Tactical Fire Prevention

CarolinaFireJournal - By Anthony Scoggin
By Anthony Scoggin
01/23/2014 -

“If we complete this mission, we will lose memory of fire as a threat to lives and property, returning it to its place of utility where we are not threatened by it. Let’s forever separate the names of fire and death so that neither is associated with the other.”

— Anthony Scoggin


In our business, tactics are what help us solve the problems we face. When we strike a target (the enemy) with an attack to prevent it from harming us prior to it launching an attack on us we refer to it as a preemptive strike. “Tactical decision making” and “Fire Prevention (preemptive)” come together to form the basis of “Tactical Fire Prevention” (TFP).

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

— Sun Tzu

The fact is, if we were to spend more time targeting the enemy on our terms and not on its terms we would save more lives and property with less time fighting. Listening to the enemy is the key to this process. Fire speaks. Through science we hear fire as it whispers its secrets to those that would hear. As science continues to translate the language of fire, we would be advised to respond by developing tactics that supersede the enemy’s ability to strike.

We can start this process by utilizing TFP. In order to do this we must identify targets where fire has shown that it has providence. Fire always leaves a footprint. We can use this footprint to size up the enemy. We can use the trail left behind to gauge the placement and strength of the enemy. We do this through the use of statistics. Through the gathering of statistical information we can see our enemy; see where he is comfortable operating, and where he has ravaged our population. The enemy IS a clear picture painted in the statistics using the brush of call volume.

“There are lies, damned lies and statistics.”

— Mark Twain

Not a call goes by that doesn’t produce a trail of statistics for us to follow. All we have to do is allow the map to be populated with our enemy’s activities and we will start forming a picture of how to defeat him. It is simply not enough to know we had 100 calls in a given time. We must understand and visualize WHERE those calls for service are on a coverage map while understanding the information they provide. As we develop the ability to problem solve using these statistics, we will get a side benefit. We will always be ready to change when the numbers do. Imagine being able to adjust on the fly to what the enemy is doing! Isn’t that what you would do if you were on the battlefield? Well, you are on the battlefield, and just as it is on any battlefield your life and the lives of those you protect depends on making the right choices. Just as NFPA 1720 is to ISO, so too is TFP to the general nature of the statistics we gather. TFP will target specific areas of interest; areas that are in more danger than other areas. It will allow us to properly place our resources instead of swinging blind once the tone drops.

“I think setting a goal, getting a visual image of what it is you want. You’ve got to see what it is you want to achieve before you can pursue it.”

— Chuck Norris

Place historical data on a map find the patterns and formulate aggressive strategies to combat the enemy. Here’s an example. In South Carolina the 50 year old and over crowd is taking fire fatalities on the chin. In 2012, 74 percent of fire fatalities were over the age of 50. Knowing this statistic, place your EMS calls for a given response district in South Carolina on a map. Where you find clusters of EMS calls, you may infer that the population in that area is older. While we all know that the clustering of EMS calls may be influenced by other indicators such as crime, we can at least let that point us to an area so that we can take further action. Another example, you notice that a particular residential urban interface area has a spike of outdoor fires with unknown origins. Target this area for not only outdoor fire information but for home fire prevention (smoke detectors, escape plans, etc.). This will ensure that while we bring the population’s awareness level up, we also address the increased risk from the unexplained outdoor fires.

“There is no such thing as failure. There are only results.”

— Tony Robbins

Will you always see the results? Maybe not on a small scale but on the large scale, you will be populating the map with fire prevention calls instead of fire calls. That, over a long period of time, will replace the enemy’s numbers with your own numbers. Quit letting the enemy successfully exercise unfettered access to your public. Target the enemy with TFP and knock it on its hindquarters!

In closing, be weary of anecdotal information as it has historically been inaccurate at times and does not give us the precision that the public deserves when formulating our plans in emergency work. When calls are generating run data there are no reasons left to look elsewhere for the starting point. If the runners were to line up at the finish line the race would be over before it started. Let’s get to the starting line and run the course like our lives and the lives of those we are charged with depend on it! Let the numbers whisper their secrets so that you can shout the answer for all to hear. If we complete this mission, we will lose memory of fire as a threat to lives and property, returning it to its place of utility where we are not threatened by it. Let’s forever separate the names of fire and death so that neither is associated with the other.

Anthony Scoggin works for the Lexington County Fire Service as a career Battalion Captain with 11 years of firefighting experience. He oversees the operation of Battalion 7 on C-Shift (green days) consisting of four Fire Stations in the South Region. Captain Scoggin also leads the Decontamination team on C-Shift as part of the Lexington County Emergency Response Team in the Special Operations Division. In addition, he works as an Adjunct Instructor for the South Carolina Fire Academy, and also works as a Program Assistant with the Office of State Fire Marshal on the Community Risk Reduction Team holding the rank of Lieutenant.
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