Hindsight is almost always 20/20, but there is no substitute for being prepared. I’m not sure where preplans were invented. If it’s like most things in the fire service, some department had the idea of going out and looking at buildings and coming up with a few “preliminary” plans on what to do if that specific building catches on fire. Then, some firefighter on vacation or visiting an aunt in that town talked to a local firefighter who told him the department was very progressive, to the point that it went out and made plans for fighting a firebefore the fire occurred! The visiting firefighter then went back to his department and discussed the idea with someone who “bumped” it up through the food chain until the chief of his department now had a brilliant new idea!
In Toledo, commercial buildings that meet specific hazard requirements are assigned to house captains. The house captain divides the preplans among the three shifts. Thursday is the designated preplan day. Company officers and their crews are required to complete the preplan in a specific timeframe. After new preplans are completed, companies update existing plans.
There are specific forms and criteria for each preplan. Occupant name and occupancy type, special or hazardous processes, built-in fire suppression features, all fire department connections, hydrant locations and flows, and the building’s required fire flows are among some of the information gathered. The company officer’s battalion chief reviews the completed plans and then forwards them to headquarters, where they are again checked and then put into the preplan book for dissemination to all line companies. They are carried on all apparatus and are listed in alphabetical order by street address.
John “Skip” Coleman retired as assistant chief from the Toledo (OH) Department of Fire and Rescue. He is a technical editor of Fire Engineering; a member of the FDIC educational advisory board; and author of Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer (Fire Engineering, 1997), Managing Major Fires (Fire Engineering, 2000), and Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer, Second Edition (Fire Engineering, 2008).
Question: Do your fire suppression units conduct prefire planning? If so, what information do they gather and where does the information end up?
Thomas Dunne, deputy chief,
Fire Department of New York
Response: Our fire units conduct fire prevention activities three times a week. In a department with well over 300 companies, this creates a lot of opportunities to discover situations that call for a prefire plan. The company officer can initiate some elements of a prefire plan and enter the information directly into our computerized dispatch system.
Information gathered includes dangerous conditions, construction details, and tactical recommendations. This information is subsequently sent to every responding unit when an alarm is transmitted for that address.
High-rises, large commercial buildings, and other complex occupancies may call for a more detailed prefire plan, including a building diagram along with response requirements, water supply information, tactical considerations, and any other items that may be vital to establish a safe firefighting strategy. Chief officers prepare these plans based on information drawn from our fire units. Chiefs can consult the plan while responding to an incident or when operating at the command post.
The development of a full prefire plan may call for the experience and expertise of a chief or company officer, but discovering the need for one does not. We train our personnel to consider how they would fight a fire every time they walk into a building, whether they are there to perform an inspection, handle a minor emergency, or investigate a false alarm. In that way, our fire suppression units are always conducting prefire plans.
Gary Seidel, chief,
Hillsboro (OR) Fire Department
Response: Our fire suppression personnel work with our fire inspectors to ensure that we have reviewed all appropriate occupancies, especially those with unusual fire or safety hazards, for construction type, occupancy type, fire protection systems, utilities, fire loads, storage, building inventory, exposures, egress and access points, and water supply. We look at existing building and occupancy records and use the site plans from our new construction inspectors. Otherwise, we create them from the beginning. Our inspections and prefire tours are conducted with the cooperation of the owner/occupants.
Our preplans are entered into the department’s computers and are available to the whole department and are also added to our computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system and are available on our mobile data computers (MDCs); they are tied to our in-vehicle mapping program for use at an emergency scene. We also have hard copies in the stations and on the apparatus, should the computer malfunction.
We revise our prefire plans periodically. If an occupancy or building changes, we complete or revise our prefire plan on the new certification of occupancy.
Craig H. Shelley, fire protection advisor, Saudi Arabia
Response: Being an industrial fire department, we perform preincident response planning at all facilities and buildings (other than residential areas) to which we respondstructures and vessels that make up the plant area, response times, construction, detection and alarm systems, exposures, confined spaces, hazardous materials, fixed and semifixed extinguishing systems, contact information, and a sketch of the area to include hydrant locations and access points. Preincident response planning is the foundation of the incident action plan (IAP). Mitigating fires or emergencies in an industrial setting requires implementation of plans, preparation, and proper use of resources coordinated by an effective emergency management organization. However, even with a plan in place, success is not guaranteed.
