Running the scene: Command post management, Part 3

Detailing three parts of the incident command acronym LABOR: Announce, box and observe

By Marc Bashoor

This is FireRescue1's third in a series of videos where we've introduced you to some command post concepts.

In the first video, we introduced you to the acronym LABOR: Location, Announce, Box, Observe and Relax. In the second video, we talked about the Location.

Let’s now talk about three more components: Announce, Box and Observe.

Announce

We want to think in terms of where/what, where/what. If you're that first-arriving person and you're going to be establishing command, a good practice is to repeat the address, describe what you see, share where the command post is, and tell units what you want them to do. For example, “Battalion 1 to Dispatch: I'm on the scene at 123 Smith St., three-story garden apartment, no fire evident. I'll be establishing the command post across the street at my buggy. Have the first engine stretch a handline to the front door.”

Box

Box refers to that 10-by-10 command zone. As a new officer, I had to discipline myself to stay in that box, so I went to Tractor Supply, and I bought four cones. I would take those four cones on every call, and I would put them out in my corners. It's about creating that space that gives you the opportunity to move a little bit to observe the scene and to interact with people, but for people to understand that this is the command box – and it’s where you need to stay.

If you need to walk out of that box to go talk to an officer, there's no problem with that. You can do what you need to do, but then you come back to the box.

Plus, you will reduce freelancing on your firegrounds by creating that fixed command post in a spot where you can still move if you have to.

Observe

Observing really begins at the preplan process when you've begun to learn your area. Then when that call comes in, you begin to form a professional opinion about where you’re going and what you're going to do when you arrive.

When you arrive on that scene, you're making the observations of where you're going to set up so that you're not blocked in by the apparatus. You're observing the conditions, you're observing the residents standing outside, you're observing all the different kinds of things that go on with that community, with that neighborhood, with that structure. It's a lot to take in, but that's what the observe is about.

Then as you begin deploying companies into harm's way, the observe really kicks in, and you have to really be thinking about those noises that other people may not

hear, whether it's a structural weakness noise, maybe it's trusses that are getting ready to fail and you just hear a snap or you just hear something of a little bit of a collapse of a corner. That’s a sign of a potentially sick incident.

Other things that we want to look and listen for:

  • Screaming and shouting: You're going to hear that on incidents all the time. You have to be able to understand what is real and what is somebody who is just distraught and not affected by the incident, but you have to react to it. You can't allow those noises to continue to go on without someone dealing with them.
  • A sudden uptick of a pumper's throttle: That's probably a problem with the water supply.
  • Water supply needs: Hearing a driver say something on the radio about almost running out of water. Somebody needs to make sure that gets communicated to the folks that are inside.
  • A dispatcher giving critical information about victims or dangers.
  • Tire screeching: You're out on a highway incident and you hear a screeching of tires – that's probably something that's getting ready to impact your incident or create a secondary incident.
  • PASS alarms sounding: My personal pet peeve about noises on incident scenes is when there is a device that's sounding and nobody's doing anything about it. We've got to make sure that we react appropriately, with someone figuring out what’s going on. It could just be somebody who didn't turn off the air supply, but it could be somebody that's in trouble.

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, the safety of your men and women is going to depend a tremendous amount on what you observe on that incident as an incident commander.

In our next and final video in this command series, we're going to cover the R in LABOR – Relax. We’re also going to circle back to that mayday checklist we talked about in one of the earlier videos because those types of situations are the things that are going to tax your ability as an incident commander to relax and to keep your folks safe, to make sure that everyone goes home.

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