Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week: Day Three-The New Rules of Engagement
With so many changes (budget cuts, staffing reductions, reduced training, etc.) in so many fire departments, it is critical for fire fighters to focus on their own survival on the fire ground. There is no other call more challenging to fire ground operations than a Mayday call the unthinkable moment when a fire fighter’s personal safety is in imminent danger. Fire fighter fatality data compiled by the United States Fire Administration have shown that fire fighters becoming trapped and disoriented represent the largest portion of structural fire ground fatalities. The incidents in which fire fighters have lost their lives, or lived to tell about it, have a consistent theme inadequate situational awareness put them at risk.
Fire fighters don’t plan to be lost, disoriented, injured or trapped during a structure fire or emergency incident. But fires are unpredictable and volatile, and they will not always go according to plan. What a fire fighter knows about a fire before entering a blazing building may radically change within minutes once inside the structure. Smoke, low visibility, lack of oxygen, structural instability and an unpredictable fire ground can cause even the most seasoned fire fighter to be overwhelmed in an instant.
It’s not a matter of IF the MAYDAY happens, it’s WHEN! Thius the reason for the 2011 Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week focus on Surviving the Fire Ground Fire Fighter, Fire Officer & Command Preparedness
Theme: Surviving the Fire Ground Fire Fighter, Fire Officer & Command Preparedness
- IAFC Safety Week Resources: Firefighter Survival, HERE
- National Fire Fighter Near Miss Reporting System Resources, HERE
With that being said, there must be a means and a method to better defined and more accurately
- Without understanding the building-occupancy relationships and integrating; construction, occupancies, fire dynamics and fire behavior, risk, analysis, the art and science of firefighting, safety conscious work environment concepts and effective and well-informed incident command management, company level supervision and task level competencies…You are derelict and negligent and “not “everyone may be going home”.
- Our current generation of buildings, construction and occupancies are not as predictable as past conventional construction; risk assessment, strategies and tactics must change to address these new rules of structural fire engagement.
- There is a need to gain the building construction knowledge and insights and to change and adjust operating profiles in order to safe guard companies, personnel and team compositions. It’s all about understanding the building-occupancy relationships and the art and science of firefighting, Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety (Bk=F2S)
- Refer to: Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week: Day Two- Building Knowledge = Fire Fighter Safety
- When we look at various buildings and occupancies, past operational experiences; those that were successful, and those that were not, give us experiences that define and determine how we access, react and expect similar structures and occupancies to perform at a given alarm in the future.
- Naturalistic (or recognition-primed) decision-making forms much of this basis. We predicate certain expectations that fire will travel in a defined (predictable) manner that fire will hold within a room and compartment for a predictable given duration of time; that the fire load and related fire flows required will be appropriate for an expected size and severity of fire encountered within a given building, occupancy, structural system; in addition to having an appropriately trained and skilled staff to perform the requisite evolutions.
- Executing tactical plans based upon faulted or inaccurate strategic insights and indicators has proven to be a common apparent cause in numerous case studies, after action reports and LODD reports.
- Our years of predictable fireground experience have ultimately embedded and clouded our ability to predict, assess, plan and implement incident action plans and ultimately deploy our companies-based upon the predictable performance expected of modern construction and especially those with engineered structural systems.
- If you don’t fully understand how a building truly performs or reacts under fire conditions and the variables that can influence its stability and degradation, movement of fire and products of combustion and the resource requirements for fire suppression in terms of staffing, apparatus and required fire flows, then you will be functioning and operating in a reactionary manner, that is no longer acceptable within many of our modern building types, occupancies and structures.
- This places higher risk to your personnel and lessens the likelihood for effective, efficient and safe operations.
- You’re just not doing your job effectively and you’re at RISK. These risks can equate into insurmountable operational challenges and could lead to adverse incident outcomes. Someone could get hurt, someone could die, it’s that simple; it’s that obvious
- Combat Fire Suppression and Engagement has been dramatically influenced by numerous challenges in terms of effectiveness, methodologies, risk and operational capabilities….yet we implement strategic and tactical models and protocol predicated on past performance of building structures and occupancies and fire fighting successes….
- It’s no longer just brute force and sheer physical determination that define structural fire suppression operations
- We used to discern with a measured degree of predictability, how buildings would perform, react and fail under most fire conditions. Implementing fundamentals of firefighting and engine company operations built upon eight decades of time tested and experience proven strategies and tactics continues to be the model of suppression operations.
