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Chapter 12: 360-Degree Check
On the heels of last Sunday’s preach “Basement Fires”… the 360 is an excellent tool that can be used to identify topographical changes, building features, fire and smoke conditions, identify possible victim locations and solidify the operating plan of the arriving companies. Look at “6” sides of the fire. The 6 sides being: all 4 exposures… above and below the fire!
“The building involved was a three-story, wood-frame structure with a basement and was constructed on a sloping grade that caused the building to have a different appearance depending on the side being viewed. Firefighters entering the building saw only one side and were not aware of the building’s actual arrangement. The firefighters’ distorted perception of the building may have impaired their ability to assess alternate escape routes.” This passage is the opening paragraph of the NFPA report on the fatal fire that occurred at Bricelyn Street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 14, 1995, a fire that resulted in the deaths of Fire Captain Thomas Brooks and firefighters Patty Conroy and Mark Kolenda.
When we are presented with information that specifically details factors contributing to the line of duty deaths, we owe it to the memory of those fallen to learn from them. We never want any of our fallen firefighters to die in vain with no change in our behavior or actions, as if we did not hear what they were trying to tell us. If we listen, specifically to the Bricelyn Street incident, we hear the importance of knowing what you are entering before you cross the threshold of the burning structure.” (Chapter 12, page 119).
The tactical knowledge that you gain on that lap can increase our overall situational awareness, impacting the entire operation. It can directly have an impact on tactics such as line placement, laddering and search, victim location, etc.
Does it have to be a company or chief level officer? Short answer is, no. It has to be a competent, well trained member who knows what they are looking for and deliver a clear message to operating members. Whoever is tasked with the 360-check must relay any pertinent findings to all units on the fireground via the radio. Often times, we cannot get a full grasp of what is going on until we see, or get a report from the rear and all sides. Have a policy that works with your departments staffing and resources to ensure a member is assigned accomplish this task early in the operation.


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