Seeing Clearly: Cleaning your “Glasses”

1110817724023_2Commanders and Company Offices need to gain new insights and knowledge related to the modern building occupancy and to modify and adjust operating profiles in order to safe guard companies, personnel and team compositions. Strategies and tactics must be based on occupancy risk not occupancy type and must have the combined adequacy of sufficient staffing, fire flow and nozzle appliances orchestrated in a manner that identifies with the fire profiling, predictability of the occupancy profile and accounts for presumed fire behavior. Today’s engine company operations and fire suppression theory has to progress beyond the pragmatic approaches to fire suppression such as “Big Fire-Big Water principle.

When we look at various buildings and occupancies, past operational experiences; those that were successful, and those that were not, give us experiences that define and determine how we access, react and expect similar structures and occupancies to perform at a given alarm in the future. Naturalistic (or recognition-primed) decision-making forms much of this basis. We predicate certain expectations that fire will travel in a defined (predictable) manner that fire will hold within a room and compartment for a predictable given duration of time; that the fire load and related fire flows required will be appropriate for an expected size and severity of fire encountered within a given building, occupancy, structural system; in addition to having an appropriately trained and skilled staff to perform the requisite evolutions.

Executing tactical plans based upon faulted or inaccurate strategic insights and indicators has proven to be a common apparent cause in numerous case studies, after action reports and LODD reports. Our years of predictable fireground experience have at times clouded our ability to predict, assess, plan and implement incident action plans and ultimately deploy our companies-based upon the predictable performance expected of modern construction and especially those with engineered structural systems.

Today’s incident scene and structural fires are unlike those in past decades and will continue to challenge us operationally when confronted with structural fire engagement and combat operations. Operationally, we need to be doing the right thing, for the right reason in the right place to increase our safety and incident survivability.

The built-environments that form and shape our response districts and communities pose unique challenges to the day-to-day responses of fire departments and their subsequent operations during combat structural fire engagement. With the variety of occupancies and building characteristics present, there are definable degrees of risk potential with recognizable strategic and tactical measures that must be taken.

Although each occupancy type presents variables that dictate how a particular incident is handled, most company operations evolve from basic strategic and tactical principles rooted in past performance and operations at similar structures. This basis is based upon Predictability of Performance.

• Modern building construction is no longer predicable, But has defining predictability when taken in the context of structural compromise, integrity and inherent collapse
• Command & company officer technical knowledge may be diminished or deficient in the areas of building construction, fire dynamics and developing fire suppression therory for extreme fire behavior
• Technological Advancements in construction and materials have exceeded conventional fire suppression practices and mehtodologies
• Some fire suppression tactics are faulted or inappropriate, requiring innovative models and methods.
• Fire Dynamics and Fire Behavior is not considered during fireground size-up and assessment
• Risk Management is either not practiced or willfully ignored during most incident operations
• Some departments or officers show and indifference to safety and risk management
• Command & Company Officer dereliction
• Nothing is going to happen to me (us)

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