Creating the IDEAL scene

CarolinaFireJournal - By Glenn L. Hamm, II
By Glenn L. Hamm, II
08/04/2013 -

As firefighters, we know that the first two minutes following the arrival of the first-in units will dictate the performance on the scene for the next two hours. Generally, any seasoned firefighters can tell by the radio traffic from the first arriving units on the scene if the call is about to be an operational success or a complete cluster. Unfortunately, complete clusters happen more often than we want them to! Therefore, it is imperative that we as leaders within our departments take the time to educate and train our personnel how start down a successful path to an IDEAL scene. This begins with their initial report and scene sizeup.


Now, there are quite a few acronyms tossed around the fire service in relation to the initial scene size-up. Captain Joseph Knitter of South Milwaukee Fire Department notes “We first learned REVES and RECEO and thought life was good. Then, someone threw WALLACE WAS HOT and COAL WAS WEALTH at us. Now what do we do?” In an answer to his own question Captain Knitter has developed a simple and effective means of performing the scene size-up. Utilizing the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) concept, Capt. Knitter lays out the framework for an I.D.E.A.L. Scene Size-up. After all, we would like every scene to be an ideal scene. Wouldn’t we? Here is how Capt. Knitter breaks it down:

I.  Identify arriving unit (“Engine 3 to fire department dispatch.” )

D. Describe what you see: “We are on the scene of a multi-story school with nothing showing....”

E. Explain what you intend to do: “...we’ll be investigating...”

A. Assume Command: “...Captain Morgan will be Command...”

L. Let incoming units know what you want them to do or where you want them to go. “...Ladder 7, Rescue 10 and all other incoming units stage out on Badger Avenue ... we’ll be switching to Fire ground Frequency.”

Here are four additional tips from Capt. Knitter that will help you along the way:

Adhere to the KISS method — call it like you see it.

Educate yourself as to what light smoke, moderate smoke and heavy smoke really are and practice these skills with the “chosen few.” Study pictures in fire service publications and videos and make your judgment call accordingly.

Try to use it for fire incidents, as well as EMS calls such as MVC’s, etc.

Stress to your dispatchers the importance of relaying to you what callers are reporting to them. Phoenix’s proverbial Mrs. Smith usually doesn’t call in and report that the “structure across from her structure is rapidly combusting and evolving heat, light, smoke and gases.” She usually calls and says: “I need help, the garage across from my house is on fire.” That’s what should be reported to us!

Hamm graduated from The Citadel, Class of 2003, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Currently he serves the fire and rescue service as an Assistant Chief at Station 17, Newberry County Emergency Services and Dive Team Leader for Newberry County Emergency Services. Hamm also services the needs of the fire service as owner of Poseidon Fire Rescue Equipment ( Hamm may be contacted via email at [email protected] or by phone at 803-924-7146.
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