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Operational Guides

Incident Specific Operational Guides for firefighters

Members: 73
Latest Activity: May 30, 2023

Fireground Operational Guides

Free Tactical Worksheets and Operational Tips for Fire Service Professionals. The information we are going to give away in this group has helped many firefighters score high on promotional exams and operate effectively on the firegound.


The basis of this information is from my new book Fireground Operational Guides, which I developed with Deputy Chief Michael Terpak from the Jersey City FD. A summary of the book can be found by visiting:


In the meantime, go to for Free fire training, drills and promotional tips.


Operational Guides is available at:

Discussion Forum

When to vent/smash store front wondow 4 Replies

I have a sincere tactic question,,,When a fire is present in the rear of a taxpayer & the engine company is ready to mounted an attack. When should the truck crew take out the front display…Continue

Started by kevin. Last reply by Frank Viscuso Jul 18, 2011.

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Comment by Frank Viscuso on March 20, 2012 at 10:53pm

Thank you Sid. I will see you in Indy!

Comment by Frank Viscuso on March 20, 2012 at 8:53pm

Hi Group members,

I'd like to take a moment to invite you to sit in on my class in FDIC on Wed, April 18 (10:30-12:15). The course title is Fireground Operational Guides. I will be discussing Fireground Command. Here are some of the topics I will cover:

  • The 17 areas that must be addresses at EVERY structure fire
  • Top 5 NIOSH Line of Duty Death causes
  • Pros of the Incident Command System
  • How to give an initial radio report
  • How the mind works under pressure
  • Engine company operations
  • Ladder Company operations
  • Communication Tips
  • Switching tactics from Offensive to Defensive
  • A list of resources to call for at every structure fire     
  • Actions to take immediately after reporting a fire under control
  • Steps to take after you terminate command
  • Report Writing Tips!


Deputy Chief Mike Terpak will be team teaching this course with me. I will discuss the info above, and he will cover the information we outline in the "Taxpayer and Stripmall Operational Guide" we feature in our book. (Click here: )


I hope to see you in FDIC!


DC Frank Viscuso

Comment by Frank Viscuso on December 11, 2011 at 2:42pm

click below for a guideline to writing your Structure Fire Report

Comment by Frank Viscuso on September 26, 2011 at 5:38pm

Click below for our Water Main Break Operational Guide

Comment by Frank Viscuso on August 11, 2011 at 2:20pm
Click below for our Dumpster Fires Operational Guide
Comment by Frank Viscuso on July 29, 2011 at 12:06pm
Here is a link to one of the Operational Guides we feature in our book (Chimney Fires)
Comment by Frank Viscuso on July 18, 2011 at 8:12am

Here is a summary of the new book Fireground Operational Guides (Scroll down to the next comment for a sample guide)


Now available at

This important new book is designed to serve many purposes in the fire service, ranging from being a starting point and refresher guide for firefighters seeking promotions at any level, to being a field operational guide for on-scene Incident Commanders and Company Officers. It offers an easy-to-follow, step-by-step action plan for firefighters working in Acting Capacities, and can be used when developing SOP’s, and when organizing and planning training evolutions. It’s definitely a book every firefighter, officer, and aspiring officer will want to own!


FOREWARD by Bobby Halton

- featuring a universal tactical worksheet that can be used at ALL structure fires.

- Churches, Brownstones, Attached Row Frames, Private Dwellings, Multiple Dwellings, Garden Apartments and Townhouses, Light Weight Constructed Buildings, Hospitals, Day Care and , Factory and Warehouses, Taxpayers and Strip Malls, Vacant Buildings, High-Rises, Schools, Buildings Under Construction, Basements/Cellars, and After the Fire

- Downed Power Lines, Downed Lines on Occupied Vehicles, Electrical Facility Fires, Underground Manhole Fires, Flooding Underground Manholes or Vaults, Additional Electrical Emergencies: Overheated Ballast, Electrical Appliances, Recessed Lighting, Pole Mounted Transformers, Meter Boxes

- Outdoor Natural Gas Leaks, Indoor Natural Gas Leaks

- Water Main Breaks, Flooded Roofs, Flooded Basements, Broken Water Pipes

- Fire ground Size-Up, Engine Company Operations, Ladder Company Operations, Switching from Offensive to Defensive Strategy, Emergency Incident Rehabilitation, Rapid Intervention Crew, Elevator Car Operations, Stalled Elevator Rescues, May-Day Radio Guidelines, Urgent Radio Guidelines, Large Area Rope Search, Trench Cutting Operations, Roof Radio Reports

and much more, including:
- CARBON MONOXIDE (1 complete guide), CONFINED FIRES (4 guides), OUTDOOR FIRES (3 guides), VEHICLE FIRES and ACCIDENTS (6 guides), NON-FIRE EMERGENCIES (5 guides), EMERGENCIES (4 guides), ADMINISTRATIVE (3 guides)

FIREGROUND OPERATIONAL GUIDES features a list of step-by-step actions you must take at more than 70 incidents. The book also includes a CD with the complete book broken down into printable guides that can be used in the field.

Comment by Frank Viscuso on July 18, 2011 at 8:10am

Switching from an Offensive to a Defensive Strategy

Deputy Chief’s Frank Viscuso and Michael Terpak


In our new book Fireground Operational Guides (PennWell 2011) Deputy Chief Michael Terpak and I provide firefighters with 70 operational “field” guides. The following is a sample of an Operational Guide (from chapter 12)


Switching from an Offensive to a Defensive Strategy


There are various reasons why an operation should be changed from an offensive to a defensive strategy: Threat of collapse, rapid fire growth, truss roof involvement, and explosive contents within a structure are just some of the reasons why you may elect to go defensive. All circumstances revolve around conditions becoming worse and resources not being sufficient enough to get the job done. When the water supply, resources, and personnel on scene are not enough to keep up with a growing fire, and interior operations present great unnecessary risks for firefighters, the incident commander (IC) should be prepared to retreat and switch tactics. Any time a decision is made to change from an offensive to a defensive operation, the announcement must be clearly communicated to all fire personnel operating at and responding to the scene.


