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Oct. 21, 2009

In an earlier piece, I presented several instances of obsolete documents and procedures that were still in place, and explored the consequences of not keeping such things up to date. I finished with, “Remember, if you consistently fly under the radar for years you should remember that the trees beneath you keep growing taller.” So, to avoid the treetops, you either have to fly higher or cut down the trees.  I’ll leave the choice of altitude to you; today I’m a lumberjack (and I’m OK).

October 21, 2009  By Peter Sells

This week we embarked on the first Blue Card
Command Instructor Certification class in Canada. A
huge part of this hazard-zone management process is ensuring that all members
of your command system are working from the same sheet of music. It is through
achieving this organizational harmony that the strategic, tactical and task
levels of your fire service will operate in the safest and most effective
manner. Everybody will know what to expect under the standard operational
circumstances in which we find ourselves. In many cases, orders will be
anticipated or at very least not come as a surprise.

So if you have written procedures that do not
accurately reflect what is practiced on the street – you have a disconnect. If
you have evaluation processes that require strict compliance with those written
procedures, then you are reinforcing that disconnect. One way or the other,
these elements need to be brought into synch. 

Let’s take the example of
assigning tactical responsibility on the fireground (I call this sectoring; if
you like another term then read on). Some systems use the term division for a
geographical work unit (such as east or second floor) and group for a
functional unit (such as ventilation). Others use sector in either case. Some
systems use side A as the main entrance or address face and then B, C, D
clockwise around the building; others use major compass directions. NIMS, the
supposed last word on all things organizational in our industry, leaves this to
the local agency and uses the non-committal acronym of SDG (as in
Sector/Division/Group). The point is that within your fire service, and,
ideally within your mutual-aid partnership, there should be one set of terms
that is used consistently.

One more look at sectoring before your blog
questions: the point of sectoring is to improve the incident-command
organization by adding in the tactical level of supervision. Task-specific
labels such as fire attack, or vague designations such as interior sector, do
not stand up to this test. Changing a crew’s radio identifier when members
enter the hazard zone, then changing it again when they go to rehab is a lot
like creating work for its own sake. Ditto for assigning sector designations
when the number of operational companies is within the incident commander’s
span of control and is likely to stay within that span. Go ahead and comment on
any of that, as well as these questions: Do you train and evaluate according to
the way your people operate on the fireground? (Yes = great! No = Why not?) Do
your people operate on the fireground the way your procedures say they do? (Yes
= great! No = Put your lawyer on speed dial.)


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