Fire attack choice: Offense or defense

Knowing which way to attack a fire depends on communication and adhered-to SOGs

This feature is intended to spark the sharing of ideas, information and techniques to make firefighters safer and more effective. The following video and discussion points must not be used to berate, belittle or criticize those firefighters. Rather, in the spirit of near-miss reporting, please use this feature as another teaching tool to help you better do your job. Please leave your comments below and use this material in your own department. I hope you find this Reality Training valuable; stay safe and keep learning.

Just about any post-incident review conducted by NIOSH for structural firefighting operations that resulted in a firefighter fatality will typically have these two noted deficiencies: communication and standard operating guidelines.

Communication problems are typically not hardware or interoperability issues, but rather soft communications such as people failing to communicate critical information, communicating incomplete or ambiguous messages, or not following communication procedures. The bottom line: The right people didn't have the right information at the right time and something bad happened.

And, either the department had no SOGs for the situation or the SOGs were not followed. Either way, something bad happened because everyone wasn't on the same page.

One of the primary tactical responsibilities for first-in fire officers is to provide a good verbal description via radio of what they see upon arrival. A good standard practice involves the first-in officer doing this through two different radio transmissions.

The on-scene report. The fire officers transmit what they see as they arrive at the incident scene and typically includes building construction type, building occupancy type, visible smoke or fire conditions, initial actions of the first-in crew, and providing the incident with a geographical name for the command.

The size-up report. The fire officers transmit this radio message after they've disembarked from the apparatus and conducted a 360-degree (if possible) assessment of the structure. This should include additional information gathered during the assessment, request for additional resources as necessary, declaration of the mode of operation for all units, the initial incident action plan, and initial assignments for the other responding units.

Discussion points
Try this exercise with your personnel. Have them listen to the audio of the video clip, mute the volume during the interview segments with the captain of E705 so that they only hear the actual radio transmissions. Then engage them with the following discussion points:

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  • Describe the information communicated by the captain of E705 during the on-scene radio report.
  • Describe the information communicated by the captain of E705 during the size-up report.
  • Describe the information communicated by the captain of E9 to 16th Street command. What impact did that communication have on 16th Street command's initial incident action plan?
  • Describe how initial incident communications influenced decision-making by 16th Street command (both the captain of E705 and then the first arriving battalion chief who assumed command).

Now have your people watch the entire video with the volume on and consider the following:

  • Describe the influence of the standard operating guidelines used by the Phoenix Fire Department on this incident and how they (the SOGs) influenced communications and incident decision-making by 16th Street command.

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