Benefits of Pre-Incident Planning
By Dan Curran on April 01, 2016
Battling the Unknown
There's always a blind spot that clouds our view during an incident mitigation. It's the unknown. As firefighters, we know every emergency is loaded with variables that will impact our decision-making. Fortunately, pre-incident planning provides information that narrows the blind spot, helping fire departments make huge strides in safety and performance.
A pre-incident plan (pre-fire plan) is a detailed record of a structure’s location, emergency contact information, and noteworthy hazards, as well as visual aids. It answers key questions the incident commander needs to know immediately upon arrival. Where are the best points of access and egress? Where is the water source? Is there anything unique about the site?
Our firefighting procedures are charged with the mission of preserving life and property—in that order. We train proactively for specific scenarios to ensure that we will react quickly and correctly to the seen and unseen. But, arbitrary guesswork can only take our training scenarios so far, and our people deserve better. That’s exactly why IncidentSmart was created.
IncidentSmart provides software engineered by firefighters for firefighters as an incident management tool for creating and sharing site-specific intelligence. It is a web-based program that helps departments quickly and easily create pre-incident plans, training scenarios, and post-incident analysis reports.
Advantages of Pre-Incident Planning
The advantage gained from pre-incident planning provides a level of preparedness far more comprehensive than sizing up the environment as the engine comes to a halt. A properly documented and updated pre-incident plan gives the incident commander everything they need to know their first five minutes on scene. It can bring to their fingertips virtually all intelligence that can be discovered about a site prior to an incident.
Departments that invest the time and effort into pre-incident planning see the benefit come back tenfold. They are able to train more effectively and shed light on their vulnerabilities. Ultimately, the valuable intelligence in a pre-incident plan empowers firefighters to make quicker, more impactful decisions that lead to a better outcome for everyone on scene.
In the simplest terms, pre-incident planning helps manage risks. It helps us reduce the amount of unknowns waiting for us in an incident. Think of the detail that can be captured in a single report.
As we arrive on scene, the first thing that we take note of is the environment surrounding the structure. An incident in a congested area poses a greater risk than a lone structure with no immediate encroachments. The location of utility shut-offs, lock boxes, and water sources can either help or hinder suppression efforts.
The next major risk factor at the scene of any incident is the structure itself. All it takes is one unique surprise inside a structure to turn the tables during a live emergency. So, abnormal conditions and significant structural changes are definitely worth noting in a pre-incident plan.
For example, we know that some home renovations, and even new construction methods, can quickly lose stability under heat stress, resulting in a greater risk of structural failure. Curb appeal can also be deceptive. Sometimes a simple 360° survey of the exterior of a house can reveal a single story in the front and multiple stories, including a walkout basement, on the “C” side.
Finally, the use and content of a site often go hand-in-hand and provide insight about specific risks during a potential incident. Is the structure truly a single-family or is it a multi-family dwelling, or is there an unlisted business on site? Are there hazardous materials present?
Most of the time, the use of the structure can tell us a lot about the contents and potential fire load. A business that requires chemical storage is definitely something noteworthy to include on a pre-incident plan. Knowing that a tenant in a building runs a private daycare service or a group home elevates the risk of a multi-casualty scenario.
All of these discussed risk factors are the specific characteristics that we see in common emergencies and are important risks to inquire about in pre-incident planning. But a common hurdle for some departments is finding the time to actually build a plan once the information has been collected. It can also be a struggle just keeping one organized. A ripped aerial photo with magic marker scribbled on it is anything but helpful on a fire call.
Nevertheless, pre-incident plans are a common sense approach to proactively manage risks. And that’s why IncidentSmart developed an all-in-one web-based application that enables a fire department to easily build a mobile, fully comprehensive pre-incident plan.
The Proactive Solution for Pre-Incident Planning
IncidentSmart provides an easy, standardized template that address the needs of the Incident Commander. After gathering information about a site, you simply log into IncidentSmart, choose the option to create a new pre-incident plan from your dashboard, and get started.
Next, begin filling in the information about the site. There are special placeholders for the site’s name, district, address and description. As you scroll down, you will find more space for important notes like emergency contact information, hazards, and anything else unique about the location.
Finally, add and annotate as many images as you’d like to the report. It’s very helpful to include an overhead map as well as multiple images of the structure. Once you have uploaded and saved your plan, you may conveniently edit your maps and images with IncidentSmart’s intuitive drawing tools. Easily position utility and hydrant markers in their proper locations, strategically place apparatus, and make use of the many other icons to quickly capture the particulars of the location. Once you’re finished, just save the report. It’s really that simple.
What’s more is that IncidentSmart’s pre-incident plans can be easily updated to reflect information gathered at future inspections. All reports are backed up daily and are accessible on mobile devices. No more fighting the elements to keep ripped pages in a binder.
IncidentSmart provides an easy way to document pre-incident plans equipped with everything you need to confidently take command at an incident. For proactive firefighters, it’s a no-brainer. It’s the simple common sense approach to improve preparedness for every fire department’s strategic plan.