Checking your Compass

How much thought and efforts do you place on looking beyond the suggested “routiness” of your response operations? You know, the redundancy, routiness and frequency of typical calls you run, the types of fire you engage in and the manner in which your company interfaces with the balance of the alarm response when working a job or multiple alarm operation. We talk about nothing being routine, yet we have a pace, a rhythm and regularity, a consistency that is predicatable yet, uncertain; expected but when presented; off-guard.

When things go wrong, they can go wrong at an escalating rate that may at times not be apparent. Think about the issues that affect Errors, Omissions, Unknown or Unrecognized Building Profile or Construction, Wrong Tactics, Lack of Resources, Dysfunctional Command, Inadequate skills, High Risk-No Value, Situational Awareness failure, Command Compression, Tactical Entertainment…

From a company level, what are your concerns related to the routiness or regularity of your operations?

How would you relate to the fact that: “It’s NOT always business as usual”.

The complexities of the modern and evolving fireground demand an understanding of the building-occupancy relationships and the integral functionals related to;

  • construction and systems,
  • predictive occupacny performance
  • occupancy profile risk
  • fire dynamics and fire behavior,
  • risk respect
  • firefighting capabilities
  • safety consciousness
  • situational awareness
  • tactical patience
  • fluid and adaptive incident command management,
  • diligent company level supervision and
  • task level company competencies,
  • exceptional individual skills

Without the sum of these; You are derelict and negligent and “not “everyone may be going home”.

How much knowledge and formal training have you had as a Commanding Officer or Company Officer on Building Construction?


Have any clue on the performance of Engineered Structural Systems….?

Are your strategic plans and tactics aligned with Occupancy Risk and projected Building Performance, company capabilities and the fire dynamics?

There’s a lot that can be gleaned from your surroundings on any given day. We sometimes take for granted the subtle changes that are happening all around us as we take care of business on our rounds, runs and calls. We tend to focus in on the immediacy of the events that are happening in front of us that demand our attention but fail to take a look around to pick up on information, data and insights that can help us on that next run or down the road in the future.

Take a look at the construction that might be going up in your areas. I’m certain you’re paying close attention to what’s happening in your first-due, but what about that third-due area, that neighboring jurisdiction or the mutual-aid area that you occasionally run in to? When you’re on that next EMS run or an investigation of an odor or alarm bells service call, take a few extra minutes to walk through the occupancy. Conduct your own mini company level pre-plan.

Look at the layout, features, access and construction features. If you have a chance, verify the structural support systems employed by the building for the floor and roof systems. If you have time, take the company on a quick site visit to that building that’s under construction or the renovations that are again underway in that commercial or business occupancy around the corner from quarters.


These continuing challenging economic times places a great deal of influence on what’s being built, how it might be constructed, the manner in which a building may be operational one day, vacant the other and under renovation the next. Sometimes these transformations occur literally overnight.

Take a good look around, this is your town…your district, your response area. Know your buildings, understand their performance profiles, and assess the predictability of performance. Remember; Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety.

If you think these factors are not important OR you dismiss them as being non-material-think again;

Do you know where you’re going? Have you checked your compass lately to see if you are still on the right track?

They are Mission Critical for firefighter safety and incident mitigation

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