Pre-Planning Can Pay Off
The Editor’s Opinion Page
“Someday we’re going to get that” is an expression that has been voiced from time immemorial by fire chiefs—in every fire department in the world. The “that,” of course, most likely applies to a landmark church, a row of old frame stores on Main St. or perhaps an oversized factory building that has seen better days.
In days gone by, after predicting that the “that” would eventually go up in flames, a chief would sigh, shrug his shoulders resignedly and change the subject. But today’s chief does more. He points out this target hazard and then explains what he will do, if and when it goes up in flames. A chief can do this because he has studied the building, its contents and exposures, carefully, and then planned his strategy and tactics against the day he might have to try to save it. The process is called a pre-fire plan.
We got to thinking about pre-fire planning on reading the article (on page 22) when it first came in to us. The author, in his opening paragraph notes that the pre-fire plan in his volunteer department stressed the need for extensive mutual aid and took into consideration water supply limitations. These items in the plan made it possible for his department to contain an extensive fire that threatened to wipe out the old business section of town.
Pre-fire plans must, of course, be realistic, and it is interesting to note that “the original pre-fire plan expected all the surrounding buildings to burn much more extensively.” But good tactical placement, adequate mutual aid and an aggressive attack limited the expected loss.
Another point brought out in this article is that a pre-fire plan should be reviewed and updated regularly. Buildings generally remain the same, but the occupants change. Fortunately, in this case, the most recent updating was made just four weeks before the fire. At that time fire fighters found that the building stored large quantities of motor oil, dry gas, ether, antifreeze, and had a repair area loaded with tanks of oxygen and acetylene—quite a witches’ brew.
Pre-fire planning does take in more than the points listed above. Anticipated weather must be considered. A fire fought in the depth of winter has got to be trickier than one fought on a calm spring day. Then there is anticipated available manpower which must be given strong consideration. The list can go on and on.
Actually the points considered in sizing up a real fire are the same in a preplanned fire. But the preplan should be in writing and distributed to all department members.