Tips for the New Chief Officer

BY: Donald P. Cialone Jr., FBNY

The year is winding down and a lot of you will be starting out as a new Chief of your department next year. With any new position there are going to be growing pains, that’s expected. Mistakes are going to be made, that’s part of the process. The key is to learn from those mistakes and use them to help you become successful. Over time and with experience you’ll grow into a great leader. 

Here’s a few tips I put together to help you transition into your new leadership role.

Meet with your Line Officers: If you haven’t already, meet with your Line Officers to establish your ground rules and clarify how you’d like to see things run. Review any new policies or procedures that you would like to see implemented so that you are all on the same page.

Meet with your Appointed Officers: Again, if you haven’t done this already you should meet with your Appointed Officers to explain what is expected of them, review any new policies or procedures, and establish ground rules. Make sure to include all Captains, Lieutenants, Fire Police, Training Officers, & Safety Officers. If you want things to run smoothly everyone needs to be on the same page especially these Officers, they are the ones entrusted by you to ensure things run smoothly and according to your established rules. 

Review your SOP’s/SOG’s: Use one of your first training sessions to review your departments SOP’s/SOG’s. Take time to explain why certain policies exist and highlight specific policies or guidelines that tend to be problematic. 

Review Training Records: Take time to review the Training Records of your personnel. Ensure that they are up to date on all mandatory training and that all individuals are participating at a level that you are comfortable with. By reviewing these records, you should understand deficiencies in training that need to be addressed in the coming year. 

Establish a Training Schedule: Take time to establish a diverse training schedule that will not only keep people’s skill levels up but will keep them engaged with new and interesting topics. Ensure that all required PESH/OSHA training is scheduled and attended by those individuals who need it. Whenever possible try and run the same training and drills for your dayside and evening personnel.

Assign Officers to Probationary Members: While every department has different training methods for probationary members they should always be assigned an Officer to work with them. Do not let new members learn things on the fly, they will almost certainly develop bad habits that will be hard if not impossible to break. 

Keep Members Engaged: Mo matter their age, there is a roll for everyone in the fire service. Utilize everyone’s talent to your advantage. Encourage them to participate in drills and training. When training use senior members to change SCBA bottles or for traffic control.

Squash Problems Quickly: Every fire department has individuals who thrive on chaos. It is important that you set a tone early on that nonsense will not be tolerated. On the same token, resolve problems quickly. Don’t let issues fester and get worse over time, squash them fast. You’ll be amazed at how effective an impromptu sit down can be.  

Communicate: Communicate constantly with your personnel. Most people want to be kept informed, even of seemingly minor things. When Chief or Line Officers keep too many secrets people tend to distrust them. With the exception of personnel matters relay as much information as possible through text alerts, memos, white board messages, newsletters, or bulletins. People tend to take more pride in an organization when they feel they are part of that team.

Treat Everyone with Respect: This is paramount! Fire Departments attract people from many different socioeconomic backgrounds, and it is necessary for the Chief Officer to remain respectful and professional with everyone in the department especially, those members they disagree with or dislike. 

Review Incident Command: Review the Incident Command System with your Assistants and your Line Officers. Be sure that you are using the same phraseology and that everyone has a solid understanding of how ICS will function in an actual incident. I highly recommend using it regularly for smaller incidents like carbon monoxide calls and MVA’s so that when something major comes along everything clicks for you. 

Also, ensure that all Officers are schooled in giving quality initial reports when they are the first to arrive at an incident scene. It is highly important to create a picture of the scene for the units coming in behind you so they can start preparing to leap into action. 

Check Your Equipment: Ensure that all equipment and tools are started and in good working order. Ensure that all supplies are stocked up and ready for the next incident. Assign Officers to do weekly checks of the apparatus and equipment they carry.

Drill with Your Neighbors: The scene of a fire is not the place to find out you have equipment that isn’t compatible with your neighboring department. It is important that not only you know what equipment they carry on their apparatus but that you constantly drill with them and establish operational norms so that when an actual fire or incident occurs everything runs smoothly. 

Update Your Run Cards: It seems like with every new Chief mutual aid plans change, which is fine, just remember to notify your dispatch office of the changes. Also, make sure you talk to the Chief of the department(s) you plan on calling in for mutual aid to ensure they have the equipment, manpower, and capabilities that you’re looking for. If you plan on utilizing a neighboring FAST/RIT ensure that they are available all hours of the day and have a backup plan just in case they can’t respond. Again, speak with the Chief to ensure they are ready, willing, and able to be your FAST/RIT.

