Disaster Management for the Company Officer


Disaster management can be extremely challenging for the company officer. Unfortunately I have seen my share of disasters while deploying on 5 different tornadoes responses. Early on I realized that middle management becomes a very difficult place to work because of the sheer magnitude of many of these disasters. I learned a tip awhile back that really helps with lining out the responsibilities of each crew member so that we fall in line with the National Incident Management System. When you find yourself in a disaster management situation ask yourself these questions.

What's my job?

This is the first question you should ask in order to define your role in the response.

Who do I work for?

It is very important to define who you work for or who you should report to throughout the operation. This will help disseminate information through the proper channels and reduce the duplication of effort.

Who works for me?

Things will move quickly during the initial stages of a disaster operation. Find out who will be working under you to make sure you have the ability to perform personnel accountability reports and can effectively manage those assigned to work with you.

Where do I get my stuff?

Your assignment can vary greatly and each response may require equipment that is not readily available. You need to find out where to retrieve specialized equipment and how to request additional equipment.

How long do I have?

Defining your operational period will help you understand the time incident command staff believe you should be finished with your assignment. You need to report your status through the proper chain of command and if additional time is needed let your supervisor know what is going on.

In the video below I discuss these topics and how to use the above 5 questions to help you get organized during a disaster response.


Drones for the Fire Service | Part 2 and 3 | Getting Started


Drones are growing increasingly popular as tools for firefighters and emergency responders. Getting started into drone operations can be very difficult without the guidance of someone who knows the process. This new technology grabs the attention of many of us in the field and we immediately see all the ways we could start using them. However, within a couple hours of shopping for the latest and greatest drone, our dreams are shattered by rules and regulations set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). I have personally experienced these processes and I believe I can help you move in the right direction. My initial reactions to the FAA rules and regulations were negative. I had a hard time understanding how a kid could receive a drone as a birthday present and fly it that afternoon but we couldn't perform search and rescue operations with the exact same drone. While I still have my opinions about certain operations, I understand why the FAA created these regulations and how important they are in order to integrate drones into the National Airspace System (NAS).

In the two videos below I will cover the two primary routes to take when establishing a fire service drone program. These two routes both allow you to fly for many emergency operations and each has it's own advantages and disadvantages. The first is Part 107 which is the commercial drone operations certificate. This certificate allows you to perform many different operations but requires you to take and pass the Part 107 exam. The second method is to apply for a Public Certificate of Authorization (COA) which will allow your fire department to operate a drone for public operations.

Part 107 Getting Started


Public COA Getting Started


Situational Awareness Video


This is a very good video put together by Peoria Fire Training.  The video details a strip mall fire on 99th Avenue just north of Peoria in Arizona.  Take a look at the video, share it with others, and take a look at some of the information below.

Situational Awareness and Decision Making

As firefighters we often face a multitude of decisions that need to be made at a moments notice.  This situations are very hard to prepare for on the spot, they must be churning in your mind before they happen.  Fundamentally what we do at a structure fire hardly ever changes.  However, the situation we are faced with is never the same.  We must rely on those fundamental play calls that every department should have down to a science.  Then when we encounter extraordinary situations we have the ability to audible to a solution.

So, if we have the plays mastered and we have rolled scenarios through our minds prior to the incident then our primary focus should be to recognize the blind side that can come at any moment.  All other functions on the fireground should be fluid and understood so that we remain open to audibles and call them when we need to.

Hats off to the Peoria Fire Department for sharing this information.  With training videos like these thousands of firefighters can learn from their experiences and recognize those red flags that are present on many of our day to day incidents.

Electrical Hazards


As firefighters we respond to many incidents where down power lines become an issue.  This video is a reminder that power lines can energize fences, structural components, water, etc.  Always use caution around these lines and evaluate your incidents constantly.  At this recent mobile home fire; firefighters were performing an attack when the service line at the rear of the structure fell and began arcing against the mobile home.  This could have caused the entire metal framed mobile home to become energized.  All firefighters were notified on radio and face to face to ensure they were aware of the hazard.  This was already a defensive fire so it was decided to back away from the structure until the power company could safely disconnect the line.

Firefighter Positional Assignments


Many fire departments all over the country utilize riding assignments in order to pre-assign a firefighter’s roles and responsibilities.  I have heard of many arguments for and against riding assignments.  I encourage you to thoroughly research the different methods that are being used and find a method that works best for your department.  In this article we will break down assignments into three common types.  We will then review the advantages and disadvantages of these methods. Reservoir Fire Department

In order to grasp an understanding of why departments use assignments let’s use an analogy to get started.  Every time we respond to a working fire we are essentially running a play just like a football team.  We can compare running offense and defense to the roles of the engine and truck companies.  Even if you do not have an official “truck company” you still have to play defense or you will lose the game.  If you took the best football players in the country and assembled them on a team with no playbook they would not be very effective.  They may be a very talented group and make things work, but giving them specific roles and responsibilities will enable them to perform much more efficiently.