- These same fundamental strategies continue to drive methodologies and curriculums in our current training programs and academies of instructions.
- 2009 was a significant and decisive year for the fire service in a number of ways….
- Controversy, debate, argument; enlightenment, knowledge, insights, awareness, comprehension, understanding….
- Which leads me to call this the emerging tactical renaissance….
The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) is committed to reducing firefighter fatalities and injuries. As part of that effort the nearly 1,000 member Safety, Health and Survival Section of the IAFC has developed the NEW “Rules of Engagement of Structural Firefighting” to provide guidance to individual firefighters, and incident commanders, regarding risk and safety issues when operating on the fireground.
The intent was to provide a set of “model procedures” for Rules of Engagement for Structural Firefighting to be made available by the IAFC to fire departments as a guide for their own standard operating procedure development.
In August, 2008, following a year of discussion, the Section moved to develop a set of “Rules of Engagement for Structure Firefighting”.
A project team was created consisting of Section members and representatives of other several other interested fire service organizations.
These included the;
- Fire Department Safety Officer Association (FDSOA),
- the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation (NFFF),
- the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), the
- National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and other organizations.
- All draft material has also been shared with representatives of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) who developed a joint IAFF/IAFC “Fire Ground Survival Project”.
Three Section members also participated in the IAFF project.
The direction provided the project team by the Section leadership was to develop rules of engagement with the following conceptual points;
- Rules should be a short, specific set of bullets
- Rules should be easily taught and remembered
- Rules should define critical risk issues
- Rules should define “go” or “no‐go” situations
- A companion lesson plan/explanation section should be provided
Early in development the Rules of Engagement, it was recognized that two separate rules were needed –one set for the firefighter, and another set for the incident commander.
Thus, the two sets of Rules of Engagement were conceived and developed.
Each set has several commonly shared bullets and objectives, but the explanations are described somewhat differently based on the level of responsibility (firefighter vs. incident commander).
The 2010 Rules of Engagement reflects nearly two years of public comment and feedback from several presentations at fire service conferences, including the National Fallen Fire Fighters Safety Summit held at the National Fire Academy this past March 2010.
The “Rules” was formally adopted by the IAFC Health, Safety and Survival Section at the Fire Rescue International Conference that was held in Chicago this past August 2010
The project team was lead by Chief Gary Morris,
- Document is available: http://www.iafcsafety.org/Rules_of_Engagement_v8_7.10.pdf
- Charts and write-up with links on the New ROE on CommandSafety.com: http://commandsafety.com/2010/09/rules-of-engagement-2010/
- includes introduction statements and background regarding the Rules of Engagement project.
- acknowledges the Project team members and others that assisted in the project.
- contains the individual “Bullets” for both the Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Survival as well as the Incident Commanders Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Safety.
- describes the objectives attached to each of the individual “bullets” for both set of Rules.
- provides an introduction and overview of the lesson plans for the Rules of Engagement.
- includes the lesson plan for the Rules of Engagement of Firefighter Survival.
- contains the lesson plans for the Incident Commanders Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Safety.
- serves as appendixes and contains full investigation reports of several significant firefighter fatality incidents.
The Need for Rules of Engagement
- Firefighter safety must always be a priority for every fire chief and every member. Over the past three decades, the fire service has applied new technology, better protective clothing and equipment, implemented modern standard operating procedures, and improved training.
- According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) data during this same period the fire service has experienced a 58 percent reduction in firefighter line of duty deaths. But, the country has also seen a paralleling 54 percent drop in the number of structural fires over the same period – thus, reducing firefighter exposure to risk.
- With a continued annual average of more than 100 firefighter fatalities, the question remains; have we really made a difference with all these technology improvements? Or, is there more that we can do to improve the safety culture of the American fire service?
- The U.S. Firefighter Disorientation Study, conducted by Captain Willie Mora, San Antonio, Texas, Fire Department, conducted a review of 444 firefighter fireground deaths occurring over a recent 16 year period (1990-2006).
- The project broke out traumatic firefighter fatalities occurring in “open structures” and “enclosed structures”. Open structures was defined as smaller structures with an adequate number of windows and doors (within a short distance) to allow for prompt ventilation and emergency evacuation.
