How many of you think accountability is about tags and passport systems are in place then you have accountability?
Well, that's a start. First is accounting for your personnel. Whether you are an all volunteer, combination or all paid department, the collection of tags or Velcro names is only the beginning. Establishing good accountability starts with documentation and communication. With documentation you need to have written down somewhere who is doing what. Next should be where they are at. You need communication for this. CAN (conditions, action and needs) reports are essential in establishing effective accountability. Having an idea where your crews are at are no longer acceptable. In the event that you are in a department that works day in and day out, then your communication may vary, due to predetermined assignments or functional tasks. For those departments that are either all volunteer, combination or departments with a diverse mutual aid/automatic aid, then communications are a must. Many say, well our department uses PAR (personnel accountability reports). How often is a PAR conducted? 10, 15 or 20 minutes? How far and/or deep can you go? Does the IC really have a good grasp on the interior crews location? Remembering that battalions that constantly work together may be more efficient and less communication may work better for you. How is this accomplished, you may ask? This is accomplished by having multiple engine & truck companies strategically placed throughout the city that does not rely on mutal/automatic aid. Most of these departments inundate the scene with personnel and apparatus with predetermined assignments. With multiple Chief Officers and aide's on the scenes, the ability to track crews effectiveness is a lot easier and may allow for less communication. This may sound odd or against what the article states, however it works and works quite well.
The reason for communication from the interior to the exterior and from exterior to the interior is when the Command presence has the ability to change on a daily or call-by call basis. This allows for the policy/procedures to easily be followed, benchmarks to annotated and conditions change to be observed and relayed and allowing the operational aspect to flow more freely by using communication. How often do you practice (not routine) normal fireground communications? Just remember, communication will aid in your overall accountability. Fast food restaurants use pictograms to ensure a quality product. This doesn't happen every time, but don't we owe our brother's and sister's the right to get it correct everytime? We don't have the opportunity to take our issue (sandwich) up to the counter and ask for a new one or a re-do. We have to get it right the first time and that starts with accountability, which comes with communication.