By Christopher Naum
Change is cyclical, risks are not. Do your own research on your buildings and the decades of change, talk with the senior firefighters, officers, and retirees, and apply their information to your first-due knowledge.
All buildings have a life span; sometimes measured in years, decades or into centuries. As time elapses, so does the opportunity for occupancy changes, use or function that typically result in minor or significant alterations, renovations, modifications, expansions or adaptive reuse or re-utilization.
These may add, subtract, alter, or change the building’s structural anatomy, integrity, compartmentation, resiliency, and resistance; all of which may influence or define subsequent fire ground operations, decision-making and risk, degree of operational time.
Aesthetic design changes (non-structural and non-functional) to facades, perimeter walls, features or design elements may create operational challenges, increased risks as well as a false sense of integrity or diminished importance, decreased risk or focused attention.
Changes over time may be subtle, abrupt, or very self-revealing. Firefighters must learn very early on in their careers the importance of building construction and its interface to the fireground; officers and commanders should be acutely aware of their working first-due environments or districts, monitor the physical built environment over the long haul and understand, comprehend and be able to apply these observations in both pre-incident considerations and on the Fireground in the most demanding of situations with accuracy and timeliness.
Understand your buildings, develop building construction, and fire literacy. Share and discuss insights, observations. Prepare, learn, apply, be adaptive and alert.
Christopher J. Naum, SFPE
Chief of Training, Command Institute, USA
National Instructor, Author, Lecturer, Fire Officer and Tactical Theorist
Technical Consultant, NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program
Past Vice-President, International Society of Fire Service Instructors
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