- Enclosed structures were defined as large buildings with inadequate windows or doors to allow prompt ventilation and emergency evacuation. Research determined that 23 percent occurred when a fast and aggressive interior attack was made on an “opened structure”. When fast, aggressive interior attacks occurred in “enclosed structures” the fatality rate rose to 77 percent. Many occurred in “marginal” or rapidly changing conditions in which the firefighter should not have been in the building.
- The fireground creates a significant risk to firefighters and it is the responsibility of the incident commander and command organization officers to minimize firefighter exposure to unsafe conditions and stop unsafe practices.
- The fire service has always been a para-military organization when it comes to fireground operations. In most cases, the Incident Commander makes a decision, sends the order down to through supervisors to the company officer and crew.
- Fire crews generally view these orders as top down direction. There is often little two‐way discussion about options.
- Where this culture exists, crews have been trained to accept the order and do it – generally without question.
- While these orders may be viewed as valid when issued they may involve inadequate risk assessment.
- There has been little national development of basic “rules” that the incident command should use in defining risk assessment process and what is too high risk that may result in a “no-go” decision.
- Furthermore, for the individual firefighter who is exposed to the greatest risk, we have not defined “rules” for them to follow in assessing their individual risk and when and how to say “no” to unsafe conditions or practices. The “Rules of Engagement” changes that.
- The “Rules of Engagement” have been developed to assist both the incident command (as well as command team officers) in risk assessment and “Go” – “No-Go” decisions. Applying the rules will make the fireground safer for all and reduce injuries and fatalities.
The development of the rules integrated several nationally recognized programs and principles. They included risk assessment principles from NFPA Standards 1500 and 1561.
Also included where concepts and principles from Crew Resource Management (available from iafc.org) and data and lessons from the National Near-Miss Reporting System (firefighternearmiss.com).
The development process also included review of lessons learned from numerous firefighter fatality investigations conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program.
It’s incumbent that the fire chief and the Departments management team insure the safety of all firefighters working at structural fires.
- All command organization officers are responsible for their own safety and the safety of all personnel working with them.
- All officers and members are responsible are responsible for continually identifying and reporting unsafe conditions or practices.
- The Rules of Engagement allows both the firefighter and the incident commander to apply and process these principles.
- One principle applied in the Rules of Engagement is firefighters and the company officers are the members at most risk for injury or death.
- The Rules integrate the firefighter into the risk assessment decision making process.
- These members should be the ultimate decision maker as to whether it’s safe to proceed with assigned objectives.
- The “Rules” allow a process for that decision to be made while still maintain command unity and discipline.
It is well known that firefighting is hazardous with varying levels of risk to the firefighter.
However, firefighting is not a military campaign where lives are lost to establish a beach head.
No firefighter’s life is a building that eventually will be rebuilt. Keep all members safe so “Everyone Goes Home”!
Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Survival
- Size-Up Your Tactical Area of Operation.
- Determine the Occupant Survival Profile.
- DO NOT Risk Your Life for Lives or Property That Can Not Be Saved.
- Extend LIMITED Risk to Protect SAVABLE Property.
- Extend Vigilant and Measured Risk to Protect and Rescue SAVABLE Lives.
- Go in Together, Stay Together, Come Out Together
- Maintain Continuous Awareness of Your Air Supply, Situation, Location and Fire Conditions.
- Constantly Monitor Fireground Communications for Critical Radio Reports.
- You Are Required to Report Unsafe Practices or Conditions That Can Harm You. Stop, Evaluate and Decide.
- You Are Required to Abandon Your Position and Retreat Before Deteriorating Conditions Can Harm You.
- Declare a May Day As Soon As You THINK You Are in Danger.
The Incident Commanders Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Safety
- Rapidly Conduct, or Obtain, a 360 Degree Size‐Up of the Incident.
- Determine the Occupant Survival Profile.
- Conduct an Initial Risk Assessment and Implement a SAFE ACTION PLAN.
- If You Do Not Have The Resources to Safely Support and Protect Firefighters – Seriously Consider a Defensive Strategy.
- DO NOT Risk Firefighter Lives for Lives or Property That Can Not Be Saved – Seriously Consider a Defensive Strategy.
- Extend LIMITED Risk to Protect SAVABLE Property.
- Extend Vigilant and Measured Risk to Protect and Rescue SAVABLE Lives.
