Reflecting on These Days of June

Over the next few days, much will be written up reflecting on a number of past historical events that resonate with the rich heritage, honor and tradition that makes this Fire Service what it is.  Anniversaries come and go; remembrance, sorrow, grief and respect; the good and the bad all seem to come streaming back-or these emotions and the lessons from these events seem to diminish and fade over even the shortest spans of time that may have passed.  Or may have been all but forgotten as a new generation comes through the firehouse doors. Yes it does happen.

We need to learn, remember and implement the lessons from the past, especially when we refer to or are confronted with History Repeating Events (HRE) or similar situational profiles. We must develop an inherent understanding on the Predictability of Performance of our building and occupancies and truly understand and apply effective strategic and tactical plans under combat structural fire engagement. There are legacies for operational safety; do you know what they where, who was affected and what the outcomes where?

We must implement a process of Tactical Patience that correlates to  the manner in which our building perform, the dynamics and behavior of fire that affects them and defines our firefighting methodologies when we engage in our missions of operations within the built environment. I’ll post more on Tactical Patience after I roll this emerging concept out at my lecture program presentation at the upcoming Southeastern Association of Fire Chief’s Conference (SEAFC) in Louisville later this month.

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
  • Command & company officer technical knowledge may be diminished or deficient
  • Technological Advancements in construction and materials have exceeded conventional fire suppression practices
  • 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)

There’s another factor contributing to unsafe practices, one that we rarely talk about. In short, we need to stop “entertaining” ourselves during fire suppression operations and instead focus on comprehending and reacting to evolving risks. Rather than practicing appropriate risk management, it is suggested that some individuals employ adverse behaviors that occur on a tactical level while Incident Commanders and Company Officers believe firefighters are completing their assigned tasks, thus compromising accountability.

These behaviors include;
• Tactical amusement: engaging in any practice or tactic during fire suppression, support tasks or operations that places personnel at risk for the sake of entertainment.

• Tactical diversion: diverting from an assignment while engaging in fire suppression, support tasks or operations in such a way that places personnel at risk.

• Tactical circumvention: deliberately “getting around” an assignment or disregarding risk assessment and incident action plans.

Here’s the expanded versions in case this is th first time you’ve seen them;

TACTICAL AMUSEMENT *tak-ti-kəl ə- *myüz-mənt
1: of or relating to structural fireground tactics: as a (1) a means of amusing or entertaining during fire suppression, support tasks or operations that places personnel at risk
2: the condition of being amused while engaging in fire suppression, support tasks or operations that places personnel at risk
3: pleasurable diversion while engaging in fire suppression, support tasks or operations: entertainment; that places personnel at risk

TACTICAL DIVERSION *tak-ti-kəl də- *vər-zhən
1: the reckless act or an instance of diverting from an assignment, task, operation or activity while engaging in fire suppression, support tasks or operation for the sake of amusing or entertainment; that places personnel at risk
2: the reckless act of self determined task operations that diverts or amuses from defined risk assessment and incident action plans; that places personnel at risk

TACTICAL CIRCUMVENTION *tak-ti-kəl sər-kəm- *ven(t)-shən
1: to deliberately manage to get around especially by ingenuity or approach that diverts for the purpose of amusing; assignment, operations or tasks that countermand or disregard defined risk assessment and incident action plans; that places personnel at risk

TACTICAL PATIENCE (NEW) This is a new one that’s called Tactical Patience…I’ll post more on Tactical Patience after I roll this out at the upcoming Southeast Association of Fire Chief’s Conference (SAFC) in Louisville later this month.

If we’re going to reduce firefighter injuries and deaths, we must be doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons, and in the right place. We must stop the entertainment.

The demands and requirements of modern firefighting will continue to require the placement of personnel within situations and buildings that carry risk, uncertainty and inherent danger. Fire suppression tactics must be adjusted for the rapidly changing methods and materials impacting all forms of building construction, occupancies and structures. The need to redefine the art and science of firefighting is nearly upon us. Some things do stand the test of time, others need to adjust, evolve and change. Not for the sake of change only, but for the emerging and evolving buildings, structures and occupancies being built, developed or renovated in our communities. It’s no longer just brute force and sheer physical determination that define structural fire suppression operations. Aggressive firefighting must be redefined and aligned to the built environment and associated with goal oriented tactical operations that are defined by risk assessed and analyzed tasks that are executed under battle plans that promote the best in safety practices and survivability within know hostile structural fire environments, while maintaining the values and tradition that defines the fire service.

Check out these links;

If you haven’t read Chief Mayers’s discerning reflections on Firehouse Zen, this is a MUST read. Where Were You That Night?

The Lessons Learned from the Past

From Waldbaum’s to Hackensack- Worcester to Charleston; Legacies for Operational Safety

Predictability of Occupancy Performance during Suppression Operations

Combat Fire Engagement

Situations, Size-Up, Actions and Entertainment

Changes in Building Construction and Fire Behavior

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