As you drive about your response district today, coming back from an alarm, heading to the firehouse tonight or running errands around your community, take a good look around. Ask your self a simple question; “How well do you know the buildings, structures and occupancies in your response jurisdiction?” Be honest, do you really understand how those “older residential” structures were built and understand how fire travels and impacts your fireground operations?
Are your aware of the newest features of engineered structural support systems being constructed within that new set of homes going up in your second-due area? Are you aware, that vacant office building is being converted into a light manufacturing and assembly business? How about those unoccupied store fronts, businesses and vacant homes that have been closed up due to the tough economic times…. any special hazards or operational concerns to your company should you get a dispatch to respond?
Have the senior members of your station or department shared their stories of operations and incidents at various buildings around your district or community? Did you listen to them, or were you quick to dismiss those “old war stories”. There’s a wealth of “pre-planning’ nuggets hidden in those stories. Take the time to listen, remember or postulate.Take a good look around….think about any given building, the one across the street that you’re looking at while you wait for the traffic light to change; Think about a fire in that same building.
Do you really understand how it will truly perform under combat structural fire conditions? What’s the building’s collapse profile, how much operational time will you have, what dynamic risk assessment factors will you have to deal with, how safe is it for you to engage in interior operations upon your arrival? How can this building, its occupancy and structural system hurt, my team, my company, my firefighters, my department, me? Sometimes things aren’t as obvious as them seem. You may have responded and operated at numerous incidents at a wide variety of buildings in your response area, or very few; some routine, others maybe more demanding…the question remains, “What do you Really know about your buildings?” Your life may one day depend on what you actually do know or recollect. Take a good look around ….