure to fire on these features need to be forefront. In addition to pulling ceilings in the immediate overhead of the main access point with a scan of the assembly, both visually and TIC assisted, it’s important to identify the number of hoselines through the access point and the number of personnel assigned to the hoselines.
NIOSH Firefighter Data and Injury Report Data has shown that two or more hoselines through an access portal create a spaghetti-like impact that increases the odds of personnel failing to egress out of a structure on their hoselines in the event of a hostile event or collapse situation.
Recognizing this, corrective action may be taken to minimize this potential. Keeping hoselines pulled straight and tight, while providing ample egress portals will reduce the risk of injury and entrapment of interior personnel.
The Inside Man’s ability to identify rapid fire development within the structure, based upon changing interior conditions, reports from the roof division as to progress and conditions of ventilation heat holes and firefighter access holes in common corridors or center hallways, along with the exterior size-up communications from the I-RIC companies, determine the next course of action.
One simple task is to first determine the location of interior crews and identify both accountability and air management of those personnel while sizing up the area they are actively involved in firefighting activity, search procedures or fire extension activities.
Along with the normal assigned task, the Inside Man becomes the interior eyes and ears of the Incident Commander. Historically this has been tasked to a senior Company Officer assigned on a hoseline or an interior position. However, with split-company operations in limited to zero visibility environments, the Inside Man can double the effective safety envelope by following those above actions for the Incident Commander.
As well as the possibility of those assigned interior crews being limited in their ability to identify critical safety factors previously discussed due to task overload.
It may seem like an impossible situation for the Inside Man to accomplish all these objective, bear in mind, it’s a simple algorithm to follow based upon facts, presentations, input, information and task expectations and outcomes.
As always, Sit back and enjoy the Cuppa!
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.