Foundation for Getting Building Knowledge to First-Due Companies

Taming the Fire Environment: Building Intelligence for First-Due Fire Companies and Beyond, Part 3

By Jack Murphy and Sean DeCrane

What began as a beautiful late summer day more than a decade ago, developed into a quest to seek a better way to safeguard our work environments from having limited or little building knowledge in our response districts. As a nation we will forever remember the great losses of September 11, but as the fire service have we been watching the everyday fireground responses where the local numbers over the years of LODDs and injuries have surpassed the catastrophic event of 9/11.

Here is a little insight as to how one of the World Trade Center missions was accomplished, getting critical building information into the hands of firefighters at the scene.

Obtaining Critical Building Information the “Hard Way”

During the first few days and weeks that followed 9/11, the New York City Fire Safety Directors Association (FSDA) responded to several requests for assistance from the FDNY Deputy Chief John Norman at Special Operations Command to assist with getting building information for the World Trade Center and surrounding buildings. One of the earlier requests was to help with identifying a stair tower in which several victims were found. On the floor plans the Department had the stairs were designated by number (Stair-1, for example). But over the years, the stairs had been re-identified with an alphabetical letter such as “Stair-A”. With no other building information resources available, the FSDA reached out to Battalion Chief Larry Byrnes, (Ret.) from 1st Battalion. The World Trade Towers was Chief Byrnes old response district. He was able to provide the critical building information concerning the correct stair identifications that same day by hand-delivering a set of current building floor plans from his home library.

Sample: Lacking Building Intelligence

This four-story mixed occupancy building (mercantile/residential) appears to be a Type-3 ordinary structure consisting of masonry and wood.

Photo 1: This four-story mixed occupancy building (mercantile/residential) appears to be a Type-3 ordinary structure consisting of masonry and wood. Refer to bottom of the page for construction challenges we are facing on today‘s fireground.

Over the past decade, firefighters have fought for new fire codes and standards that will have an impact on “Taming Our Workplace Environment” so as to get better building intelligence to first-due fire companies as they go out the door for initial operations and to further support an incident commander as the event is unfolding. Here is what has been accomplished:


The World Trade Center Building Code Task Force (New York City Department of Buildings) (2) proposed 21 recommendations. One advocated that building owners and emergency responders develop a joint plan to ensure accurate building information is communicated by the dispatch center to first responders as an incident is unfolding.


New York City passed Local Law (LL-26) stipulating the need for a building information card (BIC) for a fire department response in high-rise office buildings. The BIC provides fire companies with critical building information relative to occupancy, construction features, fire protection systems, stair/elevator/heating-ventilation-air-conditioning systems, hazardous materials, main utility shut-offs, emergency contact information, and a horizontal and vertical view of the building’s layout.


The New York City legislation led to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) changing Standard 1620, Pre-Incident Planning Guidelines, to a full-blown standard.


The International Code Council (ICC) in the 2012 editions of the Building and Fire Codes enacted a requirement for a first responder BIC that must be approved by the fire department.


The Insurance Services Office (ISO), which provides insurance ratings for a community, incorporated into the 2013 Fire Suppression Rating System that building familiarization for preplanning would be a component of the fire department assessment.

Sample with: Current Building Intelligence

Taming the Fire Environment with a Building Intelligence for a structure fire

Photo 2: Taming the Fire Environment with a Building Intelligence for a structure fire.

Having a preincident plan with an electronic solution capability would have revealed to the first-due fire companies and the incident commander that the old solid wood floor joists have been replaced with lightweight cold-form steel joist during a building alteration project.

Question: Knowing pre-incident bldg. intelligence, how would your fireground tactics change?

Now is the time for the fire service to follow through with all the firefighter’s groundwork laid to help taming our fire environment. Up front critical building information for fireground operations is the “Last Tactical Mile for Building Intelligence.” The solution is in your hands and is just a click away on the Internet for electronic building information cards.

Next Segment: Breaking Down Building Intelligence


1. electronic Building Information Card / eBIC:

2. Coffee Breaking Training–Transforming Your Department’s Response with Electronic Pre-Incident Planning, No. FM—2012-1 April 2, 2012.

3. ICC — International Building Code (IBC/2012 Edition), Section 911.1.5 Building Information Card

4. ICC – International Fire Code (IFC/2012 Edition), Section 508.1.5 Building Information Card

5. Firefighter I & II Handbook, Chapter-29, Pre-Incident Planning, Fire Engineering (2009 Edition)

6. NFPA 1620, Standard for Pre-Incident Planning (2010 Edition).


7. Insurance Standard Organization (ISO/2013 Edition), Section 580 Training: H. Building

a. Familiarization for Pre-Incident Planning:

At FDIC 2014, come to the classroom sessions on:

  • Leveraging Building Intelligence for an Initial Response & Beyond, [Instr. Jack J. Murphy]
  • Firefighter Safety and Codes: A Necessary Partnership, [Instr. Sean DeCrane]

Please send feedback to

Jack Murphy at left; Sean DeCrane at right

Jack J. Murphy, MA, (left) is a Fire Marshal (ret.)/Fmr. Deputy Chief and currently serves as a Deputy Fire Coordinator for the N.J. Div. of Fire Safety for the Bergen Region. He is the Chairman of the New York City High-Rise Fire Safety Directors Assoc., a member of the NFPA High-Rise Building Safety Advisory and 1620-Pre-Incident Planning Committees. He has published various fire service articles and authored: RICS; Rapid Incident Command System Field Handbooks; the “Pre-Incident Planning” Chapter-29 of the Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I & II; and co-authored, “Bridging the Gap: Fire Safety and Green Buildings.” He is a Fire Engineering contributing editor, an FDIC executive advisory board member, co-hosts Taming the Fire Environment on the Fire Engineering website and he has received the 2012 Fire Engineering Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sean P. DeCrane, (right) is a 23+ year veteran of the Cleveland Fire Department. He currently serves as a Battalion Chief and Chief of Training for the Cleveland Fire Training Academy. Sean is a State of Ohio Certified Instructor and represents the International Association of Fire Fighters in the International Code Council. He also has served on the 2009 and 2012 International Fire Code Development Committees and is the current Committee Chair for the 2015 Edition. He was awarded the 2010 ICC Fire Service Award and the 2013 IAFC Fire Life Safety Section’s Fire Service Award. DeCrane also serves on the NFPA 1 Fire Code Technical Committee. In addition, Sean serves on the Underwriters Laboratories Fire Council, the United States Fire Administration’s Residential Fire Environment Workshop Project, the United States Fire Administration’s project on Fire Fighting Tactics in Wood-Frame Residential Construction and the Modern Fire Environment Education Committee. He is a contributor for Fire Engineering Magazine and co-hosts Taming the Fire Environment on the Fire Engineering Web site.

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