Original post found at: http://community.fireengineering.com/m/blogpost?id=1219672%3ABlogPost%3A627047
On the fire ground, information comes at a premium. Because every situation we face is inherently unique, intelligence gathering is always a top priority. From the moment an alarm is received, we are inundated with information – varying in degree of detail and accuracy. That information must be immediately processed, utilizing our knowledge base and intuition, and translated into an appropriate action plan. In the absence of a one-sized fits all approach, conditions will always dictate action. With so much at stake, it is incumbent upon us to, not only, collect as much information as possible (without delaying action), but to disseminate that which is pertinent to the other members operating at the incident. Given the infinite number of potential variables, and the uncertainty of a rapidly changing, hostile environment, we are faced with the daunting challenge of “attempting to make perfect decisions with imperfect information.”
To minimize that differential, we must engage our senses and maintain a heightened state of awareness. By always being acutely cognizant of our surroundings, we can identify critical pieces of information, as they present themselves. Upon arrival, this (physical) process begins with size-up and conducting a proper 360. We must keenly observe the building as we approach; if we pull past or to the far corner of the building, we are granted a visual of three sides. Performing a 360 is more than simply “taking a lap” to check the box, it provides us with a complete (exterior) picture, granting us a view of the remaining side(s). In regards to ventilation, attention must be placed, specifically, upon building construction (layout, existing openings, egress points), presentation of the fire, and wind conditions (direction and speed). We must remember that size-up is not a single act, it is a continuous process that must be strictly carried out for the duration of the incident.
Not all of the information we obtain on the fire ground is acquired first-hand. In fact, a great deal is received through radio transmissions. By always keeping an ear to the radio, we can ascertain the whereabouts of other crews operating within the structure, their assigned tasks, their progress, as well as, the conditions being encountered. The aforementioned information is of particular importance to those responsible for ventilation. Amidst the (organized) chaos of the fire ground, it is easy to succumb to the effects of tunnel-vision. We must refrain from becoming so overly task-oriented that we lose sight of what is going on around us. Those engaging in ventilation activities, especially, must possess a much broader focus; as their actions can, single-handedly and swiftly, impact the course of an incident with great magnitude. We must possess enough information to be sure that the ventilation plan facilitates firefighting operations and the achievement of a particular objective.
Possessing (and sharing) vital information is often the determining factor in the success of any operation. The need for vigilant situational awareness, coupled with accurate and concise communication, then, becomes paramount. Those behaviors are just two of the fundamental components necessary for exercising fire ground discipline and the very basis for the concept of tactical ventilation.
To be continued…