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Incident Size Up

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  • Incident Size Up

    OK, a question for all, not just the Officers in the group.

    Size up. How do you personally size up an incident when you respond?

    Do you follow the 13 point method, a five point method, the seat of your pants. Do you perform any size up at all?

    There are many schools of thought, and many methods. Just interested to see how and if they are applied in the "real" world.


  • #2
    alot of the time i give the size-up becouse the officer is getting ready to fight fire or when i ride the seat acting up. i give my size up as engine 10 on scene with one story wood frame residence heavy smoke be out big booster (1 3/4") pass command to next due officer i give who i am what type of building or field, conditions and my actions attack investigation ect. and who is taking command. command is usuall passed to the second company. i keep it simple and quick there is no time to have a long speech of what you have it is time to get to work.
    From the book "The Heart Behind The Hero" from Jon Mc Duffie in memory of Joe Dupee LAFD


    • #3
      In theory, doing the 13 point "COAL WAS WEALTH" or its variation "WALLACE WAS HOT" is the ideal thing to do...if the address you are responding to has a pre-plan.

      In reality, you end up doing the "fly by wire" version! There are so many variables. That's why we have to take the Sgt. Gunny Highway (Clint Eastwood in the film Heartbreak Ridge) approach...overcome, adapt and survive!
      ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
      Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY


      • #4
        Originally posted by Captain Gonzo
        ..overcome, adapt and survive!
        Rock and Roll Capt!

        I agree, having a nice check list is great and everything, but we all know what happens with a check list on the street... it goes into storage with the text book

        The majority of our calls are MVAs so we have all become very good at sizing up that scene: It is standing practice to have the rescue pull past the scene, and the Engine stop in behind the scene.

        Engine ---- MVA ---- RESCUE

        The rescue pulling by the scene is able to do a very good size up from three of the four sides. The staging of the two vehicles protects the scene from traffic flow.

        As for structure fires, Gonzo pretty much sums it up. However, some things to look for is smoke pattern: colour, density, location, volumn, venting, etc. Powerlines, exposures, vehicles in the drive way, by-standers, building construction, possible household heating, you name it... the list could be as thick as a book and you will still miss things...

        Originally posted by Captain Gonzo
        ..overcome, adapt and survive!
        "No one ever called the Fire Department for doing something smart..."


        • #5
          ...we're getting there

          Ok, yes the radio report is size up, or part of it, but I am looking more toward what Gonzo was saying. COAL WAS WEALTH or whatever other system you use to evalute the incident and decide on your course of action. All of us should be using some sort of size up, even if we are not in the actual "command" position. When you go out the door you should begin thinking.....part of town, hydrant or no, best access, type of buildings, unusual hazards........This goes for the officer right down to the guy riding hydrant. Hopefully.

          I just read a great article......of course now I can't find it (hafta work on my toilet tank filing system) on the BELOW method of size up. Its a lot easier to operate than COAL WAS WEALTH, but accomplishes the same goals.



          • #6
            from one who hates long radio traffic

            As a company officer I hate lengthy size-ups from anyone, including myself. Nothing is more frustrating than 2-3 units trying to "at scene" while the first due is giving the 13 point, 3 page essay w/ bibliography, size-up. My personal feelings (and by no means those of my sr. officers) there should be very little radio traffic at all, except for pertinent fireground traffic. If Fire Alarm dispatches E1,T1,E2, R1, M1, Batt Chief then why does each unit have to say "Engine ?? Enroute". If they were dispatched and they are going on the air, then they are obviously enroute- if they aren't for some reason, then they can advise further. I prefer each unit assigned just give their radio number when responding. The tones drop, units are assigned, and when E1 goes, they simply say Engine 1. Fire alarm should know what they are doing. AS for on scene and size up- Size up show be simple and concise- "T1 at scene. Smoke showing from 2 story residence." all incoming companies then know they have a working fire and should precede with the duties they are prescribed by guidelines. Similarly, "Batt Chief at scene. Main St. Command. Working Fire." Then as units "at scene" there is plenty of dead air time to give assignments. If I want to hear a story I'll go to story time at my kid's school. Otherwise, keep it quiet!.
            celer et audax


            • #7
              A method of size up I learned to use that is a little shorter than the typical 13 point size up. is the acronym BELOW

              Building - Type of building House,store, apartment etc. type of construction
              Extent- how involved is fire? is it confined? exposures?
              Location - where is fire upper floors? kitchen? etc.
              Occupany - life hazards, egress routes
              Water supply - Hydrant locations etc.

              this method was desigbned to be a little less overwhelming especially for new officers hopefully it will help!!!
              "Firefighting is a team Sport, so know your place and do your job"


              • #8

                Whats wrong with something simple.

                Fire on the 2nd Floor, 3-Story Occupied Multiple Dwelling, 30x40.

