Taming the Fire Environment: Building Intelligence for First-Due Fire Companies and Beyond, Part 1

By Jack Murphy and Sean DeCrane

Starting with this segment of “Taming the Fire Environment (TFE)” we will be presenting Building Intelligence for First-Due Fire Companies and Beyond on how to best capture critical building information for an initial response and further support fireground operations. For another segment we will be featuring, Firefighter Safety and Codes: A Necessary Partnership and how we can enhance our work environment thru the code development process.



In the past decade since 9/11, new fire codes and standards have made inroads to provide a building intelligence tool for first-due fire companies and to further support an incident as it evolves:

  • In 2002, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the World Trade Center (NIST/WTC) Committee proposed 30 recommendations, one of which advocated that building owners and first responders develop a joint plan so as to ensure that accurate building information is communicated to the fire department as an incident is unfolding.  Shortly thereafter New York City passed Local Law-26 (2004) stipulating the need for a building information card (BIC), in high-rise office buildings for a fire department response.  The BICard provides fire companies with critical building information to support fireground operations.
  • In 2010, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1620, Standard for Pre-Incident Planning, drastically changed from a recommended practice to a full blown standard for all buildings so as to further assist fire suppression units in effectively managing emergencies for the protection of occupants, firefighters, property, and the environment.
  • The International Code Council in the 2012 Building and Fire Code editions enacted a requirement for a fire department building information card, (Sections: BC911.1.5 & FC508.1.5), and in 2013 the final piece of the building intelligence puzzle was incorporated by the Insurance Service Organization (ISO), which provides insurance ratings for a community, by enacting into the Fire Suppression Rating System (FSRS) that building familiarization for pre-planning will be a component assessment for a local fire department.


With these significant building intelligence tools in place fire departments can no longer sanction the same status quo.  Start by going to a newer building in your response district and from the outside pose some basic building questions to the fire company about the structure:

For example:

  • What stairwell goes the roof?
  • Above the fire department’s SOPs, do we need building specific operations for engine, ladder, or rescue companies?
  • Do you feel comfortable reading the building outside of this structure, as it relates to the construction features, and with the interior features such as building systems, floor layouts, etc.? 

Newer structures and future construction/system features that already on the horizon are a far cry from when many firefighters come on the job. 

So how do firefighters stay ahead of the building knowledge game of chance, not knowing or continue to learn from the “What Ifs” on an LODD Report?  Presently there are building information card solutions at hand from a simple paper document to field applications using a mobile portal appliance.  With the second way, a fire department will be more able to guide the various levels of building intelligence for first-due fire companies and beyond for the incident commander as fire incident is unfolding with the capability to share this data for other (non-fire) emergencies involving various public agencies. 

These solutions are decision-making tools that will help a firefighter or IC to make self-assured risk analysis, assist in search and rescue efforts, enhance firefighter safety, and provide a building intelligence database for all future firefighters to come. 

At the 2014 FDIC Conference watch for the classroom sessions on:

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

Be safe out there.


Jack J. Murphy, MA, 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, 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 Webs ite. 

No posts to display