By Dave Werner
If you’re like me you remember the first time you held that football playbook in your hands. If you’re even more like me you felt that wave of helplessness as you flipped through the pages and tried to decipher the x’s and o’s into something meaningful. It didn’t take long though for the plays to start coming together. Before long you were able to look at those static images and envision how the play would develop. Now those feelings of helplessness had been transformed into confidence in the system.
This same process can be put to use in regards to our fireground assignments. In fact, I would argue that our fireground playbook could potentially be even easier to understand than the football equivalent. How many fireground tasks do we typically encounter? Fire attack, search, ventilation, rehab, and RIT are probably some of the more common tasks. Let’s look at some examples of how we can use the playbook model to organize our assignments.
Looking at fire attack, let’s assume a crew of four on the engine. Enroute the crew is notified that they will be assigned to fire attack. Cue the fire attack play! Every person on the engine now has the plan in their heads. Approaching the scene the engineer spots the hydrant. On cue, one of the firefighters steps out to catch the plug. Pulling up to the scene the officer goes through the size up. While this is happening the other firefighter is stretching an attack line. As the engineer completes the hook up at the engine the hydrant firefighter charges the line and proceeds to the scene. The officer has come off of the engine with the TIC and the irons which he hands to the firefighter at the door while he continues his 360. The firefighter forces entry while the hydrant firefighter arrives, signals the driver to charge the line, bleeds the nozzle, and prepares to enter. As the officer completes the 360 he informs the firefighters what is going on and where the fire is. With everyone masked up the crew advances in and gets a good knock on the fire.
It could be argued that this is how every engine crew should arrive on scene and go into action, and I would say you are correct. But look at how many steps and factors come into play. How smooth is this operation going to go if every member of the crew doesn’t have a clear picture as to what they will be doing? The small things can be easily overlooked, such as who grabs what tools and who moves where on scene. Of course these things can be corrected on scene, but how does that affect our tempo?
Using the example above, can you see how easily “plays” could be assembled for the other fireground tasks? These plays become even more beneficial when used with the more equipment intensive tasks such as RIT and ventilation. Remember, it is the small details which can cause us the most trouble. Critics of this system may argue that every scene is unique and will require a different approach. I would argue that crews can utilize preset plays, but have the ability to add options, just like on the football field. For example, use the fire attack play, but this time have the crew assigned to operate a 2 ½” handline on an exposure. The core responsibilities remain almost the same, with a few minor twists to account for the assignment. Basically, small adjustments to the plays should not have a devastating effect on the flow of events.
This is just one example of how to best organize personnel on the fireground. The key is to have a system in place that is simple and keeps everyone on the same page. An additional benefit to the playbook system is that it automatically sets up your training schedule. As an officer, you can now use every one of these plays as a training opportunity. Once your crew becomes proficient with the core plays, start adding the options to the plays to expand your readiness level. There are endless opportunities with this system. Whether you decide to try out the playbook system or something else, come up with something to make sure that your crew knows what it is going to do before the airbrakes are pulled. As always, stay smart, and stay combat ready!