Heat in the Seat

One simple way to improve your department’s operations is to develop standard assignments for the various riding positions on your apparatus. Standard riding position assignments improve the safety of operations by creating a kind of mini incident command system (ICS) that standardizes each crewmember’s responsibilities upon arrival on the fireground, which allows the crew to quickly and consistently perform given tasks. These assignments can be particularly helpful to volunteer or call departments in which personnel riding a piece of apparatus differ from call to call. In this column, I’ll focus on engine company riding assignments for a general fire response. To make this article applicable to a wide variety of departments, I’ve included standard riding position assignments for both a four-person and a six-person engine crew.

Four-Person Engine Assignments

  1. Driver
    – Performs pump operations, including all hookups to the vehicle pump and completion of the water-supply evolution;
    – Provides scene lighting; and
    – Keeps track of logistics (equipment, inventories, etc.).
  2. Officer
    – Provides incident command;
    – Accounts for personnel; – Performs radio communications;
    – Provides backup on the hoseline; and
    – Provides tools needed, such as SCBA, a portable radio, a handlight, a small hand tool or other forcible-entry equipment and monitoring equipment/thermal imager (as needed).
  3. Nozzleman
    – Serves as attack-line nozzleman;
    – Wears SCBA; and
    – Utilizes a handlight.
  4. Water Supply
    – Provides hydrant/water supply;
    – Utilizes a handlight and a portable radio; and
    – Once water supply is established, feeds the hoseline to attack-line personnel or initiates stretching the backup line as needed.

Six-Person Engine Assignments

  1. Driver
    – Performs pump operations, including all hookups to the vehicle pump;
    – Provides scene lighting; and
    – Keeps track of logistics (equipment, inventories, etc.).
  2. Officer
    – Provides incident command;
    – Accounts for personnel;
    – Performs radio communications; and
    – Provides tools needed, such as SCBA, a portable radio, a handlight, a small hand tool and monitoring equipment/thermal imager (as needed).
  3. Nozzleman
    – Serves as attack-line nozzleman;
    – Wears SCBA; and
    – Utilizes a handlight.
  4. Backup
    – Provides backup on the attack line;
    – Wears SCBA; and
    – Utilizes a handlight and hand tools/ forcible-entry equipment.
  5. Break Hose
    – Breaks supply hose at rear of apparatus and assists driver with supply line hookup;
    – Provides immediate ventilation if needed; and
    – Initiates stretch of the backup hoseline.
  6. Water Supply
    – Provides hydrant/water supply;
    – Utilizes a handlight and a portable radio; and
    – Once water supply is established, assists in stretching the backup hoseline/ throwing ground ladders.

These suggested assignments are just that-suggestions your department can modify to fit your local conditions or use to build your own program.

Bigger Crews

If your department is fortunate enough to have crews larger than six riding on your engine companies, consider this:

  • For an eight-person company, consider adding an additional team of two to provide ladder-company functions, which include performing vent-enter-search functions; raising ground ladders and utilizing hand or power tools to force entry, search the building and perform ventilation; and performing immediate overhaul tasks. As a variant to these tasks, you could also instruct this team to assist with the backup hoseline.
  • For a 10-person engine company, use the eight-person crew assignments listed above and instruct the two additional firefighters to serve as additional members on the nozzle team and the ladder operations team. Where applicable, these individuals might be senior members or junior officers who could provide supervision to each of these teams.

Rules for All Crews

No matter the size of your engine crew, all personnel must be seated with seat belts in place prior to mobilizing the apparatus. The water-supply firefighter(s) should board last, holding the crew cab doors open until the entire available crew is aboard. The firefighter occupying the curbside seat is responsible for communicatingthe crew status to the apparatus officer, who then confirms with the driver when they can begin to move the vehicle. Once the driver and officer determine the crew is complete, the driver will sound the vehicle horn twice, signaling the vehicle is about to move forward. No additional personnel may board the engine or enter the engine’s bay space once the horn sounds, unless directed otherwise by the engine driver.ÿ

By following these procedures, firefighters should be prepared to perform their assigned duties upon arrival at each emergency incident. However, before exiting the apparatus, firefighters should confirm their assignment with the apparatus officer, who may make changes as necessary based upon the specific circumstances of the situation. While responding, the officer and the firefighter seated directly behind the officer should transmit all communications between the cab front and rear seating area (unless you’re fortunate enough to have headset communications devices in your apparatus).

If there aren’t enough crewmembers to fill each seat, and thus each task, the remaining tasks must be assigned to assisting units. Crews operating on apparatus designed and equipped to perform numerous functions (rescue pumpers, for example) may find it more appropriate to list the standard tasks by type of incident inside the cab, allowing the crew to split up the tasks while en route to the incident.

Conclusion

Standard riding position assignments essentially preplan and develop a mini ICS for a single piece of apparatus. If your department is currently utilizing standard riding position assignments, take a few moments to review your procedure to ensure it’s working properly. If you’re not currently using such a procedure, consider implementing these assignments. Once you decide to put the system in place, train your people on it and practice it regularly. You’ll be amazed at the level of teamwork it produces at your next working fire.

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