Sunday, February 22, 2009

New Tactical Definitions: Where do you fit in?

I spent a large part of this past week, and the entire day and evening yesterday conscientiously working on refining sections of my lecture program that will be presented at this year’s Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in April. I was deeply immersed in some research and in reviewing a number of case studies and line of duty death reports, while furthering my concepts related to a new methodology on fireground operations and command risk management that I call Five Star Command TM . This got me thinking alot about the manner in which the modern fireground is managed, the way the current generation of firefighters and officers see themselves, and the manner in which strategic and tactical battle (IAP) are developed and executed. It got me thinking about what, we as firefighers are thinking when we find ourselves in the center of a "good" rockin' job....

I have been giving a lot of thought over the past couple of months to the continuing challenges and issues surrounding firefighter LODD and the issues of dynamic risk assessment, command decision-making and company level accountability. My recent lecture at the South Carolina Fire Academy’s annual Firefighter Safety & Health Conference provided an enlighten forum with a wealth of critical thinking and dialog amongst the attendees on firefighter safety, command risk assessment and tactical accountability related to opinions on the emerging new model of modern fire suppression strategies and tactics.

I got to thinking about the manner in which I functioned as a company officer when I first got promoted and the kinds of things we used to do; when we were young and both naïve to the true risks of fireground operations and filled with a sense of fireground invincibility. I know, I placed myself or found my company in positions and places of greater risk, “back in the day”, for the sake of getting more nozzle time in a well involved structure fire, or extended our stay-times in hostile places that were not safe or acceptable by today’s standards. WE, were lucky. Anyone of us could have then or even in the present day, could find ourselves in an instant, in the wrong place, operating under the wrong plan for all the wrong reasons. We looked for ways to increase our “playtime” for the pleasure, enjoyment, adrenaline rush, exuberance and at times euphoric pleasure doing what we do best; and that was fighting fires.

To think that this is not happening in today’s fire service would be absurd and illogical. If we look at the ways many departments, companies or personnel are operating on the fireground during structural fire operations and the places we are assigning and directing them to operate within, we would be asking ourselves, WHY?

There are tremendous national, state and locally efforts and initiatives directed at enhancing firefighter safety, reducing firefighter line of duty deaths and injury rates, on effective command management, skill development, competencies and cultural changes to improve and enhance the fire service. But it all has to start with the basic unit of operation; the Company, the Officer and personnel.

Today’s incident scene and structural fires are unlike those in past decades and will continue to challenge us operationally when confronted with structural fire engagement and combat operations. Operationally, We need to be doing the right thing, for the right reason in the right place to increase our safety and incident survivability.

We need to stop "entertaining" ourselves, the job is dangerous, it has risks, we are not invincible, and we can die; at any alarm, in any fire, at anytime for any number of reasons.....

Let me leave you with some new thoughts and concepts related to operational safety and the definitions that I’ve come to develop that may support apparent or contributing causes to many of the fire service’s undesired events or incidents. Think about the definitions; think about how they apply to you, your company or your operations; past, present or future. I’ll share more insights on these evolving definitions in upcoming postings.

TACTICAL AMUSEMENT ˈtak-ti-kəl ə-ˈmyüz-mənt
1: of or relating to structural fireground tactics: as a (1) a means of amusing or entertaining during fire suppression, support tasks or operations that places personnel at risk
2: the condition of being amused while engaging in fire suppression, support tasks or operations that places personnel at risk
3: pleasurable diversion while engaging in fire suppression, support tasks or operations: entertainment; that places personnel at risk

TACTICAL DIVERSION ˈtak-ti-kəl də-ˈvər-zhən
1: the reckless act or an instance of diverting from an assignment, task, operation or activity while engaging in fire suppression, support tasks or operation for the sake of amusing or entertainment; that places personnel at risk
2: the reckless act of self determined task operations that diverts or amuses from defined risk assessment and incident action plans; that places personnel at risk

TACTICAL CIRCUMVENTION ˈtak-ti-kəl sər-kəm-ˈven(t)-shən
1: to deliberately manage to get around especially by ingenuity or approach that diverts for the purpose of amusing; assignment, operations or tasks that countermand or disregard defined risk assessment and incident action plans; that places personnel at risk
© 2009 Christopher J. Naum
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  1. Outstanding takes on firefighter group dynamics on the fireground Chris.

    Just had a 3 alarm job tonight with predictable outcomes re fire behavior and excessiv risks to saving the slab. The behavior you described is so instrinsic its almost not like a voluntary decision on some peoples part, but an inability to even have a risk/benefit dial on their mental adjust tactically (once its established this is a job for the bull dozers tomorrow)Hope to catch your presentation sometime sooh couldn't make FDIC...hope to next year. as an NFFF EGH advocate, really appreciate your work
    Thx in Calif

  2. Great idea............let's take all the fun out of firefighting too !


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