Improve your incident command system
(The following is part two of a two part series on your command plan.)
The term “Incident Command System” has been used since the mid 1980s. In the 90s we termed it “Incident Management System.” No matter what you call the system you use, there are several functions that must be simultaneously completed. NFPA 1500, Incident Management, 8.1.8
At an emergency incident, the incident commander shall have the responsibility for the following:
- Arrive onscene before assuming command.
The confusion created by attempting to manage an incident while not on the scene can place crews operating on the fire ground in jeopardy.
- Assume and confirm command of an incident and take an effective command position.
An effective command position should be in an area that has unobstructed views of the emergency scene. Consider the use of division or sector officers to ensure that all crews and their access to the fire building(s) are accounted for.
- Perform situation evaluation that includes risk assessment.
Get the big picture! A 360 degree must be completed. Ongoing interior CAN (conditions, actions, needs) reports allow the IC to evaluate the current incident action plan (IAP).
- Initiate, maintain, and control incident communications.
If you are unable to clearly communicate with units that are operating on the interior of the fire building your ability to account for them is jeopardized. All radio communications should support fire ground activities. Support functions outside the hazard zone (water supply, EMS, etc.) should take place on a non-tactical radio channel.
- Develop an overall strategy and an IAP and assign companies and members consistent with the standard operating procedures.
The IAP should be consistent with the overall risk assessment. Risk a lot to save a lot (human life), risk a little to save a little (property), risk nothing to save what is already gone.
- Initiate an accountability and inventory worksheet.
True fireground accountability tracks the physical location, activities and time of deployment of the crews. Tactical accountability will account for teams and companies: Who-What-WhereWhen-Why: Who is there, What they are doing, Where they are, When they entered the hazard area, and Why they are doing what they are doing where and when they are doing it.
- Develop an effective incident organization by managing resources, maintaining an effective span of control, and maintaining direct supervision over the entire incident, and designate supervisors in charge of specific areas or functions.
When an incident expands beyond the initial span-of-control the IC should assign branch, division or sector officers to ensure that tactical accountability is maintained.
- Review, evaluate, and revise the incident action plan as required.
An IC can only see what is taking place on the exterior of the fire building. Interior crews must give continuous updates regarding progress. If interior reports are not being given, the IC must prompt them. Have dispatch give 10-minute checks to assist the IC in decision making based upon the IAP and progress of units on the scene.
- Continue, transfer, and terminate command.
Based upon SOP/SOGs the IC may transfer command to another fire ground officer. The decision to terminate command must be based upon the completion of the IAP. Command should be kept in place at anytime a hazard zone exists. The potential for a structural collapse may be there long after the fire has been extinguished. Technically, command will end once the last fire unit leaves the scene.
Not that these are bad people, but their actions, or lack of actions, contribute to failure. Often the lack of training, education and limited experience, contribute to them being ineffective. Each organization must have a set of standards for those individuals that are assigned command positions. The training must be consistent, reliable and tested. Commanders that operate, think as firefighters or company officers, may find themselves behind the eight ball.
Please take the time to learn your responsibilities. The occupation of a firefighter rarely gives the opportunity for a second chance when things go bad. Train today as if your life depends on it, because it does. Chris Grant is serving as a career firefighter with Central Pierce Fire & Rescue in Tacoma, WA. A 23 year veteran of the fire service, he has held several positions, from operations section chief, training division captain, Haz-Mat team leader and Chief of the Washington State Fire Academy’s Recruit Training Program. He has earned Associates Degrees in Fire Command Administration and in Fire Investigation and is currently working towards a bachelor’s degree. He is a frequent instructor for the National Fire Academy and has spoken at FDIC. Contact Grant at www.esfiretraining.com.
Chris Grant is serving as a career fi refi ghter with Central Pierce Fire & Rescue in Tacoma, WA. A 23 year veteran of the fi re service, he has held several positions, from operations section chief, training division captain, Haz-Mat team leader and Chief of the Washington State Fire Academy’s Recruit Training Program. He has earned Associates Degrees in Fire Command Administration and in Fire Investigation and is currently working towards a bachelor’s degree. He is a frequent instructor for the National Fire Academy and has spoken at FDIC. Contact Grant at www.esfi retraining.com.
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