- Act Upon Reported Unsafe Practices and Conditions That Can Harm Firefighters. Stop, Evaluate and Decide.
- Maintain Frequent Two‐Way Communications and Keep Interior Crews Informed of Changing Conditions.
- Obtain Frequent Progress Reports and Revise the Action Plan.
- Ensure Accurate Accountability of All Firefighter Location and Status.
- If, After Completing the Primary Search, Little or No Progress Towards Fire Control Has Been Achieved -Seriously Consider a Defensive Strategy.
- Always Have a Rapid Intervention Team in Place at All Working Fires
- Always Have Firefighter Rehab Services in Place at All Working Fires
Other ROE Insights
Size-Up Your Tactical Area of Operation.
Objective: To cause the company officer and firefighters to pause for a moment and look over their area of operation and evaluate their individual risk exposure and determine a safe approach to completing their assigned tactical objectives.
Rapidly Conduct, or Obtain, a 360 Degree Situational Size Up of the Incident
Objective: To cause the incident commander to obtain an early 360 degree survey and risk assessment of the fireground in order to determine the safest approach to tactical operations as part the risk assessment and action plan development and before firefighters are placed at substantial risk.
Determine the Occupant Survival Profile.
Objective: To cause the company officer and firefighter to consider fire conditions in relation to possible occupant survival of a rescue event as part of their initial and ongoing individual risk assessment and action plan development.
Determine the Occupant Survival Profile.
Objective: To cause the incident commander to consider fire conditions in relation to possible occupant survival of a rescue event before committing firefighters to high risk search and rescue operations as part of the initial and ongoing risk assessment and action plan development.
Go in Together, Stay Together, Come Out Together
Objective: To ensure that firefighters always enter a burning building as a team of two or more members and no firefighter is allowed to be alone at any time while entering, operating in or exiting a building.
Maintain Continuous Awareness of Your Air Supply, Situation, Location and Fire Conditions
Objective: To cause all firefighters and company officers to maintain constant situational awareness their SCBA air supply and where they are in the building and all that is happening in their area of operations and elsewhere on the fireground that may affect their risk and safety.
You Are Required to Report Unsafe Practices or Conditions That Can Harm You. Stop, Evaluate, and Decide.
Objective: To prevent company officers and firefighters from engaging in unsafe practices or exposure to unsafe conditions that can harm them and allowing any member to raise an alert about a safety concern without penalty and mandating the supervisor address the question to ensure safe operations.
Act Upon Reported Unsafe Practices and Conditions That Can Harm Them. Stop, Evaluate and Decide.
Objective: To prevent firefighters and supervisors from engaging in unsafe practices or exposure to unsafe conditions that will harm them and allowing any member to raise an alert about a safety concern without penalty and mandating the incident commander and command organization officers promptly address the question to insure safe operations.
Declare a May-Day As Soon As You THINK You Are in Danger
Objective: To ensure the firefighter is comfortable with, and there is no delay in, declaring a May Day when a firefighter is faced with a life threatening situation and the May Day is declared as soon as they THINK they are in trouble.
Always Have a Rapid Intervention Team in Place at All Working Fires.
Objective: To cause the incident commander to have a rapid intervention team in place ready to rescue firefighters at all working fires.
Ensure Accurate Accountability of Every Firefighter Location and Status
Objective: To cause the incident commander, and command organization officers, to maintain a constant and accurate accountability of the location and status of all firefighters within a small geographic area of accuracy within the hazard zone and aware of who is presently in or out of the building.
If You Do Not Have the Resources to Safely Support and Protect Firefighters, Seriously Consider a Defensive Strategy
Objective: To prevent the commitment of firefighters to high risk tactical objectives that cannot be accomplished safely due to inadequate resources on the scene.
This policy identifies a standard system for the emergency evacuation of personnel at an emergency incident or training exercise.
Fire and Rescue Departments of Northern Virginia – Rapid Intervention Team Command and Operational Procedures
A collaborative RIT manual developed by fire and rescue departments in Northern Virginia. Promotes interoperability between multiple fire agencies.
Lost or Trapped Firefighters
This policy identifies the required actions for the search and rescue of lost or trapped firefighter(s).
