For you incident commanders, this is an excellent point to add
to your safety officer’s “exterior checklist.” We also need to stay
alert for any signs of a structure weakened by fire, prefire snow
loading, or poor general maintenance by listening for strange
noises of the building settling under the unusual loads that occur
during a fire operation, noting any visual signs of sagging roofs or
eaves, leaning, bowing, separating wall connections, interior wall
board cracking, or water seeping from above; these are all positive
signs or indicators of a potential impending collapse.
If you choose to go interior and aggressively mitigate from under-
neath, which we often do in the United States, I highly recommend
using my expanded “command team” approach to managing an
incident by assigning an interior safety officer to assess these specific
hazards. As we all know, our initial interior companies are many
times taxed beyond their span of control (thinking) and may miss
some of these potentially lifesaving signs of danger ahead.
Bottom line: The fire service should use a strong risk vs. gain
decision-making model for lightweight or weakened dwellings and
choose the appropriate tactical model to get the job done as safely
as we can!
Take care, and go interior if conditions allow.
William Greenwood is a 24-year veteran of the fire service, an assistant chief of
training for the Manchester-Boston (NH) Regional Airport Fire Department, and a
lieutenant for the Keene (NH) Fire Department. He is a senior staff instructor for the
New Hampshire Fire Academy and owns FETC Services, which delivers advanced
firefighter and leadership seminars throughout the United States. Greenwood has
presented at FDIC International and hosts a radio talk show called “Tap the Box” on
Fire Engineering Radio.
to take a look up before we commit to an interior
aterial, roof design, and structural condition all
d is going to be a problem for our companies.
We need to stay alert for any
signs of a structure weakened
by fire, prefire snow loading,
or poor general maintenance.