Firefighting, Survival Zone

Reporting Your LCAN

By David DeStefano
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All companies operating at incidents are expected to achieve certain objectives by using tactics guided by operating procedures under the direction of company and chief officers. The assignments may be automatic, as in first-alarm companies performing routine functions at a structure fire, or there may be special instructions given to companies arriving on a greater alarm or special incident response. In either case, a company or other operating group at an incident must keep the incident commander (IC) apprised of several key pieces of information throughout the duration of the activity.

The LCAN report can be a simple way for members responsible for transmitting reports to remember the key facts they must convey. This acronym can also serve ICs on the receiving end of a report to prompt the sender for missing pieces of information.

LCAN is short for Location, Conditions, Actions, and Needs. It’s an easy-to-remember acronym that covers the basic information required for a situational report (sit-rep). The IC may request a sit-rep from companies when he has a question relative to any of the variables that LCAN represents. Typically, the IC may want to check on the progress of the task he assigned a company or a group. Additionally, knowing the dynamic nature of the fireground, the IC may want to verify that members are still operating in the location to which they were initially assigned should a Mayday transmission or catastrophic fireground event occur.  

For company officers operating at an incident, the LCAN becomes not only a format but also a reason to transmit a sit-rep to command. When an officer must redeploy his company for any reason, the LCAN may be employed to report the new location as well as the conditions requiring the move, the new actions undertaken, and any new requirements for support.

The same process holds true for evolving conditions during an incident. Anytime conditions improve or worsen or an assignment is completed, an LCAN-based sit-rep can be transmitted. By employing a standard format confirming your location and providing the conditions that require additional resources, a withdrawal from the area, or the completion of your task, the IC will be reminded of your exact location and get a real-time report of what is happening in that area.

Changing conditions may require a change in tactics by members assigned to a task. When the actions of a company need to be revised because of a successful outcome or a worsening condition, the IC must be advised. The actions of an individual company often affect the entire fireground. Any tactical changes should be transmitted immediately for approval by the IC, who, looking at the operations on a large scale, may have other plans or options available. This viewpoint is usually not available to companies deployed at the task level.

When using the LCAN to report changes in conditions or actions, a needs assessment should be provided to the IC. The unique perspective of members operating in the firefight combined with the “big picture” awareness of the command post will enable the IC to make a more informed decision in deploying resources. 

The company officer or member transmitting the LCAN should provide an honest assessment of conditions and needs. An overly optimistic report may put your members in unnecessary jeopardy. Self-reliance and company pride are well known characteristics of firefighters. However, professionalism dictates we provide the most accurate report possible for the safety of our members and the efficiency of the operation.

When providing a needs report, be as specific as possible. Transmitting a request for “more help on the second floor” does little to indicate what type of company is needed, what function it will serve, or what equipment it will need. In your needs request, state the number of personnel or companies, their function, and any special equipment they may not automatically bring with them. In this way, the IC may tailor the help to provide exactly the support you need.

The next time you need to give a sit-rep, think about the simple elements of the LCAN report: location, conditions, actions, and needs. These four basic words will help you fill in the vital information needed to ensure the safety of your members and the efficiency of incident operations.      

David DeStefano is a 22-year veteran of the North Providence (RI) Fire Department, where he serves as a lieutenant in Ladder Co. 1. He previously served as a lieutenant in Engine 3 and was a firefighter in Ladder 1. He teaches a variety of topics for the Rhode Island Fire Academy. He can be reached at [email protected].