When preincident planning, one way to ensure all points are covered is to use the 15-point size-up acronym COAL TWAS WEALTHS and develop a checklist to ensure all points are considered. Each letter represents an item to be considered during size-up. By gathering as much of this information during site visits and preincident response planning, the incident commander can format an IAP much easier, and items to be addressed during size-up can be identified.
Jim Mason, lieutenant,
Chicago (IL) Fire Department
Response: We do prefire planning with in-service suppression units. The inspections are primarily on commercial occupancies, schools, and the public areas of mixed-use buildings like stores with apartments. We don’t go into the private dwelling areas of these buildings.
The primary reason for the inspections is to look for building code violations. The fire prevention section provides the addresses for the companies. The information acquired goes to the fire prevention bureau for enforcement purposes.
We also do a “target hazard” inspection in which the company determines the address to be examined. These are buildings the company officers feel need to be gone through much more closely than the average occupancies in the area. The decision to inspect them is based on heavy occupancies like convalescent homes or even high-rises, but it could also be for buildings maintained under current codes or that have had occupancy changes over the years. The prevention bureau does not necessarily know the criteria for these inspections, but the firefighters working in the area know them. The inspectors look for ways to improve the response, such as the existence of installed systems, occupancy problems, and initial placement of the first-due companies. A written form is completed and turned into district headquarters. The information is soon made available for all units responding to the address.
David Rhodes, battalion chief,
Atlanta (GA) Fire Department
Response: Our department does not have an organized preplan system. This has been an on-again/off-again task that is currently off. Preplans are now done by self-initiative and include mostly target hazards such as fuel storage facilities. When we did preplans, our lack of a central repository and distribution system relegated the documents to a file cabinet or maybe on the battalion chief’s vehicle. Our department operates without mobile data terminals, so the preplans we have are paper copies and are limited to the first-due station. Since our program is off again, updated preplans are left to the initiative of the company officer or battalion chief. Our fire companies do a minimum of 10 building familiarizations per month, but there is no system for capturing and sharing the information gathered.
Bobby Shelton, firefighter,
Cincinnati (OH) Fire Department
Response: Every fire company in our department is responsible for fire safety inspections in their running areas. According to our procedures manual, it is the company commanders’ responsibility to do prefire plans of high-hazard occupancies such as medical facilities, industrial occupancies, and educational institutions. A copy of those plans and the information that should be provided on the plans are to be kept on the company level; a copy is sent to the Fire Prevention Bureau. On a regular basis, fire safety inspections are performed to keep company members familiar with occupancies and any changes that may occur within the structures. From time to time, the district chief may have a drill in a high-hazard occupancy in his district so that all companies on the first alarm can do a walk-through and discuss strategy and tactics as well as any special characteristics of the scene of which all members should be aware.
Jeffrey Schwering, lieutenant,
Crestwood (MO) Department of Fire Services
Response: We have incorporated our prefire planning into our annual business inspection program, performed by our engine companies. This enables all members to take an active role in the preplanning process. The chief and assistant chief/fire marshal approve all preplans.
The preplans are made readily available to all platoons for training purposes. Preplans are used in company drills, including those with our automatic-aid companies, to keep all responders on the same page. All preplans are based on a checklist used by all personnel and contain the size of the structure, utilities, construction, nearest hydrant, and other information that alerts our officers and members to what they may face. Also, our equipment may be on other assignments and an automatic-aid company would be first due to an incident in our city. The preplans are in the vehicles of the chief and assistant chief. Copies of the preplans are also in the captain’s office. We are preparing to make the preplan books available in the apparatus for our engine companies.
The program has proven to be positive for our community and our department. It has been at least 10 years since our department has recorded a fire loss in a commercial business. The program will be updated and changed as our buildings change, to ensure the safety of all members.
Ethan Holmes, firefighter,
Wyomissing (PA) Fire Department
Response: Our department members assist the fire commissioner in conducting fire inspections and developing prefire plans on the type of construction, utility locations, emergency contact information for normal operating hours and after hours, hydrant locations, alarm panel locations with applicable codes, special hazards (i.e., hazmats), fire protection systems, and a drafted plan of the occupancy.