Establish Alarms: There’s nothing worse than listening to a Chief during a working fire try and figure out on the spot who he’s going to call in next on mutual aid. This should already be established prior to a fire or other incident so you’re not wasting time or sounding foolish over the radio. Establish ahead of time what the Balance of your First Alarm will be if you have a confirmed fire as well as a Second, Third or possibly a Fourth Alarm. Also, establish mutual aid plans ahead of time for incidents such as Mass Casualty or Active Shooter Incidents. 

Familiarize Yourself with Resources: Not every fire department is equipped or trained to handle every type of incident however, it is important that you know where to get the help you need during an actual incident so you’re not wasting time when they are needed most. Take time to research the available resources that you might need should an actual incident occur. There are likely departments with the kind of resources you might need all over your county that you can utilize if you know where they are located and how to get a hold of them. Also, there are some specialty and technical rescue teams in the western New York Region, educate yourself as to where they are located and how to get a hold of them should you need them for an actual incident.  

Work with your Emergency Manager: Pretty much every city, town, and village has an Emergency Manager on staff or on call. They usually are a wealth of information and resources. I would highly advise you to give them a call and have a meeting to pick their brains. Find out what type of resources your municipality has, what surrounding municipalities have, and what neighboring fire department resources might be available to you if need them.  


Fire Ground Size-Up for the First Due Engine

By: Greg Sellers, FBNY

So your arriving on scene, many things are going through your head but you got to “Paint the picture” for the arriving companies. No one wants to sound incompetent on the radio but you have to have clear, concise and accurate information so everyone understands what the situation is.  Having a standard approach to initial scene size up is paramount to start of a successful operation.  This article will focus on giving a scene size up and some points to consider, staying with your departments S.O.P. regarding size up these tips hopefully will help your overall radio report.

 We all have that adrenaline rush, but the best thing we can do is keep it under control. Thinking clearly and controlling our personal behavior with not only help you do to your job better but will set the example for others to follow.  DO NOT yell, scream or rush your size up, this will get everyone else “excited” and also show that you, as the initial incident commander may not be thinking clearly which may cause you to lose your command and control of the incident. When approaching the scene, have your driver slow down.  This will give you a better overall picture of the scene.  It also allows both you and the driver to visualize hazards, such as overhead wires, exposure problems, potential rescues, hydrants, or parked cars that could limit outrigger spread on a ladder truck.  Many departments have their drivers pull past the structure to give a three sided view.  Whatever your department S.O.P.s are, follow them, this will give the engine the room it needs to deploy hand lines and gives the truck the front of the building for proper aerial placement.  

 When beginning your size-up, think about what you’re going to say before you say it. Based on your S.O.Ps your size up should be methodical, quick and to the point evaluation of what you see, what you’re going to do and possibly what you need.  First announce your arrival “Engine 1 to dispatch”, let them answer you, “Engine 1 is on location”.  Describe the building in regards to residential vs commercial, height, type of construction and occupied vs vacant. “2 ½ story wood frame-balloon frame, occupied (or vacant), residential structure”.  Now, what do you see?? Nothing showing, Fire Showing, Smoke Showing.  I never understood when officers would say “smoke and fire showing”.  If you got fire showing, you got smoke showing, don’t over word it, keep it basic. Also tell where you have the condition showing, second floor, through the roof or whatever the situation shows. Next, do you have an exposure problem, if so, give a quick description.  “Exposure problem on Side 2 (Side B)”, “no exposure problems” etc. Give your strategy, Offensive or Defensive.  Name your command, every single incident must have a named command, “Main St. Command”. If needed, as for additional resources, whatever they may be.  Describe what your actions are going to be “stretch an 1 ¾” for fire attack second floor”, “stretch a 2 ½” for a defensive attack” etc.  I’ve heard some departments where they say “stretch an 1 ¾” for fire attack and primary search”, well a single engine company cannot do both jobs effectively, its one or the other.  Then give other companies assignments based on their arrival. Example “Engine 2, lay a supply line from Main and Front St. to supply Engine 1”, “Truck 1, primary search” etc. It doesn’t stop there, you as the first due officer must complete, as best as possible a 360 of the fire building. If anything regarding the building, fire conditions, life hazard or safety hazards has been found, you must report these over the radio.  So lets look at a sample Size-Up, again this is one way, whatever your department uses make sure it is easily understood by other responding companies.