Model Procedures for Responding to a Package with Suspicion of a Biological Threat
Local and world events have placed the nation s emergency service at the forefront of homeland defense. The service must be aware that terrorists, both foreign and domestic, are continually testing the homeland defense system.
Safety Initial Rapid Intervention Crew (IRIC)
This policy establishes procedures for ensuring the highest level of safety when conducting interior operations in an atmosphere that is Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH).
Safety Rapid Intervention Team (RIT)
This policy establishes the department s criteria and procedures for Rapid Intervention Teams.
Taking It To The Streets: My Closing Commentary and The Rules of Combat Fire Suppression
The essence of fire service suppression operations is predicated upon the deployment and application of water as an extinguishing agent, in sufficient quantities, location and duration to extinguish a fire within an enclosed structural compartment. The universal engine company correlation of: “putting the wet stuff on the red stuff” is fundamental to structural fire suppression operations but is ambiguous at best in the context of today’s modern building construction, occupancies, structural systems and building features.
We used to discern with a measured degree of predictability, how buildings would perform, react and fail under most fire conditions. Implementing fundamentals of firefighting and engine company operations built upon eight decades of time tested and experience proven strategies and tactics continues to be the model of suppression operations. These same fundamental strategies continue to drive methodologies and curriculums in our current training programs and academies of instructions.
The lack of appreciation and the understanding of correlating principles involving fire behavior, fuel and rate of heat release and the growth stages of compartment fires within a structural occupancy are the defining paths from which the fire service must reexamine engine company operations in order to identify with the predictability of occupancy performance during fire suppression operations thus increasing suppression effectiveness and firefighter safety.
Our buildings have changed; the structural systems of support, the degree of compartmentation, the characteristics of materials and the magnitude of fire loading. The structural anatomy, predictability of building performance under fire conditions, structural integrity and the extreme fire behavior; accelerated growth rate and intensively levels typically encountered in buildings of modern construction during initial and sustained fire suppression have given new meaning to the term combat fire engagement.
The rules for combat structural fire suppression have changed, but we have yet to write the rule book from which the new games plans must be derived…..
However, we now have a new set of Rules for Engagement….
- The Incident Commanders Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Safety
- Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Survival
- Tactical Renaissance ……….Tactical Patience
…….integrate cutting edge research and emerging concepts on Tactical Patience, Tactical Entertainment, Command Compression, Structural Anatomy of Buildings, Five Star Command Model, Predicative Strategic Process, refined Tactical Deployment Models integrating intelligent Structural Anatomy and Predictive Occupancy Profiling and Integrating the RULES OF ENGAGEMENT for Structural Firefighting much more.
It’s really all about Fighting Fire with More Knowledge and smartly
Taking it to the StreetsTM, radio program hosted by highly regarded national instructor, author, lecturer and fire officer Christopher Naum, continues to provide provocative insights and dynamic discussions with leading national fire service leaders and guests on important issues affecting the American Fire Service with applications internationally within the tradition and brotherhood of the Fire Service.
This is the netcast which was offered live on September 22, 2010. Taking it to the Streets “Tactical Renaissance and the Rules of Engagement” Chief Gary Morris (ret) Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department, and Dr. Burt Clark from the NFA join Chris Naum as they discuss the emerging Tactical Renaissance of Combat Fire Suppression Operations [...]
Taking it to the StreetsTM is a monthly radio show featured on BlogTalk Radio and is hosted by nationally renowned fire service leader Christopher Naum, a 36-year fire service veteran and highly regarded national instructor, author, lecturer and fire officer and the distinguished leading national authority on building construction and fire ground operations. Taking it to the StreetsTM is a Buildingsonfire.com Series and FireFighternetcast.com Production, © 2011 All Rights Reserved
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- Taking it to the Streets Radio Programs, HERE and HERE
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A Buildingsonfire.com Series and Firefighter Netcast.com Production
On the Air Monthly on Firefighter Netcast.com
Advancing Firefighter Safety and Operational Integrity for the Fire Service through provocative insights and dynamic discussions dedicated to the Art and Science of Firefighting and the Traditions of the Fire Service.
Also on CommandSafety …
- The New Rules of Combat Fire Engagement: Random Thoughts – February 15, 2012
- 2012 International Fire/EMS Safety & Health Week – May 27, 2012
- Operational Excellence – September 2, 2012
- Mayday and Rapid Intervention Realities: The Phoenix Perspective – March 14, 2013