We enter all of the information into our computers on our apparatus, where it can be easily located by street address, occupant name, or preplan number. A current hard copy of the plans is also kept in three-ring binders in the cab. We annually inspect our preplan guides and update them as needed unless there is a change of business prior to our annual updates.
Richard Wood, captain,
Enterprise Fire Company #1,
Response: We did walk-throughs with the department in the past, but no one took notes or made a layout of the building. When I was voted in as captain in charge of training, I made up a sheet and gave one to all members going through the building; if one person saw something, he could note it so that all members would know what we are looking for in a building walk-through. After the walk-through, we would sit down and talk about what we saw and the problems we found. The list of what we were looking for was not the greatest, but it was a start. The information gathered is kept in a three-ring binder in the apparatus and the chiefs’ vehicles so first-due vehicles have the basic information on the building.
Mike Bucy, assistant chief,
Portage (IN) Fire Department
Response: We revised our prefire planning process several times. We used to require loads of time and data but found the results were too “bulky” for our needs. We have since revised the information to a one-page sheet (two sheets if a map is included) that consists of the most basic informationlocation and contacts, hydrants in the area, size (which then calculates needed fire flow), construction type, hazards to personnel, and sprinkler systems. They are put into PDF form and added to the computers in the apparatus.
Mark K. Stigers, assistant chief,
Middletown Fire Protection District,
Response: We developed a multipage information-gathering template for our preplans that is included in the final preplan that gives the IC the detailed information he may need. We also put some of the more important data on a one-sheet “quick reference” page for the company commanders to use on initial arrival. Floor plans are added for new buildings by obtaining PDF files and inserting various information on these drawings from our preplan software. In cases where floor plans are not available, we draw them using the preplan software.
We now place the preplans in binders; we recently acquired computers in the apparatus and command vehicles and use a thumb drive to access the preplans. It is easier to update using this system than going to each computer and updating; the company commander goes to our intranet site and downloads the updates.
Edward Moore Jr., lieutenant,
Jackson (NJ) Fire District 3
Response: We use a computer database program created by members of the fire district. The program is broken down into information screens for all four fire districts in town. The information gathered is also broken down into categories: Street Preplan, Business Preplan, Residential Preplan, Fire Hydrants, and Landing Zones.
Street Preplan shows a map of the area along with directions from the fire station, hydrant locations, listings of all houses and all businesses on the street, intersecting streets with address ranges, and a map page overview graphic.
Business Preplan contains all information for a commercial property. Information collected includes building construction, length, width and height, fire hydrants, auxiliary appliances, utilities, hazards, and pictures and maps. Contact information includes business owner, occupant, maintenance, and emergency contact. Each business has a drawing of the floor plan attached to the file along with general pictures of the building. Each preplan is updated annually, when the crew performs annual fire inspections.
Residential Preplan includes the number of stories, house type, fuel, primary entrance, hazard information, basement, truss roofs, and swimming pools for water supply. A picture of Division A of the residence is also provided. Each fire apparatus has a laptop computer with touch-screen capability. The information is synchronized with the main computer server at the fire station. Responders can have access to information about any location.
Brent Sanger, assistant chief,
Atkinson (GA) Volunteer Fire Department
Response: Our small volunteer department has a limited number of members. Our department conducts prefire plans using members available at the time. Prior to conducting prefire plans, all members undergo a training class explaining what a prefire plan is, how to conduct it, what to look for, and how to address questions or concerns from the business owners in the area. Before we began our prefire planning, a letter was sent to all occupancies in our district explaining what we would be doing, why, and how our members would be dressed. The last item was included to help reduce security concerns at some businesses. These occupancies include churches, schools, daycare centers, as well as regular businesses. So far there has been little resistance. After all our plans are complete, full copies are kept on all engines; simpler versions are distributed to neighboring departments that respond automatic aid to our district.
Susan M. Kirk, fire prevention officer,
Warren County (VA) Fire and Rescue Services
Response: Three years ago when I started preplanning, there were a few plans in a file cabinet with some well-gathered information, but there was no way to readily access it for use at an incident. We realized that something had to be done; I organized and revamped this program.
Our fire suppression units now complete preplans and submit information gathered to the fire administration, where they get put into an organized three-tier format. We have unit books for quick access that include basic written information, a site drawing, and a floor plan.