Engine 1 to Dispatch

Go ahead Engine 1

Engine 1 is on location of an Occupied 2 1/2 story wood frame/balloon frame residential structure, we have fire showing on the second floor, Side 2 with an Exposure problem on Side 2, this will be an offensive fire.  Engine 1 will be “Main St. Command” give me an additional 2 Engines and a Truck. Will be stretching a 1 ¾” hand line for fire attack,  Engine 2 lay a supply line from Main and Front St. for Engine 1, Truck 1 perform primary search on Main Fire Building.

Dispatch should repeat this back so everyone hears it again 

With this statement, the wheels are in motion for a successful start to an operation.  Obviously more orders must be given if dictated by your department or your department S.O.Ps on standard company assignments must be followed. Remember also that a transfer of command should be made face to face but sometimes a radio transfer of command may take place.  There are several other size up acronyms that some departments use such as “COAL WAS WEALTH” or “Blue Card Size Up”.  Whatever your department uses, be good at it, be calm with it, speak clearly and also have a strong command presence.  


Engine Company as the “Truck” in the Volunteer Fire Service

By: Greg Sellers

So, you hear it a lot “What’s my Truck coming to me”. Well, in the day and age of limited staffing and multiple use apparatus, you may not have a true truck company responding.  So, as the incident commander you have to assign an incoming engine as the “truck” because truck jobs still need to be completed.  So what are those “truck jobs”, well they are search, ventilation and forcible entry, to name a few.  As an officer of the engine assigned as the “truck”, you must be thinking about what equipment do I carry and who do I have and are they capable of performing those tasks.  You really can’t effectively perform vertical ventilation with all outside qualified FF (IDLH) or interior search with yourself, a junior FF and an exterior only FF acting only as a Driver/Operator.  I’d like to give some insight as to how an engine company can perform the duties of the truck company without the truck apparatus. 


Interior primary search must be performed by two interior qualified firefighters.  A Vent, Enter, Isolate and Search must be performed by at least two interior qualified as well.  These are Immediate Danger to life and Health (IDLH) tasks and must be completed quickly and proficiently.  The tools needed are basic tools carried on an engine.  These are Thermal imaging camera, halligan, flathead axe and/or 6’ hook. For the VEIS add the ground ladders, which is normally the 14’ or 24’ carried on an engine company. 

Forcible Entry

For this task, basic forcible entry tools such as the halligan and flathead axe/sledgehammer can be used for most inward and outward doors.  Additional tools you can carry may include a “K-Tool” or “A-Tool” for through the lock entry.  You can also have a Rotary Saw with a metal cutting or diamond tip combination blade for cutting steel.  A good tool for case hardened padlocks is a duckbill lock breaker and normal padlocks, a standard bolt cutter with large handles for increased leverage.  Another good tool is a hydra-ram or rabbit tool, used for steel (commercial) inward opening doors.


Tools for ventilation vary, depending on the type of ventilation to be done.  Horizontal ventilation (removal of windows) is usually done with a hook, halligan or some other sturdy hand tool.  Vertical ventilation can be done with the standard compliment of engine company ground ladders and hand tools.  As far as power saws, a chainsaw with a carbide tip chain designed for fire/rescue work or a rotary saw with a carbide tip wood cutting wheel works well. Again, the construction of the roof will with dictate which saw will be used having the correct blade attached.  Positive pressure ventilation is the norm now once the fire in knocked down.  There are several PPV fan options available, depending on the room you have you may want to consider a fold-up battery operated PPV fan. If you have the room, then a standard electric PPV blower may work for you.  Be sure to have the capability to power the fan off a generator or house power. Gas power fans are good but they are loud and put off a fair amount of carbon monoxide, so I think an electric PPV fan is a better option.  As always, the thermal imaging camera is a valuable tool to identify heat signatures while operating on the roof. 

