My departments size up and building descriptions have always been relatively straightforward; one story, two story, taxpayer, garden apartment etc.
Architects have used their creativity; FEMA has adopted guidelines, consumers have requested more. This has all drove the construction of today away from the standard straightforward size up’s.
Recently, we experienced a fire in a private dwelling that was under construction. The original home was destroyed by hurricane Irene. The original home was built on grade within 800’ of the high tide line. The new home was being built to conform to the FEMA standards and was built on pilings eight feet in the air.
The on scene companies stretched two 1.75” attack lines, one to the first livable space and the second line to the top floor or the second floor of livable space. The two-firefighter team stretched to the top floor up three flights of stairs. Three clearly defined flights! In their mind they were operating on the third floor.
The Incident commander standing out front was looking at two occupied floors that were elevated on pilings. The IC identified the building as a two story. The top floor company was identifying themselves as “third floor division”. A little confusion! Luckily the IC was on top of it and was able to decipher the issue.
Should this of occurred? No. Should this been and area of confusion during an incident? No. So why did this occur and why the confusion? Simple, we never thought it would happen here! We never discussed it during training and we did not have a SOP, SOG, policy etc. to identify this type of dwelling.
So as we begin the process to fix this issue from occurring again I wanted to share this thought with you.
Do we all have buildings within our districts that are not the standard size up model? I would be willing to bet that most districts if not all have some that will challenge the officer completing the size up to paint a clear picture.
So get out in your districts and look at what you have? Will your size up model account for the two-story elevated home? Will you size up plan be appropriate for the 25,000 square foot mansion?
Do a Google image search for “houses”, look at what is being built across this great nation! Get out in your districts and truly learn it! What do you have that will challenge your size up at 0300 with fire showing? Then put a SOP, SOG, policy, memo, procedure out. Whatever you call it in your department do it. Communicate it to all members and then train!
There is no good excuse for confusion like this on the fireground! We should not have dilemmas like this if we get out of the firehouses and expect fire in every building in our districts.