Our second tier is our Command book, which travels with all officers for more in-depth material safety data sheets on hazardous substances, aerial and site photographs, emergency plans, contractor blueprints, and alarm system zone maps.
Our third tier is our digital program; the chief, dispatch, or I can immediately e-mail our preplans to anyone with computer access. If we should call a specialty team in, we can e-mail them the information about the incident with all the preplan information at a touch of a button. A team three hours away will know the size and impact of the incident before even leaving home base. We have even placed these preplans with our mutual-aid companies in two separate jurisdictions and have made them available to our local Sheriff’s Office Tactical Team.
Our fire suppression units gather this information on a predetermined form so all information is organized and uniform. Information includes building address and key holder information, key box information, building construction and features, water supply and suppression information, utility shutoff locations, alarm system features, exposures, concerns for life safety and health, chemical and tank information, and occupancy and hours of operation. A written format streamlines the forms and distribution. This program has decreased on-scene call time and resulted in more effective emergency mitigation. It has strengthened our relationships with local commercial businesses and has made us visible to the public.
Richard Wilson, lieutenant,
Bartlett (IL) Fire District
Response: Our fire companies and medic companies conduct fire preplans. As we complete company inspections, one of our members draws the exterior of the building, noting entrances/exits, utilities, and special hazards. The preplans are limited to the information needed to make a great start at suppression if needed. The problem we had before establishing this preplan committee, headed by our Fire Prevention chief, was that everyone wanted to see different requirements. After the information has been gathered, it is now input into a computer program. Our next step is to have the information loaded to our laptops as well as our battalion chief’s vehicle. Beyond that, perhaps if other departments purchase that program, we may be able to link the information so that neighboring towns responding to our incidents will be able to have a heads up as well.
Paul Dove, fire marshal,
Coldwater (MI) Fire Department
Response: Our department’s platoon members survey various buildings based on training assignments and target hazards annually. We also create CAD preincident survey drawings based on fire prevention inspections. These drawings are used during the platoon’s on-site surveys; changes discovered in occupancy, hazards, operations, and construction are noted so the stored plans can be revised.
Information includes hazardous materials locations and products, utilities, fire protection systems and details, emergency contacts, floor plans, hazards, accessibility, water supply, building construction, and egress points. The completed surveys are stored electronically on our city’s backed-up server; a copy is also added to each platoon and the administration’s preincident survey book. The plans are also loaded and updated to a board laptop as necessary; updated paper copies are distributed to all personnel as needed. Access to the plans is available through wireless Internet on the onboard laptop; the plans are also accessible by other jurisdictional agencies for use in addition to accessible mapping and utility plans for our jurisdiction.
Jay Womack, lieutenant,
Euclid (OH) Fire Department
Response: Our department distributes building inspection forms to each company in the city monthly. The company officer ensures that these inspections are completed by the end of the month and are turned over to our Fire Prevention Bureau. The Bureau conducts follow-ups when the fire company doing inspections issues a hazard correction notice to the business owner. The inspection cards have pertinent information on one side: construction, fire protection, and the emergency key holders’ phone numbers. The reverse side of the card has the following: a plot plan that shows means of ingress and egress, hazards, and utility shutoffs. It is up to the crew to update the emergency contact information and to make changes to the plot plan to reflect the occupancy’s current layout.
All of the data collected on the inspection cards/preplans is entered into the platoon chief’s computer, mounted in the command vehicle, for easy reference at the fire scene. These visits help us to visualize fire conditions in the building and run a hypothetical scenario of our tactics. We have found it beneficial to update our preplans. Just last week, for example, we came across a rear door of a commercial structure that appeared to be a simple steel exterior door. A closer look from the inside revealed a second door constructed of metal bars that had three deadbolts. This information went on the inspection card preplan form; it may one day save a life.
George Potter, fire protection specialist (ret.),
Board of Governors of Spain’s Firefighters Association
Response: Prefire planning is a vital part of the emergency response plan. This document should include the following: accurate descriptions of the facility including location, access, construction information, and data on the activities carried out; fuels present and their locations and quantities; specific hazards; fire protection measures; resources available (and those recommended/necessary); and proposed emergency response actions to be executed within the entity’s internal structure (should you confirm alarms and evacuate, leaving the situation for the local emergency services to resolve, or stand and fight according to their capabilities and safety levels?). These internal response documents make it possible for firefighters and officers to foresee what could happen and how to act before a relatively small incident can become a disaster.