Additional Tasks

The previous three tasks are the core jobs of a truck company but there are plenty other jobs that need to be completed. Here is a list of a few more with some equipment you may stock:

Utility control: gas, water, electric

Have a set of meter covers if pulling an electric meter is in your SOP

Have a residential water key to secure water to structures, a fork end of halligan works well to

Overhaul/salvage:  Rolls of plastic sheeting can be carried as opposed to standard salvage covers.  These can be left at scene for occupant to use and cut to size needed.  Also have a good sturdy slap stapler and/or hammer and roofing nails


As you can see, a properly “staffed” and equipped engine can act as a truck company if needed.  Staffing means everything, if you don’t have the right people to do the jobs, they can’t be done.  So make sure your apparatus is properly staffed with at least 2, preferably 4, interior qualified and “truck trained” firefighters.  When it comes to training, hold in-house truck based classes, hands-on an classroom.  Send firefighters to truck company based classes then bring what they learned back to the department to share and pass the knowledge. 

Running a truck company takes more than a ladder truck, its takes training equipment, personnel and the right mind-set. 

Greg is a Fire Engineering Contributor and Volunteer Fire Fighter with Smithfield FD in Virginia 


Pride & Ownership for Firefighter Survival. Prep Training

By: Lt. Roger Brennan, Ellicott Creek Fire Department

A few years ago the NYS Office of Fire Prevention introduced a new format for the NYS Firefighter 1 Interior Fire fighter course. The concept was to introduce a task oriented air consumption test that students would have to pass. Failure to complete this test simply meant you transferred over to the Exterior Operations class. The year that the air consumption test was put into effect, I was in my second year as a Lieutenant. I had just introduced a new probationary program for the first year requirements of our new firefighters. When we learned of the changes, Captain Eric Frase and I were assigned to the probationary training program and realized we needed to get to work fast to prepare five of our firefighters for the class that was just over a month away.  

 The county had prepared and published a detailed video and description of the course, and I studied and came up with what I considered a very close and realistic simulation. We set it up in our truck bay and had our students watch the video and we explained what was expected. I was not sure how close I really was to the actual course, however. Only time would tell and we really did not have a lot of time on our side. I think we really only were able to run them through it 3 times, (one night a week for the 3 weeks before the test date.) I hoped it was enough. The night came and went and we had three firefighters complete it. I was beside myself. I felt I had let down the two other students and our department. I felt I had not done enough to prepare them and I swore that would not happen again. In the end I talked at length with the student who made it through and asked how close my course was. He told me it was spot on, about as close as you can get without being on the actual course at the tower. 

 Fast forward one year. Early in 2015, three probationary members were enrolled in the class. One of them was one of the students who did not make it through the prior year. We again set up the course, but we started out about 8 weeks prior. We decided to not only make them do the task oriented course but introduce other tasks that we knew they would need to perform in class. Hose line advancement, search and rescue, fire fighter self-rescue, just to name a few. The goal was to set the bar and their conditioning a bit higher, to work them harder, than what the air consumption test would require. This time all three had passed the test and continued on. At the graduation ceremony, the lead instructor complimented my firefighters on how mature and confident they were in class. He commented, about the one firefighter who did not make it the year before, in how well his skills and work ethic had matured.  

 In 2016, our department had quite an influx of both transfer and new fire fighters. At one point we had around 18 firefighters on probation, about a dozen would be going into the August class. We also were the host company so I felt we needed to have a good strong performance in the class. This would be the last time the Exterior and Interior class would be merged. After that it would become two separate classes. The state also introduced the “Home Department Skills Sheets” in late 2015.  These were 16 skills that required us to teach and sign off on before that unit topic was covered in class. Needless to say we had a lot of ground to cover. In the end we ended up with nine in the class. I sat them down and explained what we needed to do. I asked them to pick a day of the week outside of drill nights for us to work solely on the task of prepping them to succeed. I explained that if they gave me their best effort and pushed themselves, there was nothing in class they would not be ready for. We spent 10 weeks every Wednesday night not only training but having some fun and meeting our goals for the session. They never complained…much.  

 Five days before the task oriented air consumption test the instructors did a bottle bleed so the students could gauge how long they could work on a cylinder. The instructors told me they could tell my firefighters had prepared by how easily they performed. The night of the test, I had to leave before all the crews had completed the course. Before I left, I overheard the last half of the group talking about how long and how many circuits the ones before had done. They set a challenge to complete more circuits and last longer on air than the guys before… and they did!Now you know the back story. Since that class many of those students have stepped up as each new fire fighter prepares for their shot at BEFO/IFO (Basic Exterior Firefighter Operations/Interior Firefighter Operations). As far as we are concerned, all our firefighters will go on to become Interior Qualified, unless they make a personal choice not to, but we encourage and train them as if they will.