Operational guide for switching from offensive to defensive


The operational guide that follows provides necessary steps the IC should take when changing from an offensive to a defensive strategy. Always remember that it is better to go from an offensive to a defensive strategy too soon rather than too late. When it comes to firefighter safety and fire ground survival, there is no room for hesitation.


1.     Announce a move to defensive operation via radio.


  • Have your dispatcher announce a change in tactics from offensive to defensive, and order all personnel operating within the structure to evacuate and meet at the command post (or another designated location).


 2.     Sound the evacuation tones and air horn.


  • Have your dispatcher send a designated evacuation tone over the radio. 
  • Have apparatus drivers activate their air horn four times to signify evacuation of the structure.


3.     Request additional alarm(s).


  • Request an additional alarm and necessary resources if you do not have enough of on scene or in staging to handle the change in tactics.


4.     Conduct a personnel accountability rollcall (PAR).


  • Along with your accountability and safety officers, account for all personnel to ensure they have made it out of the structure. Have your dispatcher call the officer of each company to confirm all personnel are accounted for. (examples are provided in the book)
  • If members do not respond, activate the Rapid Intervention Crew (RIC). The RIC should follow the “Operational Guide for the RIC”.  


5.     Re-adjust your IMS to reflect the new defensive operation.


  • Establish divisions on all four sides (A, B, C, and D). - Do this after you conduct a PAR and account for all members.


6.     Establish your collapse zone(s). 


  • Walls collapse in three general manners.

90-degree-angle collapse: This is most common and is similar to a falling tree. The wall falls straight out, and the top hits the ground at a distance equal to the height of the wall.

Curtain-fall collapse: Generally occurs with a masonry wall. It collapses like a curtain dropping from the top, creating a pile of debris at the base of the wall.

Inward/outward collapse: A wall leaning inward may not necessarily fall inward. The lower or upper portion may slide or "kick" outward.

  • The collapse zone itself should be as wide as the structure and one and a half times the height.
  • Take construction materials into consideration. (Ordinary and heavy timer buildings = two times the height of the structure.)
  • Use caution/barricade tape to clearly mark the edges of the collapse zone.
  • When established, collapse zones must be maintained during and after the incident, during the investigation, and until the structure is examined by an engineer.
  • Assign additional safety officer(s) to cover all four sides.
  • If you haven’t already, call for the response of the utility companies to shut off the gas, electric, and water to building from exterior locations, away from structure.


7.     Monitor for signs of collapse.


  • Depending upon the height of the structure and its building features, set up a number of surveyors transits to detect an early structural movement from walls, church steeples and bell towers, water tanks, and so on.
  • Consider the following when determining collapse potential: (Fire size and location, Heavy fire for an extended period of time, Pieces of the building falling off, Cracks in walls, Leaning or bowing walls, Building age and condition, Faulty/poor construction, Foundation failure, Extraordinary loads, Lack of water runoff, Sagging floors or beams, Spongy roof or floors, Previous fires at this location, Explosions, flashovers, or backdrafts, Water and/or smoke pushing through solid masonry wall, Smoke through mortar joints, Accidental cutting of structural support members, Lightweight construction components, Extreme weather conditions, Fire reaches the truss roof, Unusual noises (creaking), Any combination of the above mentioned causes.
  • Firefighters should be mindful of the condition of the parapet, canopy, marquee, cornice, floors, and roof.
  • Constantly monitor for secondary collapse from the existing structure or collapse and failure of any surrounding exposure buildings.
  • Note: If collapse occurs, follow the “Operational Guide for Structural Collapse.”


 8.     Set up master streams (ground monitors, deluge guns, large-diameter hose lines, and so on).


  • If the roof is still intact, aim the streams up, through windows, into involved ceilings.
  • If the roof has burned away, use elevated streams and aim down onto the fire.
  • If possible, position and secure unmanned master streams outside the collapse zone.


 9.     Secure an additional water supply (from another source or water main).


  • Whenever possible, do not use the same water main when additional water is needed.


 10.  Protect nearby exposures.


  • Do everything in your power to protect exposures from collapse, radiant heat, water runoff, and so on.
  • Evacuate exposures, if necessary.


11.  Assign a brand patrol. (This will depend on the buildings contents, height, and construction.)


  • Use a minimum of one engine and ladder company. 
  • Position downwind to track and extinguish flying brands.


12.  Rotate personnel frequently.


  • Establish emergency incident rehabilitation (Follow the “Operational Guide for Emergency Incident Rehabilitation.) 


Fireground Operational Guides is now available at

Comment by Frank Viscuso on May 13, 2011 at 6:01pm

Kevin, The book should be released in mid June. Out tactical worksheet covers (in detail) the 17 areas of responsibility the IC has at a working fire. We also have 70 Operational Guides for specific incidents that I think you would find extremely helpful when you fill in as the acting BC. We have done much of the leg work for you with Operational Guides. I am sure you will find them helpful. Thanks for reaching out.

Comment by kevin on March 21, 2011 at 11:19am

To Chief Viscuso....  When is your book being released? I pre-ordered from penwell

week or so ago.


I am also curiuos to see your tactical work sheet. I'm a newly appointed captain that fills in  for battalion on vacation/sick days. Sad to say, little training from dept on this new role/responsibility, so I am doing my own leg work to be best prepared


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