Who’s in charge? by Scott Feather

Is the incident calling the shots or is the incident commander? Have you ever felt like that? Be honest. How many times have you wondered, who is in charge? Some fire officers have a better command presence than others. Very quickly we know who is in charge of the scene. As we respond to the incident and hear the first size-up being given, we know who is in charge. How complex is the Incident Command process? Do we respond to the call or do we make the call? Incident command is all based on Strategies, Tactics and Tasks or Functional Assignments. LIP, RECEOVS, WALLACE WAS HOT, CAN, PAR’s, LUNAR or UCAN are all acronyms. Do you truly understand their importance on the fireground or do you just go through the motions? Training, experience and knowing your SOP’s are crucial to effectively managing a scene. Are you prepared when you ride the “seat”; respond as an acting or duty officer? Are you truly prepared to place human lives in harms way? The answer better be YES! It needs to be YES. There is an old firefighters saying out there, “Every great fire chief has a parking lot on their resume.” Put your ego aside. DO NOT fight a losing battle. If you hesitate, the eight ball seems to get bigger and bigger. Micromanagement, free-lancing, political correctness and personal differences have no place on the fireground. The person who called 9-1-1 doesn’t care if you like someone or not. Incident Command starts before we ever get on scene. Know your area, your alarm assignments, resource availability and know your people. Take what the dispatcher has given you. The address tells us a lot. Where we are going? If you truly know your area, you will already be formulating a plan. Once you arrive on scene, PAINT the picture. Tell others what you have. Get out of the vehicle and walk around, all the way around the structure. If you can’t complete the walk around, relay the information. If you have pertinent information, pass it along. It’s not a secret. Whether your department performs the IC from a vehicle (fixed command) or stands in the front yard (mobile command) get into position. If you have arrived ahead of other responding apparatus whether POV or in a staff vehicle, formulate a plan, based on the resources responding. This means you need to pay attention to the radio. If you are in the “seat” and are the first arriving formulate a plan. Again, pay attention to the radio while responding to the scene. Establish command, establish accountability, and establish a presence. Base your water supply and fire flows on the size of the structure. Have your crews communicate and communicate with your crews. Well we all know what goes on now, the fire goes out. If you practice this before it happens events will go off more smoothly. As you ride your area, look at Residential, Commercial and Industrial buildings and ask yourself if that building was on fire, what would be my size-up, where would I place the first line, the aerial, what is my access for additional incoming units? Where is the closest hydrant, is this a mobile water supply operation? Can this be done, prior to the fire? YES. Pick up a fire magazine and look at the cover, practice and practice some more. Take classes, talk to the folks who have command experience and pick their brains. Manage the scene; anticipate any and all problems such as water supply issues, personnel issues (training/experience levels), apparatus placement, equipment failures, significant fire behavior, rapid fire spread. Read the smoke. Don’t let FRUSTRATION set in. When it does, control slowly slips away from the incident commander. Stick to the basics, don’t over-complicate the process. It’s not about how much you talk on the radio. It’s about bringing everyone home.

1 Comment

  • Anchor Point says:

    Very well said. Micromanagement and frustration go hand in hand. Micromanagement causes frustration that will run up and down the chain of command lessening the effectiveness of all involved. It’s in everyone’s best interest to wrap up the incident as soon as safety possible. If the IC does not like the way things are going then it’s time to Re-evaluate. Be professional, remember this is your job this is what you do.
    Thank you for your thoughts.

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