Skills School: Prep Training (Continued)

The following is an overview and break down of the program that I developed to meet and exceed the expectations and requirements of the NYS OFP BEFO/IFO course. Hope it is something you are already doing with your new firefighters or if not, now you have it. No excuses, get them ready. “Make them take pride in preparing for class, make them take ownership of their skills, it may just be what they need to survive!!!”

BEFO/IFO Skills & Preparation 

Training Program


The purpose of the following program is to guide the officers and/or senior members responsible for the preparation and training of the probationary firefighters prior to the start of the New Your State BEFO/IFO Firefighter 1 Course. 


(1) Prepare probationary firefighters for 100% proficiency in the sixteen (16) required skills evaluation sheets requiring home department training officer(s) signature. 

(2) Prepare probationary members for 100% proficiency in the eight (8) skills required in the NYS FF1 Task Oriented Air Consumption Evaluation, prior to entering the IFO Course. 

(3) Provide opportunity for the ECVFD Officers to evaluate probationary members progress toward 100% proficiency of the skills and requirements needed to complete the ECVFD Probationary Check-off Program. 

Program Concepts:

This training program is designed to familiarize and prepare probationary firefighters with the skills, tasks, and operations needed by all firefighters.   Its purpose is to expose skills and concepts to the new firefighter that will be expanded upon in the NYS Courses. This program is in no way intended to be a replacement or standard for any firefighter’s status. 


It is recommended to start this program four (4) weeks prior to the start of the BEFO Class and continue concurrently with the first four (4) weeks of the BEFO course. This schedule will allow for completion of the sixteen (16) home department skills sheets and provide “on air” time and familiarization with the SCBA. It provides confidence training for the “Task Oriented Air Consumption” evaluation prior to the start of IFO Class. 

This program is adaptable and flexible to provide longer training times and repetitive cycles for practice and proficiency of skills. 

**Note: Time allotments are estimations of the time needed to cover specified topics. Time allotment can and should be altered based on student needs. 

Week # 1 Topics Covered      Time Allotment Skill Sheet #

A.) SCBA/PPE Familiarization

1.) 2 Minute Drill    20 Mins.

         2.) Clean/Inspect/Sanitize SCBA     10 Mins. 6-I-6 & 7

         3.) SCBA Bottle Change 1 & 2 FF 10 Mins.

         4.) Bottle Bleed Down 45 Mins.

         5.) Filling SCBA Cylinders 5 Mins. 6-I-8 & 9

B.) Operations

1.) FEMA ICS 100- Student ID Setup 30 Mins.

2.) Responding on Apparatus 10 Mins 2-I-1

3.) Establishing & Operating in 

Work Zones    10 Mins.    2-I-2

4.) Emergency Scene Illumination 10 Mins. 10-I-1

C.) Preparatory

1.) Task Oriented Air 

Consumption Video 10 Mins.

2.) Cleaning/Inspecting Rope     5 Mins. 8-I-1

3.) Hand/Power Tool Maintenance 10 Mins. 11-I-1 & 2

4.) Search/Rescue Techniques 5 Mins.

Week # 2 Topics Covered      Time Allotment Skill Sheet #

A.) SCBA/PPE Familiarization

         1.) 2 Minute Drill 20 Mins.

2.) Task Oriented Air Consumption 45 Mins.

B.) Operations

            1.) Basic Hose/ Rolling Hose 20 Mins 15-I-1,2,3,4

2.) Rolling, Cleaning, Inspecting Salvage Covers & Salvage Cover Deployment- 

1&2 FF Methods      15 Mins. 18-I-2,3,6,7

            3.) Water Supply 45 Mins.

C.) Preparatory  

1.) FEMA ICS 100- Review 5 Mins.   

  2.) FEMA ICS 700     30 Mins. 

Week # 3 Topics Covered      Time Allotment Skill Sheet #

A.) SCBA/PPE Familiarization

1.) 2 Minute Drill 10 Mins.

2.) Wall Breaches 20 Mins.

