“The What’s and the Whys”


You really can’t say one without the other being attached to it. You can’t really be “Combat Ready” if you don’t maintain strict “Operational Discipline”. If you don’t practice, live, and believe in being operational disciplined and maintaining a state of combat readiness….the outcome of our incidents are predictable. People will be injured, people will die, even firefighters will be injured and die….…..it may not happen today or tomorrow, but rest assured it will happen. Don’t expect to handle the nothing calls with complacency and expect to perform exceptional on the big calls…….it won’t happen that way. It’s rolling the dice and sooner or later, our luck will run out and we will pay a big price.

I debated on whether to post this because on the surface it seems so basic and non-interesting. However, the more I thought about this seemingly apathetic approach that some have in the fire service and reflected on my own personal experiences, it became clear that this is something worthy of mentioning again. A vital step in being prepared to succeed on the fireground, starts with how we dress and prepare for the big game. Every call is the “Big Game”, regardless whether it is a fire alarm activation or a reported structure fire with multiple calls received. Taking the same disciplined approach to every call fights complacently. There is nothing more accurate than a recent statement made by the City of Pensacola Fire Department Battalion Chief Ginny Cranor. “Complacently is the best friend of worst case scenario”. Think about that quote for a moment and let it sink in…..the unforgiving blunt truth. And…if you are an officer take NOTE, it’s all on your shoulders. What you permit, you promote.

So let’s take a look and dissect a company that exudes operational discipline. This is an engine company in my department and what one can expect from every company within my department-Operational Discipline being Combat Ready on every run.

FULL PPE on EVERY CALL INCLUDING SCBA-All the bunker gear donned and worn properly. Everything is in a place for a reason. Suspenders up tight, gloves either on or readily accessible for rapid donning, collars up, jacket snapped. SCBA donned properly including the SCBA waist strap…..I know it looks cool with the waist strap hanging down but looking cool does nothing but create an entanglement hazard with operating in a combat situation. Wait until rehab and look cool then.

HOODS ON EVERYTIME-If you don’t don your hood every time, it is VERY likely you will forget when you are masking up. How do I know that? Because I have made that mistake multiple times including one time burning my ears when I forgot to hood up. I fixed the problem by NEVER going on a call without my hood donned. In addition, GAS LEAKS-as Battalion Chief Curt Isakson pounds into everyone’s head, “Hoods up, flaps down”. That IS your only flash protection in the event shit goes sideways. Hoods on every time and create that muscle memory so you don’t forget like I have.

RADIOS IN THE RIGHT PLACE-Radios on radio leather straps, under the coats, just below the waist line of the SCBA so that the firefighter can lift up his jacket and have access to the radio knobs. Lapel mics just outside the coat collar so that the firefighter can easily HEAR and TALK on the radio. It is under the coat because the radio and the accessories are not heat rated, meaning at a certain temperature much lower than your gear, it will degraded and malfunction. Avoid the “door chalk” radio…the radio that has no lapel mic and the one you have to carry or put in your pocket. Carry it and it takes up an arm/ hand that you should be using for a tool. Unless you plan on holding it up to your ear the entire incident, you WILL miss radio communication. Find a better way to carry it…or spend your own money and buy a strap. It may save your life….don’t take my word, research it and you will understand.

LIGHTS-You will never have too much light….but you will not have enough light at some point. Notice all the firefighters have THREE lights. A box light, a 90 light, and a helmet light. They all have their purpose and it may make the difference whether you make a grab or not, or find an exit or not. Don’t take my word……..talk to a brother that is proven and been in many fires, they will attest to the importance of multiple lights.

IDENTIFIERS-All four company members have the correct company identifiers on their helmets. This is important and makes all the difference when trying to determine who is with what company. I can tell you from and command perspective, this is vitally important. Notice the names on the shields…this helps increase firefighter accountability as well. HOWEVER, this is usually varies from FD to FD depending on what their standard is. BUT, what you can do (but you can’t see in this picture), is use a label maker and place your last name on the bottom part of your mask. This makes it easier to identify you quickly, especially if you are injured or unconscious. You also can’t see in this picture, but company identifiers on the bottles of SCBA are vital and increase company accountability as well.

TOOLS-Every firefighter has assigned tools based on riding positions on the rig. As Chief Lasky would say, a firefighter without tools is nothing more than a well-dressed spectator. Not only carry the correct tools, but also tune the tools up so they work best for the company. IRONS tuned filed down, marked and married together for quick deployment and convenient carrying and an aluminum wedge to further assist with forcible entry. Hooks equipped with wrap for good grip, always carry the versatile 6 foot hook, the water can with a strap to easily carry-notice it is equipped with multiple wedges. Always carry tools….don’t be “that guy” that comes to the command post and is given a task, but doesn’t have tools with them to accomplish a given assignment. FDNY Lt Mike Ciampo has a simple rule and just makes sense, “2 Hands, 2 Tools”.

POCKETS-Guaranteed that every firefighter in this picture has multiple items in their pockets for immediate use such as wire cutters, webbing, rope, carabineer’s, additional gloves, pliers and more.

COMPANY OFFICER-The guy (or gal) that the company’s successes and failures fall on. He always carries the TIC. He is the most experienced and is responsible for making VITAL decisions and many of those decisions are based off what he interprets through the TIC. If the company only has one TIC, there should be no reason anyone else carries it other than the officer. Officer tool-usually the choice of the officer. In this case it is a 4 foot hook with a haligan and an aluminum wedge. This allows him to force entry if need be and a hook for other functions.

Operational discipline takes work everyday, every hour. Be diligent, strive for excellence and fight complacency by being Operational Discipline and maintaining a Combat Readiness. Don’t allow anyone, any culture, or any rank keep you from being prepared and ready. I can assure you that your kids, your family and loved ones expect nothing less from you!

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  1. Spot on commentary-it’s basic but definitely interesting because so few remember to do these items listed. I have shared this with numerous co officers this morning-good stuff. thanks

  2. Great post, Chief, and thanks for sharing.

    You hit everything spot on and it’s great to see other’s that feel the same way. I’ll be passing this on to my department…

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