One of the major faults, however, is that often a business or an industry will say that the emergency plan is in compliance with workplace safety legislation and effect only minimum implementation, limited response personnel training, little or no simulated emergency situation drills, and so onwithout inviting the local fire department to come, watch, and participate.
However, if the fire department is invited to take an active role in the implementation of the plan, comment on the results, and contribute suggestions for improvements, industry will have a solid partner to work with if and when an emergency should occur in the establishment. A great number of occupancies (industries, hospitals, commercial malls, high-rises, and so on) are required to have emergency response or self-protection plans. You should have copies available for all personnel in the department for consultation, to coordinate visits and tours, and to participate in the practical training of their personnel. Once you get these elements into your response procedures, the chances of successfully resolving emergencies improve dramatically.
Thomas Sharpe, lieutenant,
Hilda (SC) Fire Department
Response: Ours is a small-town department, but we do have preplans on hydrant location and gallons per minute (gpm) information, basic facility information, type of construction, utility disconnects, unusual hazards, exposures, inside firefighting equipment information, needed fire flow, and after-hours contact. The plans are for businesses and places of public assembly.
Nick Morgan, firefighter,
St. Louis (MO) Fire Department
Response: All front-line companies are required to conduct a prefire walk-through inspection of buildings in their first-in still district at least three times per month on each shift. Of course, not all of our companies take this as seriously as they should. We have a basic guideline for each inspection that requires companies to record or update information on building layout, fire suppression or detection systems, the number and locations of nearby hydrants, the locations of utility shutoffs such as gas and electric, the locations of annunciator panels and emergency exits, a very basic description of construction type, and a brief narrative specifying which companies will respond to a first-alarm fire and the positions they will take on arrival.
The information is compiled and kept in binders, which are kept in the office of each company’s captain. This is one of the most important routine tasks fire companies can perform. However, I believe the information we require is insufficient for the hazards presented by modern methods of building construction and fire loading. With the many new buildings being erected in our city, companies need to go out and walk through these buildings while they are under construction to see how they are being built. Finished buildings are deceptive. We are seeing increasing numbers of buildings with lightweight components such as trusses and wooden I-beams, tilt-up masonry walls, and lightweight steel framing and wall studs. In addition, many of the older buildings in the city are undergoing all types of rehab work, which completely changes the layout and fire loading of the structures, as well as adds lightweight building components to buildings that previously did not have them.
On-duty companies should take every opportunity to visit these buildings, especially during construction or rehab, and become familiar with their layout and the hazards to firefighters created by the modern construction materials and practices. This information should be assimilated into a computer-based preplan system so that all of the companies in the city have ready access to it if a fire should occur in one these structures.
Hugh Stott, deputy chief,
West Chicago (IL) Fire District
Response: For several years, our companies were out doing prefire surveysmeasurement of the footprint of the building, the location of the key box, the location of the utility shutoffs, building construction hazards, overhead wires, chemical storage, the direction and distances to hydrants, and the location of alarm panels. That information was then entered into a computer to be converted into a usable and consistent format. We have been using mobile data computers for a few years to bring mobile mapping and incident information from the fire alarm office to our first-due apparatus. The data must be kept current. The keyholder and contact information is kept as current as practical by the alarm office, which receives the information from the Fire Prevention Bureau.
Mike Reeves, captain,
Lynchburg (VA) Fire Department
Response: Our department conducted surveys in the past and filed them away, never to be seen again. We are now revisiting them under the name of “fire safety surveys.” This time we purchased a computer program in which to store the surveys. When a company is dispatched to an address where one of these surveys has been conducted, a pop-up on the responding unit’s computer makes the information available to all responding units. This program is in the early stages; it will take a long time to cover all businesses in town for information on water supply, hydrant location, key information, contacts, the building size and occupancy, and much more. In addition to information, digital photos and aerial views of the structures will be available.