                For an arriving engine. That should be fine to inform all others responding in Where the fire is and size.

                Leave exposures and details to whomever recieves overall command, like the Battalion or Division Chief.

                Engine Co officers should Keep It Simple Stupid. Put out the fire before the Chief arrives and you elimate a whole lot of needless radio traffic to start with
                Doc DC3<br />ex FDNY (E74)


                • #9
                  I think what is going on here is confusing "size-up" with the "brief initial report". As taught, size-up has 3 components: pre-incident, on-scene, and on-going (situation status and resource status evaluation). The purpose of the size-up is to identify problems (think) before actions are taken. The purpose of the brief initial report (BIR) is to give the other companies a "heads-up" of what is occurring. The BIR should contain about 6 points of information.

                  With that said, I think the "best" size-up would be to follow the 13 points - WALLACE WAS HOT or COAL WAS WEALTH. You do not need to consider these at every incident, i.e., most residential fires do not have auxillary appliances, but they are a valuable method of taking into consideration all things on the incident scene that will effect operations. Some of the 13 points are very obvious and do not need much thinking, such as time of day and weather. Although obvious, a little thought could help use those 2 to identify problems. Without going into each one, there is a wealth of information that must be considered, not only by the fire officer, but any firefighter who is putting his/her life in harms way!

                  I encourage my personnel to use the 13 point size-up mostly because it makes them think. I want firefighters who are thinking in terms of the big picture, not just the fire before them.


                  • #10

                    077 EXACTLY.....

                    We all need to THINK. Every call, every time. whether in the seat as the Officer, or riding in the back, or driving.

                    I am still looking for the article about B-E-L-O-W, but the brother that posted it covered most of what it said. The idea being that it was a much simpler method to work with that allowed a basis for incoming officers to exapnd upon.



                    • #11
                      When I ride officer of the first unit on scene I like to keep things short and simple. My mind will be running a mile a minute, taking in everything and figuring out the best course of action, but I like to keep things simple on the radio.

                      For example, I would say as we arrive on scene:

                      "Malahat Base, Engine One on Scene, Two Vehicle MVA, 1 km south of Petro canada, south bound lane, stand by for SitRep, portable 26 establishing command."


                      "Malahat Base, Engine One on scene, possible structure fire, 657 blah blah road, smoke showing, 26 establishing command."

                      Really simple.

                      Unit ID, Call type, Address, anything that might help in coming units.

                      For us, the second and third unit is usually only a minute or so behind us. Therefore, getting on scene, radioing from the truck radio, then I switch over to my portable and start to set things up. There isn't enough time to read a text book over the radio, and by the time you are done the fire/accident is over.
                      "No one ever called the Fire Department for doing something smart..."


                      • #12
                        26, I agree about the radi report, I was driving more toward the thought process you go thru while responding...your personal size up.

                        Bldg const, time of day, occupied.......etc



                        • #13
                          Remember all of these acronyms are just memory tools, don't fall into the trap of thinking you have to use them all the time or worse concentrating on what to say more than figuring out what you have in front of you. There is nothing wrong with giving a brief initial size up stating the obvious and after a quick investigation giving a full size up with initial orders. On most structures, especially single family dwellings, I walk around the structure before regiving a detailed size up and orders. This gives my crews the time to properly dress, start establishing a water supply, and other basic task, but most of all it allows me to know what I have and confidently report and assign task. I have been asked how I can sound so calm on the radio,and it is because I take the time to know what I have before I give a detailed size up and start assigning staged assets. Remember, take your time, find out what you have, and maintain your presence on the radio. If you take your time and do it right, so will your crews.
                          Make your weaknesses your strengths


                          • #14
                            It is interesting to see and hear all the different methods of sizing up an incident. I can remember REVAS and REVS CO and Wallace Was Hot and all the other interesting size-up stuff thats been around. Most recently Mike Trupac published a book called "Size-up" based on the fifteen point FDNY method. I have worked as a battalion chief in Albuquerque for eleven years and now the chief of training and I'll state for the record none of these tools are useful on the fireground. In preplanning they are great but in the real world we operate on recognition prime decision making. We must practice size up reports and then use our experience to identify the things that matter from the things that don't. It is only important to identify the significant items not fifteen interesting things. Keep going and work your system don't worry about Wallace.
                            May the Good Lord hold you all safe in the palm of His loving hand till next we meet.


                            • #15
                              Re: Bing-freakin-O

                              Originally posted by hfd66truck
                              077 EXACTLY.....

                              We all need to THINK. Every call, every time. whether in the seat as the Officer, or riding in the back, or driving.

                              I am still looking for the article about B-E-L-O-W, but the brother that posted it covered most of what it said. The idea being that it was a much simpler method to work with that allowed a basis for incoming officers to exapnd upon.

                              Try Fire Engineering's website article archives, their free! Here is the link



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