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I recently saw a question on social media which asked: " Do you think the tactics used and developed in urban departments are universal?"  This is an outstanding question. First of all, what are tactics?  Are they the same as strategy?  Or are they the implementation of fire ground actions/functions?  If you were taught that tactics are the implementation of fire ground functions, then there are many circumstances which affect the implementation of actions, making universal tactics extremely difficult or not practical.  As I had written in the Fire Engineering Books and Video text, Suburban Fire Tactics, the three main circumstances affecting tactical delivery include: staffing (both numbers and training levels), resources (availability and type), and response area characteristics.

I am from the "Show Me State (Missouri)," so I will show you exact examples of how simple circumstances can alter tactical decision making, circumstances which are not typically experienced by urban departments.  I work in an 88 station, suburban county.  There is only one true truck company in the entire county and staffing on some of the apparatus is only 3 (astounding I know!).  From my research and traveling around the country, I have found this very typical in suburban communities.  Unfortunately, the communities find it inefficient to place an apparatus in service without a pump or inefficient to place two functional suppression apparatus in one station (not necessarily the view of this author, but I don't pay the bills).  Therefore, we operate under a "Functional" SOG, meaning that arrival order dictates your assignment, not the function of the apparatus. We also utilize numerous engines which also have aerial devices, also known by their fancy name, The QUINT.  Therefore, a crew which arrives with an apparatus with an aerial may actually function as an engine and an engine which arrives in a particular position or arrival order may function as a truck company.

Example 1:  A 75' Quint arrives first due at a working structure fire with 3 personnel (unfortunate, but not unrealistic in suburban America).

What is their function or initial operations?   This answer is: it has to begin suppression activities and operate as an engine, but also simultaneously positioning the aerial.  Also, how does this apparatus establish water supply?  It can't reverse out to the hydrant since it has to position at the front of the structure.  Also, since you only have 3, is it idealistic to drop the firefighter off at the hydrant on the straight lay?  It could depend on the fire extent, the size of your booster tank., how close is the second due or if how quick you need inside that structure (remember, we are here to get inside quickly and save lives).  This example painted a lot of circumstances which will affect your SOG development and implementation.  Very typical problems for suburban America.

Example 2: How can the difference between 3 and 4 personnel affect tactical implementation?

Yes I could go into the whole 1710 2 in and 2 out debate.  But I won't.  I will use a more concrete example.  I already used the water supply debate (do I drop my firefighter off at the hydrant?).  But let me go further by comparing the city of St. Louis SOG (an urban department) to the St. Louis County SOG (suburban).  All city engines and Quints have 4 personnel.  As I had stated some county engines and Quints may only have 3.  When writing SOGs, you should always write to the minimal standards.  The city's mandates that the second due apparatus assume truck company duties (regardless of what's on top, engine or quint).  After re-evaluation and months of working group collaboration, we could not replicate this SOG in the county.  Why?  WATER SUPPLY.  Can we realistically lay in from the hydrant and operate as the first due truck company with only 3 personnel?  NO.  Also, now this second company can not only catch water but also supplement the first due for the attack line push.   The third due now becomes the initial truck.  This tactic is typically not universal.

There are obviously many more which I could illustrate.  For example, a 3 or 4 personnel "assigned" truck company cannot complete the same amount of fire ground functions as a 5 or 6 staffed truck.  There is no splitting a 3 person truck into exterior and interior operations.  Sure, you might assign the apparatus operator exterior vent, but don't forget that spot in this "functional SOG" might be involved with operating the apparatus.

The question was asked, "Why re-invent the wheel?"  I don't think that is the intent here.  But I can honestly tell you that my wife's van tires will not fit on my lifted jeep.  I will keep the 35" Mickey Thompson's.

Stay Safe!

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Comment by Chris Willis on February 18, 2016 at 10:37pm

good one buddy.... 

Comment by Nick Morgan on February 18, 2016 at 9:00pm

Great post Jimmy!  Real world firefighting in the suburban setting!

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