3.) Mask Confidence 30 Mins.


1.) Water Supply Review 10 Mins.

2.) Hose Loads & Advances

a.) Load/Advance 

-Triple Layered Load 10 Mins. 15-I-6

-Minute Man Load 10 Mins. 15-I-10

  -Accordion Load 10 Mins. 15-I-11, 14

3.) Ground Ladders

      a.) Clean, Inspect, Maintaining     16 Mins. 12-I-1

b.) Ladder Carries 15 Mins.

c.) Ladder Deployment 15 Mins.

C.) Preparatory

              1.) Skills & ICS Review 20 Mins.

              2.) Knots 20 Mins.

Week # 4 Topics Covered      Time Allotment Skill Sheet #

A.)SCBA/PPE Familiarization

         1.) 2 Minute Drill 10 Mins.

2.) Task Oriented 

Air Consumption #2 60 Mins.

B.) Operations

            1.) Water Supply &

Advancing Hand lines 60 Mins.

C.) Preparatory

              1.) Skills & Knots Review 50 Mins

              2.) Practice Exam

Week # 5    Topics Covered Time Allotment   Skill Sheet #

A.) SCBA/PPE Familiarization

1.) 3 Minute Drill       4 Mins.

         2.) Task Oriented 

Air Consumption #3          45 Mins.

B.) Operations

1.) Water Supply &

Advancing Hand lines 30 Mins.

            2.) Victim & F.F. Rescue 30 Mins.

            3.) F.F. Self-Rescue 30 Mins.

C.) Preparatory

1.) Skills & Knots Review 20 Mins.

              2.) Practice Exam Questions    20 Mins.

Week # 6    Topics Covered Time Allotment   Skill Sheet #

A.) SCBA/PPE Familiarization 

1.) 3 Minute Drill   4 Mins.

2.) F.F. Challenge (on Air) 60 Mins.

B.) Operations

1.) Water Supply 30 Mins.

C.) Preparatory

1.) Skills Review 30 Mins.

Week # 7     Topics Covered Time Allotment   Skill Sheet #

A.) SCBA/PPE Familiarization 

1.) 3 Minute Drill 3 Mins.

B.) Operations 

1.) Advancing Hose Lines (Water ball) 90 Mins.

2.) Drill Team Drills   60 Mins.

C.) Preparatory

1.) Review Questions & Skills Review 30 Mins

Week # 8     Topics Covered Time Allotment   Skill Sheet #

A.) SCBA/PPE Familiarization 

       1.) 3 Minute Drill                       3 Mins. 

B.) Operations

                   1.) Fire Fighter Challenge 

Course #2             60 Mins.

C.) Preparatory

              1.) Overall Review of all training        60 Mins.



Know Your Buildings: Pre-Planning 101

By: Donald P. Cialone Jr., FBNY

Pre-planning is a task a lot of chief officers avoid like the plague thinking it’s unnecessary, outdated, or simply a lot of work. Pre-plans can be a lot of work, but they don’t have to be. In this article I’ll pass on some tips I’ve learned over the years about how you can establish quick and easy pre-plans and build on your foundation over time. 

I’ve highlighted four areas of pre-incident planning that you can implement. They are:

1. Developing a pre-incident plan form

2. Gathering the necessary information for the pre-plan

3. Conducting building walk throughs

4. Working in concert with I Am Responding 

Developing a Pre-Incident Plan Form

Unless you have enough committed personnel to fully implement a proper pre-incident plan program I suggest you start small. You can design a quick form on Word or Excel, print out a bunch of copies and leave them on your rigs. Dig them out when you have free time at a routine EMS call or a false alarm and fill out as much as you can. Once they have been filled out you can organize them into a binder or folder, add hydrant maps, building floor plans, or your Tier Two hazmat forms then find a spot for them back on your rig.

When implementing a pre-incident plan start with the basics: The building name, address, nearest cross street, closest hydrant location, building status, and the presence of any know hazardous materials. Down the road you can add to it as time allows. If motivated you can further investigate the facility with a visit or walk through in the future. 

