The tactical importance of capturing a water supply
In this edition of “KTW” Captains Mack, Svorinich, and Marotta will discuss (1) The importance of capturing an initial water supply, and (2) Leadership challenges confronting newly promoted officers. These topics and experienced-based opinions should be points of discussion among all of us.
Operational Question: What are your thoughts on the importance of capturing an initial water supply?
CI, Marty Svorinich, FS 57-B: At an active assignment like FS 57 tactical communication is paramount, especially when capturing a water supply. It is essential that upon leaving quarters we discuss best response routes and locate a minimum of two hydrants on the map. I prefer laying from a corner hydrant, while utilizing the mid-block as a secondary supply option.
Water supply issues during the course of a structure fire are relatively common and can often present themselves as: inadequate volume/pressure, a broken supply-line, apparatus parked on a supply-line, etc. Therefore, we must always ensure a certain level of tactical redundancy by establishing a secondary supply should we anticipate not arriving first on-scene.
Fire companies should always consider their response routes and corresponding approach into a fire. This is especially true if they anticipate not arriving first on-scene, as it will greatly assist in establishing a separate water supply and their overall effectiveness.
CI, Dave Mack, FS 10-C: Capturing a water supply is of great importance especially during the early stages of a fire. It is an essential tactical maneuver that establishes the foundation for all other fireground tasks that support extinguishment. Fundamental fire-attack tactical considerations are all dependent on this action.
Under certain circumstances (i.e. reports of people trapped) not laying-a-line in an effort to save time may increase the possibility of civilian rescue. Not laying-in under this scenario must be well communicated to incoming companies to ensure they capture the initial supply. Again, this example is an exception to the rule.
Not capturing an initial water supply has proven time and again to have negative effects on fireground operations. Identifying a primary and secondary hydrant while en-route and stopping to lay-a-line is a fundamental responsibility of any engine company. Do not depend on other companies to bring you water.
CI, Steve Marotta, FS 93-C: Although capturing a water supply is a fundamental engine company evolution, such a task requires discussion and frequent training. A reliable water supply is one of a few fireground tasks that will establish the basis for a safe and effective firefight.
It’s critical for officers to reinforce the importance of establishing a supply through training and SOG’s based on your own fire attack philosophy. Members must also be made aware of the tactical and manipulative challenges of “hand-laying” or “pumping off the tank” whenever a water supply is not established.
In an effort to support capturing a supply, consider mapping an effective response route(s) and locating a primary and secondary hydrant as a part of your enroute SOG’s. This precursor to laying-a-line is highly effective and one that can be employed by either the captain or one of the firefighters.
Enroute consideration is especially important when it appears multiple companies will converge at the incidents address. In these instances it is most advantageous to bring in water from a different direction. Either way, capturing a water supply is the task that establishes safe and effective fireground trends and it should never be dismissed.
Leadership Question: As a new captain can you tell us some of the non-emergency challenges you’ve experienced in your first assignment?
Mack: Promoting into a task force that had long-term vacancies in both the CI and CII’s rank presented difficult challenges upon arrival. It immediately demanded that I meet the needs of the entire fourteen-member crew without the aid of a regularly assigned CII.
As a new CI, working alongside a different CII nearly every shift enabled me to learn a variety of operational and management skills that I had not yet been exposed to. Although challenging, this scenario strengthened my perspective on how to manage an entire station and not just a single engine company.
Taking ownership of my shift soon became a primary focus. It was paramount that I not only manage the responsibilities of my newly acquired duties, but that I also meet the needs of the entire shift as well. Greatly assisting in my efforts was the senior leadership demonstrated by the firefighters, A/O’s, engineers and officers at this assignment.
Taking on such challenges as a newly promoted officer, although at times overwhelming, reinforced the importance of preparation and teamwork. I could not have managed this scenario to the degree I did had it not been for the efforts of those at this assignment or my mentors.
Marotta: Upon promoting I realized my new assignment had been without a CI for two years, had a CII on the verge of retirement and that we didn’t have an assigned rated member. Throw in a first-house rookie and a few members preparing for the engineer’s exam and there you have it – the makings of a very challenging first assignment.
Although difficult, I believed my initial leadership challenges were not much different than those confronting other newly appointed officers. I felt my most pressing issues were to establish clear expectations, get to know my crew, and to ensure we had effective SOG’s that reflected specific target hazards and the various other challenges our district presented.
All newly promoted captains face challenges – the key in managing them is preparation and persistence. I am also fortunate to command a crew with a terrific attitude. Though my goal is still a work in progress, with continued effort and support of my crew I can visualize “it” all coming together. As a mentor of mine would routinely say, “There are many land mines out there, so you better be prepared.”
Svorinich: I am always mindful of the need to manage my time efficiently. I begin the morning by prioritizing my workload into two categories: (1) Emergency and (2) Non-emergency. Those items that are pressing I’ll often address before 0630 hrs. All other issues I’ll appropriately manage within the course of the shift.
Challenges such as not being able to have an early line-up because of activity levels often requires deviating from the norm. It’s also imperative that with the amount of “out-of-house” hiring that I immediately seize these members upon arrival and inform them of my SOG’s and expectations.
Simple tasks such as line-up, shopping and company training are challenging, but not insurmountable. For example, unlike most assignments, we shop prior to 0800 hrs – I will often take advantage of this opportunity to hold line-up on E57 while driving to and from the market.
Those members not on E 57 during line-up (RA’s) will receive a text from me regarding pertinent line-up material. I will eventually convey the information to them during the course of the day, but this way they can receive line-up info early in the morning. Innovation and creativity has without question assisted me in meeting the needs of my command.
In next months article Firefighter’s Jim Nicholson, Andy Vidovich and Steve Meiche will discuss (1) the operational challenges of a senior firefighter and (2) leadership challenges in dealing with young officers and rated members.
Facilitated by Jerry Bedoya, Capt. II, FS 10