As I sit here at work, I am reading an article in Fire Engineering about additional alarm considerations.
The author makes some very important points about when to call for additional alarms and why. When I was a shift Captain at a steel mill, I would call for additional alarms anytime I had anything bigger than a dumpster fire. With the extremely limited manpower there, I had to immediately consider what would I do for troops when they inevitably would need rehab. My number one concern was always the safety of my guys and gals. The fire will always eventually run out of fuel and stop on its own. The lives of my people are more important!
I would hope by now, with all of the writers and speakers out there these days that the concept of " it is easier to cancell the mutual aid when you are sure it isn't needed than to get them there fast when you are sure you do need them".
I would much rather, as an incident commander, get help rolling ASAP and then send them back later without utilizing them than to wait to call for their response until I discover I do need them right then. If you wait you run the risk of all sorts of bad endings. You could lose the structure due to water supply, or not having enough pump capacity to put the fire out.
You could end up with the worst nightmare for any fire service commander, members trapped or injured and not having a dedicated RIT team standing by.
There are a lot of tasks to complete and roles to fill on the fire scene. Do you have enough people on your first due assignment to get it all done in this age of brownouts, staff reductions and station closures? You may still have two engines and a truck responding first due, but now the truck comes from farther away and all companies have just 3 or even less on board.
Don't be afraid to pull that first alarm early on. To those that may say you are overreacting to the situation I say they may be complacent.
There were numerous occaisons at the mill where when the first alarm companies arrived they simply helped with manpower and their Chief handled accountability for me (thanks Bill!). There were other times where before the first alarm companies made scene I was calling a second or even third alarm once I did my 360 and saw what I had. Fires in coal fines below grade, oil basements, slag pit explosions and garbage transfer stations on fire all caused me to strike additional boxes for outside assistance at the mill. I never had anyone hurt on my watch, thanks in part to calling early for help.
One instance also resulted in holding damage to some burnt wiring and a oil pump and gas heater being the only damage in a area of the mill that had burned in the past with damage in millions of dollars. Thanks to additional alarms early, we saved the mill a lot of money in damages and potential lost productivity.
Just some random ramblings at four in the morning.