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I'm interested to get views from experienced officers in relation to how you best sectorise an incident ground to reduce the span of control. The two methods I'm familiar with are to sectorise geographically, i.e. appointing a sector commander for each geographical sector (A,B,C etc) who control all operations within that sector under the direction of the Ops commander. This seems to be most commonly used in our service. The other method, which I am finding favour with, is to sectorise the incident ground functions, i.e. OIC fire suppression, OIC search & rescue, OIC ventilation etc, under the command of the Ops commander. This method seems to allow simultaneous operations to occur throughout the whole building, with less chance of overlap or opposing operations. My thoughts are that in a defensive operation involving more than 1 face of the building, the geographical sectors are useful, but where internal operations involving more than one function need to happen, the functional sectorisation is easier to manage. I'd be very interested in how some of you guys (and girls) conduct your fireground management in realtion to this, having just been promoted to the level where this will be my my responsibility.
Cheers
Mike D

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Replies to This Discussion

Michael-
In order to be NIMS compliant we utilize Divisions and Groups. We outed sectors Salt Lake City a couple of years ago. Yes it is a matter of semantics, however common terminology allows us to work well with neighboring agencies. Divisions describe a geographic position ie; roof, interior, Charlie, etc. and they mainly stay put. Meaning they don't move. Groups are more descriptive and mainly indicate an activity ie; Fire attack, ventilation, search and rescue. They are free to move about. Example Fire Attack Group, could indicate an entire 2 story structure where as Division 2 would indicate crews working on the second floor.
I hope this helps. good luck with your new position and keep studying and asking questions.
Eric
Captain SLCFD
Thanks Eric

I find that very interesting. Just to clarify, a division may have one or more groups operating under its command. For example an interior division may have fire suppression and search and rescue groups. Would the group commander/OIC report to the Division OIC? Operating a good incident ground management structure is the key to safe and effective operations in my view. Nearly every injury, or near miss we have on the incident ground relates back to communication and command and control. I'm real keen on getting on top of this, especially since we don't get the working jobs as often these days, so the opportunities to learn from experience and get it right are getting less.

Thanks again
Mike D

Eric Myers said:
Michael-
In order to be NIMS compliant we utilize Divisions and Groups. We outed sectors Salt Lake City a couple of years ago. Yes it is a matter of semantics, however common terminology allows us to work well with neighboring agencies. Divisions describe a geographic position ie; roof, interior, Charlie, etc. and they mainly stay put. Meaning they don't move. Groups are more descriptive and mainly indicate an activity ie; Fire attack, ventilation, search and rescue. They are free to move about. Example Fire Attack Group, could indicate an entire 2 story structure where as Division 2 would indicate crews working on the second floor.
I hope this helps. good luck with your new position and keep studying and asking questions.
Eric
Captain SLCFD
Yes the Group Supervisor if operating in a particular Division would report to the Division Supervisor who would then report to the I/C. However, if the incident is small enough a Group Supervisor could report directly to the I/C as well. For instance a Ventilation Group may be working independently while a Division could have a Fire Attack Group and Search and Rescue Group. The key to the success of this model is discipline and having every member on your department compliant and trained up. Google ICS 100, 200, 300, etc and it will guide you to what NIMS is all about. As you say, good communication , command, and control will greatly cut down on near misses and LODD's. With less working "jobs" we need to take advantage of the training opportunities that are out there. Table tops, literature, and discussion groups are a great source of knowledge.
Eric

Michael Dombroski said:
Thanks Eric
I find that very interesting. Just to clarify, a division may have one or more groups operating under its command. For example an interior division may have fire suppression and search and rescue groups. Would the group commander/OIC report to the Division OIC? Operating a good incident ground management structure is the key to safe and effective operations in my view. Nearly every injury, or near miss we have on the incident ground relates back to communication and command and control. I'm real keen on getting on top of this, especially since we don't get the working jobs as often these days, so the opportunities to learn from experience and get it right are getting less.
Thanks again
Mike D

Eric Myers said:
Michael-
In order to be NIMS compliant we utilize Divisions and Groups. We outed sectors Salt Lake City a couple of years ago. Yes it is a matter of semantics, however common terminology allows us to work well with neighboring agencies. Divisions describe a geographic position ie; roof, interior, Charlie, etc. and they mainly stay put. Meaning they don't move. Groups are more descriptive and mainly indicate an activity ie; Fire attack, ventilation, search and rescue. They are free to move about. Example Fire Attack Group, could indicate an entire 2 story structure where as Division 2 would indicate crews working on the second floor.
I hope this helps. good luck with your new position and keep studying and asking questions.
Eric
Captain SLCFD
NIMS SHMIMS. Yes, we have to comply -- no issue there, BUT the people who set up all those crazy boxes and think they are ever going to be filled on 99% of the incidents haven't been on a real fireground for years. If you have to fill in all thiose boxes, you won't be in charge!! I like to use a "street-smart" type system I learned from Chief Jim Smith of Philly. I like to set up Divisions based on what geographical areas that are affected. I assign a Chief to the fire bldg (Interior Div. -- some call this Operations, i don't agree, just my opinion there) I then assign a Roof Division if it is a flat roof and then assign divisions to my exposures such Bravo Division or Delta Division. I have found that it makes organization and accountability easer. I usually assign a Division to anywhere I can't see from the CP. It's like filling boxes. Got a problem area on the fireground? Assign someone to supervise it, let everyone know (over the radio) who it is, assign resources, and monitor for progress/issues. Groups are alos useful, but i only use them if they are going to be operating in different divisions at any given time such as a salvage group or utility group. This system has worked well for me. Great post Mike. Be safe
We all must comply and be trained in the use of NIMS. While I have been on larger incidents where this is used, training and class is the best place to find it in the real world. My biggest concern in my town or on an assist, is that everyone knows what the other is saying/talking about. We do sector out fires, similar to what Chief Avillo describes. The goal for our own safety is to all be on the same sheet of music, from the IC to the newest probie on the fireground.
Hey Anthony & Jeff,

Thanks, and all best to you and your families for the New Year. As you know it is summer down here and we celebrate Christmas and New Year outside on the BBQ with our shorts and sun hats. I don't imagine you'll be doing that.