Rick DeGroot, deputy chief,
Summit (NJ) Fire Department
Response: Our small municipal department protects a suburban city of 25,000 in the NY/NJ metro area. We have recently implemented a program in which the suppression shifts are responsible for conducting preplans of commercial and multifamily buildings. Each platoon is assigned two building locations a month and performs site visits as a group while in service. One of the shift battalion chiefs is responsible for coordinating the program with the four duty shifts. Information includes construction type, occupancy, building status, emergency contacts, building size and layout, location of utility shutoffs, fire suppression and detection systems, exposure information, water supply availability, access problems, and any other hazards. The building is then given a numerical rating based on all of these factors, resulting in a risk assessment score.
The crews also take digital photos of the building from all exposures and also try to get a picture of the roof. A drawing is also prepared using CAD software to produce interior floor plans and an exterior plot plan of the building. We try to secure floor plans from the building owner, if available. All this information is then uploaded into a commercially available software program that allows access via the Internet. We are also in the process of equipping our front-line apparatus with laptops to access this information in the field. Our experience has been very positive so far. Building intelligence is a critical component of what we do, and many of us have overlooked it for years. Taking advantage of available technology to get this critical information to our firefighters at the emergency scene can help to make our jobs safer and to better protect the public.
Chris Stephens, lieutenant,
Decatur Township (IN) Fire Department
Response: Unfortunately, our department has no formal prefire planning program. The administration will support company officers who want to initiate an aggressive prefire planning program within their companies.
The company with which I operate began an aggressive prefire planning program two years ago. We began with the buildings in our immediate response area and then spread out into our second-due areas. We looked at several types of preplan sheets and chose one used by a neighboring department. It includes address, occupancy, building construction type, box assignment, exposures, fire flows, predicted strategies, and anticipated problems. We use the reverse side of the sheet, which is blank, to draw a rough sketch of the building layout. If the building is a simple structure, we record all interior walls, doors, etc. The more complex the structure, the more we do not do this. At the least, we record the building’s shape, egress/ingress points, hydrant locations, and gas/electric meter location. If a building has standpipe or sprinkler connections, we record their locations along with the location of the riser rooms.
Once the information is finalized, we put the preplan sheet into a binder that is kept on our engine. We do this to allow the first-due officer to refer to the information or to pass the binder on to the IC if it is a working incident. The final step is to pass the information on to the other shifts; this is done verbally, or the officer/firefighter reviews the preplan sheets. If there is a serious building hazard or code violation, we notify our code/prevention department immediately.
Andy Krajewski, battalion chief,
Golden Gate Fire Control & Rescue District, Naples, FL
Response: We have prefire plans on every front-line apparatus, reserve pumper, and shift battalion chief’s vehicle. A prefire plan coordinator assigns each shift at least one building a month in which to conduct a walk-through and develop the preplans. At the same time, we conduct a training session. At a minimum, engine companies in that zone walk through the structure as well.
For each preplan, we have an occupancy form (text document), a site plan drawing (drawing program), and a more detailed drawing of each structure on the site (multiple-building school, golf course clubhouse and maintenance building and cart barnalso a drawing program).
The occupancy form has the name and address of the site, emergency contact with phone number, type of occupancy, hydrant and fire department connection (FDC) location, number of floors, fire flow, building construction type (including material type for walls, floors, and trusses), roofing material, utilities shutoff locations, and a notes section for listing the locations of fire alarm control panel, key box, and additional hazards.
On the drawings, the site plan will have the layout of the buildings, hydrant locations. On the individual building drawings, we have locations of hydrants, fire department connection/post-indicator valve, key box, fire alarm control panel, roof/attic access, and labeled interior layout (office/restroom).
Vance L. Duncan III, deputy chief,
Erie (PA) Bureau of Fire
Response: Our fire suppression units conduct prefire plans containing building name and address, description, number of stories, building size (L × W), construction type, roof construction (trusses?), floor construction (trusses?), occupancy type, initial resources required (engines, trucks, rescues, chief officers), hazards to personnel, location of water supply, available flow, estimated fire flow (at 25-, 50-, 75-, and 100-percent involvement), fire behavior prediction, projected strategies, problems anticipated, utility locations, fire alarm panel location, key box location, fixed protection/detection systems, primary access point to interior, stairwell locations, roof access (from interior), owner contact information, occupant contact information, additional notes (address numbers visible from the street, building sides accessible, building setbacks or other barriers to aerial device operations, trees/shrubs that could hide hydrants or FDCs, barred windows or security doors, power lines or overhead obstructions to restrict the use of ladders, for example).