In the pre-incident plans I have established for my district I have them organized into six categories with distinct colored sections. They are: Grey: General Information, Yellow: Occupancy, Blue: Water Supply/Fire Protection Systems, Green: Building Information: Purple: Utility Information, and Orange: Hazardous Materials. Keep in mind this information isn’t just for major fires. You can also use this information for virtually any incident, such as a flooded basement, smoking outlet, a natural gas leak, fire alarm activation, MCI or God forbid an Active Shooter.

Here’s how the information breaks down in each category on my district pre-plans:

General Information: Building Name, Address, Closest Cross Street, Side of the Street, Owner’s Name, Emergency Phone Number, Knox Box Location, Code for Entry Pad, Other Entry Information, Alarm Panel Location, Alarm Company, and Alarm Company Phone.

Occupancy: Vacancy, Number of Adults, Number of Children, Number and Name of Dogs, Number and Name of Cats, Other Pets, Public Assembly Permit, Occupancy Rate, Permit Expiration.

Water Supply/Fire Protection Systems: Closest Hydrant, Secondary Hydrant, Nearest Large Main, Fire Department Connections, Sprinkler System in Use, Valve Locations, Yard Hydrants in Use, Yard Hydrant Locations (x@2), Standpipes in Use, Dry Chemical Systems in Use, Halon Systems in Use.

Building Information: Occupancy Type, Construction Type, Combustibility of Contents, Fire Walls, Fire Doors, Number of Exits, Roof Type, Roof Access, Basement Present, Attic or Void Spaces, Parapet, Interior Stairs, Exposure Issues, Exposure Location (x2)

Utility Information: Interior Gas Shutoff, Exterior Gas Shutoff, Propane in Use, Interior Water Shutoff, Exterior Shut Off, Breaker Box Location, HVAC Type, HVAC Location, Emergency Generator in Use, Solar Panels in Use, Other Utility Information.

Hazardous Materials: Name of Material, Amount, Exact Location. I have also added DOT Emergency Response Guidebook numbers, so you can easily find the pages you need in a hurry. Also, where possible I have scanned the ERG and NIOSH guidebook pages and put them in I Am Responding for ease of access. Although not necessary in my pre-plans have a list of hazardous materials on site along with their CAS number for ease of reference.

I have also added notes into some sections with special considerations or warnings such as:


Keep in mind these are the fields I have chosen you can change them to better suite your needs.

Gathering the Necessary Information

General Information: Your best bet here is to either physically visit the location or do a google search of the business, either way you should be able to verify a lot of the information in this category. Another way to get information on the building is through your Tier Two reports. These reports typically list a lot of the building and personnel information. They should have the facility name, physical address, number of occupants, emergency contacts with phone numbers and emails, and a chemical inventory with amounts and exact locations of hazardous materials.

If you decide you want to do a walkthrough of a facility I would contact your Building/Fire Inspectors Office first, usually they have a rapport with the owner or manager already and can arrange something. Your other option is to phone the owner or manager yourself and request a walkthrough. Be sure to tell them you’re doing a pre-incident plan and you’re not looking to cite them for fire code violations. Most facilities will welcome you and escort you through their facility with a safety rep or manager.  

Occupancy: The only item in this section that may be obvious is the building status, most vacant structures are well know to everyone in your first due districts. The rest of the information can be obtained from your Building or Fire Inspection Offices. By law, buildings with public assembly areas must have Public Assembly Permits renewed yearly.  An occupancy rate establishes the amount of people safely allowed into the public assembly areas at a time. 

Water Supply/Fire Protection Systems: This is the easy part, at least for hydrant locations. Contact your city or county water department and request an updated list of hydrant locations. These are typically in a Microsoft Excel format which can easily be downloaded onto I Am Responding. In suburban Erie County contact the Erie County Water Authority at 716-849-4444. In the City of Buffalo contact the Buffalo Water Authority at 716-847-1065. Be sure and add the main sizes for at least the two closest hydrants and add the nearest large main in case your incident is a fire that requires a larger water supply. For private standpipes and hydrants, you have two options, contact the buildings owner or manager and request the information or contact your local Building or Fire Inspectors Office for the building plans. If the building is new you might be able to get digital floor plans and system maps. 



Skills School

By: Lt Roger Brennan, Ellicott Creek Fire Department

Believe me when I tell you, nothing I am about to say is new, ground breaking or earth shattering. In fact, it is largely my opinion of ideas, thoughts, and things learned from fire service legends and great instructors and mentors. My hope is something that I am passing on will spark something in you and force you to take a step back and evaluate how you, your crew, and your department operate and train, both good and bad. 

