Have you ever used a training night to sit down with your department and discuss planning your next fire? Do you have run lists and alarm cards? Do they address building/structure fires only? Do they include forest fires? If you are a hydrant dependant community, are there provisions for the failure of the municipal water system? Are there rescue specific alarm cards in the case of a significant storm or other disaster? What did you do on your last fire? What worked? What didn’t?
A few years ago Tri-State Fire Mutual Aid and the Franklin County Fire Chiefs Association collaborated with the Shelburne Control Dispatch Center to update and enhance its run list model to include alarm cards and pre-plans. The format has changed several times over the past few years to include, new paradigms, RIT teams, and constant improvement, and consistency. The plans are updated twice annually and as needed to remain current. The plans are also distributed to all area fire departments and dispatch centers to ensure everyone has the same plan. It is essential that fire personnel are cognizant of their plan and what resources they are expected to deliver on others plans.
Run card examples
The current structure enables a dispatcher to assist an IC (incident commander) with incident management. A department’s alarm card is their plan to manage that specific incident. Properly designed alarm cards can effectively manage an incident from a small bedroom fire to a ten-story high rise. An IC can request a first alarm and know seamlessly what is going to transpire. Specified mutual aid will respond to the scene, station cover, RIT teams will be established, utilities will be contacted, and the fire marshal will be all notified upon a simple request. As the incident escalates, regional station coverage and state assets such as the Incident Support Unit from the Department of Fire Services are flawlessly dispatched. The alarm cards also plan for the integration of fire district coordination and activation of the NWMIMT (North West Massachusetts Incident Management Team) which can be of paramount assistance for large scale and multi-operational period incidents.
The Tri-State Alarm Cards also have the ability to special call resources if only specific resources are required, such as the case where only tanker/tenders are needed or only ambulances, etc. I urge every department to review past incidents. What mutual aid was requested? Have you explored new resources that are available? What improvements could be made? Are the mutual aid departments willing to send the assets requested?
In this era when everyone is forced to do more with less, having a solid plan is essential - failure to plan is planning to fail.
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Charles Garrity joined the Lanesborough Fire Department as a junior member in 1974, spent 4 years in the US Navy on a Rescue/Salvage ship and has been EMT since 1984. He has worked at the Massachusetts State Police Communications center in Shelburne Falls since 1994 as a supervisor and has served as the Berkshire County Fire Coordinator since 1994. Charles an associate’s degree in fire science from BCC, a BA in Public Administration from UMASS and graduated from the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program. He serves as the Fire Science Adjunct Professor at Berkshire Community College since 2006, has been a member of the Berkshire County and North West Massachusetts Incident Management Teams since its inception and is also a member of the Department of Fire Services Special Response Team.
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