This information is submitted to the administrative office and is input in the current dispatch system; the information will be input into the new Erie County Public Safety Dispatch Center’s computer system.
Brian Zaitz, firefighter/paramedic,
Metro West (MO) Fire Protection District
Response: Prefire plans are essential to initial incident response for safe and effective mitigation. The first-due response units preplan the plans for their area. The survey is typically done during normal business hours and is not traditionally scheduled and conducted outside of the normal annual inspections.
The engine company officer talks with the business owner as the remainder of his crew walks around the occupancy gathering information on building dimensions, FDCs, entrances, exits, and other notable features. They make a field sketch of the building and include the dimensions along with any FDCs, key box locations, entrances and exits, utility connections and hydrants located within close proximity. As the crew enters the building, they meet up with the officer in charge and begin a walk-through of the interior to note alarm panels, fire suppression systems, and building layout. These sketches and findings are then taken back to the station where a formal drawing is made and the information is translated, using computer software, into a prefire plan that is entered into the preplan software located on the laptop in all fire apparatus as well as staff vehicles. These preplans can be easily pulled up on the computer while en route or on arrival. They are listed by their street reference and correlate to a noted map page for ease of locating.
Vicki Schmidt, firefighter/training officer,
Buckfield (ME) Fire Department
Response: Our rural department has started writing preplans for target hazards. We have software with an onboard computer with easy touch screen access that holds the plans while en route to calls. Residential structures have the basic size and construction details. Several other values are entered with a selection of default options offered by the software. Currently, most addresses have at least a default response plan; we are advancing those plans to include more detailed preplanning information.
Structures, businesses, and properties outside the basic values have proven more challenging. Information includes water supplies, EMS response, staging areas, and alternative routes; we then place this information on plot maps, mostly using freely accessible Internet-based mapping software as the background. Firefighters have added photos to complement building footprint diagrams and to indicate utility connections, special hazards, and other important first-due information. We looked beyond the response plan to document exactly what the property involved, how we were going to mitigate an incident occurring there, and answered: “What are the top 10 things we need to know about this property?” Fire was our main incident, but there were several properties we found would prove demanding in even a small natural disaster. Evacuation plans, staging areas, and other logistical needs were realized for those areas. Although the computer contains the plans, we can also export to formats we can e-mail to mutual-aid towns, print for file, and review at training.
David Comstock, chief, Western
Reserve (OH) Joint Fire District
Response:Department inspectors primarily complete the preplans; they are assisted by firefighters from the district’s three stations and have square footage of the building, building hazards, roof and floor assembly/composition, utility type and shutoff location, water flow needs and availability/location, structural and load hazards, and owner and occupant contact information. Unfortunately, this information is placed on paper and thereafter will be maintained in the inspection and department offices, as well as the district’s command vehicle. Firefighters and officers of the district understand the importance of having this information quickly available to the dispatchers and arriving firefighters but have not yet integrated this process into our dispatch system. A goal of the department (and other departments within the county) is to make preplan information readily accessible. The fire departments have jointly applied for a grant to improve the availability of information to our departments as well as to provide the information to other departments responding in mutual-aid situations, via mobile data terminals in all apparatus.
Rick Mosher, lieutenant,
Merriam (KS) Fire Department
Response: We conduct prefire planning during our commercial fire inspections. Our fire preplan database allows us to print an existing standardized form for each business in the city. This form is used to update or change information at the fire inspection. Then the fire companies update or create new files when visiting with the commercial businesses in our city during their fire inspection. Each year we inspect every commercial business in the city; this allows for great fire prevention and prefire plan updates. This is possible because our fully developed landlocked suburb is only 4.5 square miles. We note construction type, building and business owner information, type of occupancy, emergency contact information, key box, standpipe, sprinkler locations, any special hazards, special interest, and hazardous materials locations and quantity. We also check the box key to make sure the business master key is functional. This information is updated in our fire department database and uploaded to the Johnson County Fire Alarm Office, which can make the information available so that the MDTs in the engine or truck company can access the information. The MDT fire preplan is a great aid during the late-night/early-morning hours when the alarm company cannot contact a responsible party or if other business information is needed. This program has proven to be very successful.