We as fire fighters, we put our faith in our equipment, training, and leadership. It is almost impossible to do what we do without putting all of these together. My focus is on our training, specifically on what I believe is our most important tool is: the SCBA.  Sometimes our equipment is older but not as “proven” if you will as equipment used by paid or more active departments. Equipment that works today, may not work tomorrow, but we may not know this until next week: when the truck checks are performed. 

On the same token, newer equipment can be problematic as well. New technology can help us perform better but may also cause us to lose our basic skills when relied upon to heavily. So what does this have to do with fire fighter survival?  “EVERYTHING” It is IMPERATIVE that we become intimately familiar with every piece of equipment we use. Sadly, the facts are that we in the volunteer ranks cannot dedicate the amount of time needed to achieve this level of training and knowledge. That said, “WE must make our training time count, we must get the most out of our training.” 

Let us dive right into talking about our most important piece of equipment, and most trusted tool! The “SCBA” After all, it is our lifeline, our protection from the harmful atmosphere produced by combustion.  In order to do what we do, we must be able to master air management techniques and handle SCBA emergencies. We all know that everyone is different when it comes to air management, but everyone can master “How to breath” and gain a basic understanding of their personal “Air Consumption Rate’s” (ACR’s). 

It is time to take pride in your tool by becoming confident in its abilities and your ability to use it. It is time to take ownership of your tool, on that day when you put it on it becomes yours, so know it and treat it as well as you know yourself. 

In his presentation “SCBA Bootcamp: A Firefighter’s Survival School” at FDIC2018, Chief Trevor Steedman, (Palm Beach Fire Department) states, “Ultimately, we owe it to ourselves, our families and the people we serve to become masters of our trade. The basic tenant of our profession is the SCBA.” He uses the example of the U.S. Marine Corps Rifleman’s Creed, substituting the term “SCBA” for the word “rifle,” to express the relationship we should have with our SCBA.  

It can be challenging to create a good SCBA training program, but the benefits of instilling good skills and mask confidence cannot compare. Chief Steedman suggest your training program should address the following questions.

1. Does your SCBA procedures and drills prepare you for almost every inevitability?

2. Are principles of good air management stressed and practiced?

3. How often do you personally practice your SCBA air management and survival Skills? 

Here are a few drill ideas Chief Steedman suggests to enhance your SCBA/Mask confidence and establishing ACR’s for your firefighters. 

The Assembly Line: Strip down SCBA’s into its basic parts, place the parts in a small room, have crew preform a search, find the parts and assemble the SCBA’s while vision is obstructed. When all crew members are on air and packed up, exit the room.  Add in a time factor for a more challenging drill. 

D-Fence:  A “Mayday” based drill which will simulate a pinned firefighter using a large section of chain link fence. Place the fencing over the firefighter and hold down the corners to immobilize them. Emphasize the need for proper mayday procedures and use of air management/ breathing techniques.  

The Ant Farm:A great drill for establishing ACR’s under consistent working stress and forming solid ground ladder heeling and climbing skills. Setup two (2) ladders at different heights. FF’s will ascend and descend in a particular order. Monitor ARC’s and compare upon each completion of a lap. Each FF will have a basic understanding of air usage. 

Drop Zone:Another entangle drill. Unlike the D-Fence, this drill uses flexible snow fencing and involves multiple firefighters. While two fire fighters are preforming a search in near proximity, drop a large section of fencing on them to simulate entanglement in wires and grid of a drop ceiling. Individual efforts can potentially lead to each member becoming more entangled by the other. Firefighters must work together to escape. Due to the inexpensive and simplicity of the prop, fire fighters are encouraged to use any and all means to escape. 

A couple others are the “Triple Crown and“SCBA Baseball” (no not playing baseball on SCBA’s).  These are not the Holy Grail or magic bullet to SCBA and air management confidence. I am sure a google search will turn up many more. However, incorporating these into you training program are sure to enhance your abilities. 

We all have those “go-to” methods but we must know and have alternate plans when those do not work. Being practiced and skilled at those Plan B’s can save time and air and most importantly, “your Life”. Take the time to become “Masters of your tools and your trade.”  Thanks for reading. I hope you find it useful.  Be safe and survival smart!  

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