Most of us do really well with command and control on the fire ground. We practice our first due engine operations, pulling hose, search and rescue, and ventilation on a regular basis. As officers we’re always honing our skills with particular attention to building size-up, first-in reports, operational strategies and tactics, resource management, and risk versus reward. We know and understand that big fire requires big water and that an empty building on fire is….well, an empty building on fire.
But do you have a plan for when the sh*t hits the fan. I’m talking about mother nature and not just the dramatic events like tornados. What about your basic – common, high percentage events such as severe thunderstorms that may produce hail, acute flooding, and multiple lightening strikes. Perhaps more importantly do your company officers know and understand what that plan is and how to operate within it. We tend to do very well with one call at a time, and many of us can handle two calls simultaneously. But what happens when the third, fourth, or even fifth call comes in for assistance?
Do you have a system in place that allows your personnel and resources to react to these kinds of events. Too often we worry about how smart and talented our command staff is, and we don’t spend enough time making sure the system they operate in is flexible enough to quickly adapt to the challenges they are facing. You should be able to quickly expand and contract your command structure to manage the resources and incidents that are happening at any given time. To handle multiple events across a large geographical area you should have a preplan that divides the area into divisions. You should also have preplanned responses for major emergencies. For example, engine 1 to division 1, engine 2 to division 2 ect. During a severe storm an engine crew may respond to many calls for service, power lines down, trees across the road, lightening strike to a roof, and a power pole on fire. Do your company officers know how to prioritize these calls? Do they know what documentation is needed for each type of call?
Thunderstorms producing lightening, hail, and acute flooding happen on a regular basis in the Midwest. Make sure you prepare yourself and your staff to handle emergencies in addition to the single family residential fire and/or a two car MVA. Make sure your plans are flexible and known. If you want your staff to succeed, make sure they understand how to execute the plan before its needed.