In their new book, Fireground Operational Guides (PennWell 2011), Frank Viscuso and Michael Terpak provide readers with a universal tactical worksheet that could be used at all structure fires and 70 operational “field” guides for incidents such as multiple-alarm structure fires (at various construction types and occupancies), water emergencies, natural gas emergencies, electrical emergencies, carbon monoxide investigations, outdoor fires, wildland-urban interface fires, vehicle fires, engine company operations, ladder company operations, hazardous material incidents, non-fire emergencies, general operations, and more. The operational guides featured in the book are designed to serve many purposes. They can be used as field guides, drill templates, standard operating procedure (SOP) formats, and study guides for firefighters interested in advancing their career to the officer level. The following is an excerpt from chapter 12, “General Operations.”
Offensive to Defensive Strategy
(1) Firefighters Gerard “Rod” Nardone and Matt Mitchell engage in a defensive operation.
The operational guide that follows provides necessary steps the IC should take when changing from an offensive to a defensive strategy. Always remember that it is better to go from an offensive to a defensive strategy too soon rather than too late. When it comes to firefighter safety and fireground survival, there is no room for hesitation.
- Have your dispatcher announce a change in tactics from offensive to defensive, and order all personnel operating within the structure to evacuate and meet at the command post (or another designated location).
- Have your dispatcher send a designated evacuation tone over the radio.
- Have apparatus drivers activate their air horn four times to signify evacuation of the structure.
- Request an additional alarm and necessary resources if you do not have enough of on scene or in staging to handle the change in tactics.
- Along with your accountability and safety officers, account for all personnel to ensure they have made it out of the structure. Have your dispatcher call the officer of each company to confirm all personnel are accounted for. (See the following example.)
– Dispatcher: “Engine 1.”– Engine 1 officer: “E-1 officer, ALL members are accounted for.”– Dispatcher: “Engine 2 officer.”– Continue calling units until all companies/members are accounted for.
- If members do not respond, activate the rapid intervention crew (RIC).
– The RIC should follow the “Operational Guide for the RIC.”
- Establish divisions on all four sides (A, B, C, and D).
– Do this after you conduct a PAR and account for all members.
- Walls collapse in three general manners:
– 90-degree-angle collapse: This is most common and is similar to a falling tree. The wall falls straight out, and the top hits the ground at a distance equal to the height of the wall.– Curtain-fall collapse: Generally occurs with a masonry wall. It collapses like a curtain dropping from the top, creating a pile of debris at the base of the wall.– Inward/outward collapse: A wall leaning inward may not necessarily fall inward. The lower or upper portion may slide or “kick” outward.
- The collapse zone itself should be as wide as the structure and one and a half times the height.
- Take construction materials into consideration.
– Ordinary and heavy timber buildings = two times the height of the structure.
- Use caution/barricade tape to clearly mark the edges of the collapse zone.
- When established, collapse zones must be maintained during and after the incident, during the investigation, and until the structure is examined by an engineer.
- Assign additional safety officer(s) to cover all four sides.
- If you haven’t already, call for the response of the utility companies to shut off the gas, electric, and water to building from exterior locations, away from structure.
- Depending on the height of the structure and its building features, set up a number of surveyor transits to detect an early structural movement from walls, church steeples and bell towers, water tanks, and so on.
- Consider the following when determining collapse potential:
– Fire size and location– Heavy fire for an extended period of time– Pieces of the building falling off– Cracks in walls– Leaning or bowing walls– Building age and condition– Faulty/poor construction– Foundation failure– Extraordinary loads– Lack of water runoff– Sagging floors or beams– Spongy roof or floors– Previous fires at this location– Explosions, flashovers, or backdrafts– Water and/or smoke pushing through solid masonry wall– Smoke through mortar joints– Accidental cutting of structural support members– Lightweight construction components– Extreme weather conditions– Fire reaches the truss roof– Unusual noises (creaking)– Any combination of causes
- Firefighters should be mindful of the condition of the parapet, canopy, marquee, cornice, floors, and roof.
- Constantly monitor for secondary collapse from the existing structure or collapse and failure of any surrounding exposure buildings.
- Note: If collapse occurs, follow the “Operational Guide for Structural Collapse.”
- If the roof is still intact, aim the streams up, through windows, into involved ceilings.
- If the roof has burned away, use elevated streams and aim down onto the fire.
- If possible, position and secure unmanned master streams outside the collapse zone.
- Whenever possible, do not use the same water main when additional water is needed.
- Do everything in your power to protect exposures from collapse, radiant heat, water runoff, and so on.
- Evacuate exposures, if necessary.
- Use a minimum of one engine and a ladder company.
- Position downwind to track and extinguish flying brands.
- Establish emergency incident rehabilitation
– Follow the “Operational Guide for Emergency Incident Rehabilitation.”