Often we are asked, "When does size up begin?" Many times when asked this, most fire officers and firefighters answer: at the receipt of the alarm. Very true, but it begins way before this. In the realm of situational awareness it begins with a very honest look in the mirror. Simply stated; however, sometimes difficult and painful.
Even though I find it beneficial and necessary to differentiate your capabilities by your circumstance or particular demographic (often stereotyped by Rural, Urban, and Suburban) , the real difference can be found within your situational observation. This Situational Awareness begins by understanding your capabilities and being honest about your assessment.
Let's look at an example. I work in a suburban environment which does not utilize truck companies. Is it important for me as a Battalion Chief to know the capabilities of my companies before the alarm hits? Is it important for me to know the system which I operate to make sure all the essential fire ground functions are met and implemented every fire? Is my safety net of functions (back up lines, RIC, IRIC, softening the structure, egress considerations, hose line facilitation, etc.) provided at every fire?
1. What is the capability of every company at the single resource level?
What impacts can the companies make?
How many functions can each company realistically implement on a fireground? Is it realistic to believe a single company of 3 or 4 firefighters can: locate a fire, conduct forcible entry, get water supply, and deploy multiple (if not a single) hand lines? BE HONEST, but we have seen this attempted.
2. Are all essential truck company functions being performed on a consistent basis?
How does this happen if you do not have dedicated truck companies? Do you have SOPs or direction in place to make this happen?
3. Are your training levels adequate for the functions which you are trying to accomplish? If you decide to conduct
Searches above a fire or VES, have you been trained and do you have all the other essential functions in place to
4. Do you know your response area?
These are just a few questions which can test your honest, mirror observation. There are many more. Of course, this approach is very important for agencies who are heavily constrained by manpower, resources, and experience. But isn't it applicable to all fire agencies?
So, Is it necessary to stereotype your demographic? I leave it up to you the reader, firefighter, leader, and policy maker.