The issue I've sen in the past with the geographical sectors, or divisions, or whatever, is that sometimes they can work too independantly of each other. The key here is succesful communication. The action plan must be very clear to all sector commanders, and they must also be in communication with each other. One of the causes of firefighter injuries over here is opposing hoselines at large fires. There is also the posibility that search operations may either overlap, or worse, have missed areas if the commanders of each sector are not quite on the same page. When I have operated under the functional sector system i.e. search & rescue OIC, ventilation OIC, fire suppresion OIC etc. a more holistic approach is taken to each function, and OIC's can be appointed to specific tasks within the sector. I like this approach, but haven't had the practical experience to really put it to the test. There just aren't the number of working jobs that there once was.

We too have a CIMS structure (sounds a little like NIMS) that is impractical. Like you, if we attempted to fill the slots we would all have jerkins on with an array of positions, and there would be no-one left to fight the fire.

I appreciate the voice of experience. Thanks again

Mike D

Anthony Avillo said:
NIMS SHMIMS. Yes, we have to comply -- no issue there, BUT the people who set up all those crazy boxes and think they are ever going to be filled on 99% of the incidents haven't been on a real fireground for years. If you have to fill in all thiose boxes, you won't be in charge!! I like to use a "street-smart" type system I learned from Chief Jim Smith of Philly. I like to set up Divisions based on what geographical areas that are affected. I assign a Chief to the fire bldg (Interior Div. -- some call this Operations, i don't agree, just my opinion there) I then assign a Roof Division if it is a flat roof and then assign divisions to my exposures such Bravo Division or Delta Division. I have found that it makes organization and accountability easer. I usually assign a Division to anywhere I can't see from the CP. It's like filling boxes. Got a problem area on the fireground? Assign someone to supervise it, let everyone know (over the radio) who it is, assign resources, and monitor for progress/issues. Groups are alos useful, but i only use them if they are going to be operating in different divisions at any given time such as a salvage group or utility group. This system has worked well for me. Great post Mike. Be safe
Great post by Chief Avillo. We've become very NIMSy in the last few years, only to find that we've tried to complicate the fireground. We decided to slow down and really look at what we're doing as far as compliance. We use groups and divisions, but as Chief Avillo notes, as needed. Depending on the size of your FD, you may need a few more boxes checked to ensure coordination between aid departments, or you may use very few as your FD operates under stricter SOG's.

One issue I really think NIMS has made a mess of is labeling the fireground. In an effort to make a system work nationwide, NIMS advocates are asking FD's change to a universal A,B,C,D Division, with group this or that. We tend to use a more common sense approach using more plain text: A floor is called a Floor, not a division, we have stuck by the numbered sides of the building over using A,B,C,D due to confusion of B,C and D while wearing SCBA, though using the phonetic alphabet is an easy fix to that. Still, we always used numbers and given that this is something we consider extremely important for everyone to fully grasp, why change?

The use of plain English is promoted over silly shortened acronyms or numbers. If I'm on the second floor at the side 3 windows I say; "I'm on the second floor in the rear". Not "Side 3 Division C". Or "third floor in the two-three corner."

So while we must try to become/maintain NIMS compliance we cannot lose sight of why we're labeling all this in the first place: to ensure we can rapidly respond to the needs in those areas.
I think you misunderstood my point. My point is to not fill out an organizational chart while letting the fire get away from you. It is simply the system that I and my department currently use. It works well for 1 and 2 alarms to manage resources in your head. Anything greater will require additional staff and something to keep track of your resources. Span of control 3-7 with 5...blah blah blah. By the color or your helmet I think you already get it. Please feel free to respond I am always willing to learn, research, and try new ideas. Be safe.
Eric

Anthony Avillo said:
NIMS SHMIMS. Yes, we have to comply -- no issue there, BUT the people who set up all those crazy boxes and think they are ever going to be filled on 99% of the incidents haven't been on a real fireground for years. If you have to fill in all thiose boxes, you won't be in charge!! I like to use a "street-smart" type system I learned from Chief Jim Smith of Philly. I like to set up Divisions based on what geographical areas that are affected. I assign a Chief to the fire bldg (Interior Div. -- some call this Operations, i don't agree, just my opinion there) I then assign a Roof Division if it is a flat roof and then assign divisions to my exposures such Bravo Division or Delta Division. I have found that it makes organization and accountability easer. I usually assign a Division to anywhere I can't see from the CP. It's like filling boxes. Got a problem area on the fireground? Assign someone to supervise it, let everyone know (over the radio) who it is, assign resources, and monitor for progress/issues. Groups are alos useful, but i only use them if they are going to be operating in different divisions at any given time such as a salvage group or utility group. This system has worked well for me. Great post Mike. Be safe

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