3 Reasons Fire Preplans Fail
3 Reasons Fire Preplans Fail
When it comes to responding to a structure fire, there are few things as valuable as situational awareness. From the number of exits to locations of hazardous materials, blueprints, and types of backup power generation, even the smallest detail could mean the difference in the extent of property damage, and more importantly, injury and loss of life.
One of the best ways to increase your team’s situational awareness is the use of property preplans. These detailed documents include a wide range of attributes about the property to which you are responding, with information gathered from in-depth inspections. They often include CAD drawings, photos, inspection reports, previous violation notes – anything offers more insight into precisely what you’ll be walking into once you arrive.
In any fire department’s arsenal of tools, preplans should play a key role. While they take some effort to compile and maintain, the value they offer when forming an incident response plan cannot be overstated. Consequently, many departments are putting increasing effort into developing and rolling out preplan programs to build their library of documents.
Occasionally, however, the best-intentioned preplanning advocate finds him- or herself hitting roadblocks that seem to slow the progress. What are some of the most common reasons a preplan program might be failing, and how can you address them?
- A Lack of Internal Alignment
Having the right people involved and bought into your preplanning program is key in gaining and keeping your momentum. Everyone needs to understand and share the vision of the value the plans can offer, and be willing to put a little proactive work in to reap the benefits during an incident response.As with any new or revamped program, the key is identifying and empowering champions throughout your department. Start with the fire marshals from your inspections division and then fill out your team with company leaders and field firefighters. Share your goals and processes with them, be open to feedback and adjustments, and help them spread the vision to their peers. Including a wide range of team members gives you not only valuable perspectives but helps solidify a company-wide commitment. (P.S. For more tips on how to get your team aligned, check out our guide on building your own preplans strategies).
- Not Going Digital
For many years, the generally accepted process for storing preplans has been stacks of papers, inserted into large, 4-ring binders. In the case of an emergency, the incident command would (theoretically) flip through the pages, reviewing the information, and using it to form the response plan. It’s better than nothing, but it doesn’t leverage today’s ability to share almost unlimited types of information digitally, in real-time, and with unlimited team members simultaneously.Just like you can get your email, social media, and newsfeed on your phone, using digital preplans stored in the cloud means that anyone you choose can access property preplans – even en route to the call – on a laptop, tablet or phone. Information as minuscule as what type of parking lot or driveway they should expect can make a difference in your arrival and setup time, not to mention details about occupancy type and location of fire suppression systems. While incident command can review the digital preplans for the overall response plan, team members can review the general property information and be more aligned before they even set foot on the fire field. And that’s just not possible with a single binder of information.
- Lack of Training
Creating preplans is an excellent practice in understanding where dangers may lie, or evacuation points are located within a building. Still, they won’t be beneficial unless you engage in training your team on how to use them effectively. Just like you wouldn’t wait to train your team members on how to use their PPE, you don’t want the first time someone is using a preplan to be standing outside a structure fire.Carve out some training time for learning how to use preplans with your team. For example, conduct monthly walk-throughs of preplans based on building types that model your highest volume call types. Let recruits create test preplans of the fire station (also a great chance to identify areas for improvement). Consider a field trip to a property for which you have preplans and drill as if you were responding to a fire there, leveraging the plans. Practice makes perfect, and it makes for real deal situational awareness.
Software That Helps
A preplanning program takes buy-in, momentum, and commitment. While it may sound daunting, there are helpful software tools designed specifically for fire preplans, that help getting started – and continuing going – easier than ever. Good software can alleviate many of the headaches by efficiently collecting and storing data (including photos and historical data), allowing easy access from any location, and offering a single platform for everyone to rally around. Once your plans are stored, software makes it easier to keep them updated and maintained through the years.
Preplans give your team every advantage possible on the fire field by increasing situational awareness across the board. Avoiding these common pitfalls will help set your preplan program up for success, meaning smarter and safer incident response with real-world results.
Learn about the 7 Features Your Preplanning Software Needs to help you get the job done right.