Sandlot Football

The first, and most inefficient method of making assignments would be to assign the roles and responsibilities when you arrive on scene.  Just like a quarterback would draw routes in the dirt before running a play in a sandlot football game.  This is without a doubt the most inefficient method of assigning tasks.  However, many departments are bound to a version of this method due to a lack of staffing or fluctuation in response.  This is typically where volunteer fire departments are at a major disadvantage.  Many volunteer departments never know how many firefighters will respond or what equipment will arrive at a given time.  To combat this problem volunteer firefighters can do a few things to ease the confusion.  If riding in an apparatus firefighters can predetermine roles and responsibilities based on riding position or can rapidly discuss the positions prior to arrival.  If you allow P.O.V. response to fire scenes, then assigning functions on the fire-ground instead of specific tasks will make the assignment process much more efficient.  For example: assign firefighters to perform horizontal ventilation instead of telling them to go grab specific tools and which window to break.

Offense and Defense

The second method of positional assignments would be to assign each arriving company a role and responsibility.  This is basically like understanding that you will be playing offense or defense but you still do not know exactly what position you are playing.  This is largely because you lack the staffing to fill every position on the team so you might have to play running back and wide receiver.  In this method departments typically make assignments based on the order you arrive on scene.  The first arriving engine is generally Fire Attack, the second engine is typically Water Supply and the third is a Support Role.  This is a great way to have the advantage of predetermined roles for departments that are small and lack the staffing to assign detailed tasks to each firefighter.  For instance, if the department does not operate an aerial or dedicated truck company you can still assign the truck company functions to the third or fourth due engine.

Teammate Positions

The last and most efficient method of creating positional assignments is by assigning riding positions.  Now you not only know if you are playing offense or defense, but you also know exactly what your position is and what your role will be when the center snaps the ball.  This is typically used in larger urban departments such as the FDNY.  The more firefighters you have the more detailed your assignments can be.  The FDNY will give you a role, responsibility and even a tool assignment for each riding position.  While this helps fulfill the essential fire-ground functions it is very difficult for most departments to take riding assignments to the level of the FDNY.  Most departments will have to meet somewhere in the middle.  This is just simple math, when an engine is staffed with five firefighters they are able to perform more efficiently because each firefighter has a more focused responsibility.  If you are a textbook junkie you might know this as the division of labor.  Using riding assignments will reduce the duplication of effort on scene and will offer an enormous advantage to departments capable of assigning riding positions.

E-One 100' Platform

One of the most direct counter arguments to making predetermined assignments is that every fire is different so if we make predetermined assignments it will limit the abilities of the firefighters to adjust and adapt.  If you are using this logic then essentially you are saying that a football team should go to a game without a playbook or without knowing who should play what position.  Football coaches do not throw out their game plan because the defense they face this week is different from what they are used to.  When football players know their responsibilities they are able to audible to another play when the need arises.  Firefighters should be capable of doing the exact same thing.  If you know your role is ventilation and the fire requires a vertical vent, you do it.  If the fire requires PPV, then you audible and perform PPV.  The worst case scenario is that the fire did need a vertical vent but no one was assigned the responsibility of performing ventilation.  It is also said that every fire we respond to is different.  While this is true; what we do at every fire is typically very similar.  You do not have to over complicate things.  It doesn’t matter if you are fighting a single story residential fire or a multi-story high-rise, you will have to perform the same functions.  The only difference is that it typically takes more personnel, equipment and resources to perform those functions.  Let’s take a look at the common essential functions.

Fire Attack

This is typically the assignment of the first arriving company.  The faster and more efficiently we put water on the fire the better it gets for everyone.

Water Supply

Water supply is typically assigned to the second due company.  This may require the company to perform a forward lay to supply an engine with water, connect to an FDC or standpipe system, or perform a relay operation.

Search and Rescue

This assignment is usually given to a truck company but can easily be assigned based on your arrival on scene.  Crews might perform forcible entry, throw ladders, or perform searches in order to rescue victims.


Ventilation is typically assigned to a truck company also but can be performed by any engine company with the necessary equipment.

We can elaborate tremendously on the above essential functions and can argue that many more essential functions could be added but with using the K.I.S.S. method those are the functions that need to be filled.  If we had one Incident Commander, one Driver/Operator and eight firefighters we should be able to fill each of those functions.  As the incident becomes larger and more in depth then it will require more resources to perform the same functions.  Take the time to evaluate your department’s game plan and discuss how your assignments could help you perform on the fire-ground.

We have also provided you with a short video on Positional Assignments.