Anyone thats placed in a role of being in charge of accountablility at a fire scene, particularly in the vollie ranks, may have the hardest job on the fireground. I know that may raise an eyebrow, but , think about it. Do YOU know whos on your incident scene? I say "incident" because it applies to ANY firematic response. Do your SOG's require you to respond on a rig or can you show up in your POV? Do you operate with some sort of a tag system? DO YOU HAVE A SYSTEM???
I have done ALOT of homework and research on scene accountability and FF on scene safety. The one factor that seems to have the biggest effect on accountability accuracy seems to be the HUMAN one.
No matter what, be it computer implanted chips on gear or plastic tags, WE as people seem to be the ones that basically screw up the system.
WE, the invinceable, the heros, the good guys and gals,,,,,,, seem to somtimes get a bit of tunnel vision, occassionally forgetting where to stage or report in because of the big glow and the fact that it looks like they may need help on the first attack line. We just happen to be the next one on arriving the scene and dont have time to "check in", because our instinct is to help mitigate a situation, ASAP.
I would like to hear feedback on FF accountibilty systems. I have found no 1 system a perfect one and I feel this is an area in need of ALOT of improvement. I would also challange those who reply to consider their M/A responses. Are you and your neighbors on the same page?
Better yet,,, and this may be a totally seperate post you and your M/A Departments have the same criteria for interior firefighters?????????????
If you cant answer that or dont know,,,you better ask!!!!!
I have found that what works for one FD regarding acceptable levels of training for one Department doesnt always work for the next and sometimes the "bar" is raised,,,,,or,,,,,,lowered. There seems to again be a pretty big grey area here. Are you and your Department competent enough to rise to your neighbors standards,,,,,,,,are the people on your fireground trained equally or better to your standards and your neighbors at minimum according to your Dept. SOG's??? Do you feel your neighbor is relaxed in these requirments and needs to step it up???
Lets talk about it !

As Always, Stay Safe Everyone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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You hit the nail on the head, people are what mess things up. Best solution is to Train, Train and then Train some more. If it isn't important enough to Train on it regularly, it must not be that important. Luckily where I work, we are fairly active, fire wise, so we get a lot of practice using our system in addition to our Training. When we first implemented our system, we made a lot of mistakes, but we worked through them. Now I think we do a fairly decent job at tracking personnel at our fires/idlh incidents. We don't have the most elaborate system, but it works for us.

Short explanation: on working fires, an additional Engine Co. is dispatched for the purpose of providing more personnel for a RIC. With 2 in 2 out, we are able to enter when we have four personnel on scene which for the most part is when the first Engine or Truck arrives. The two out at this time are called the "Standby Crew". As soon as the second Company arrives on scene, they may or may not be the RIC, that is up to the IC, but for the most part they are. Our tracking system is very simple, a Paper Roster that is filled out by the RIC leader (usually a Captain) from the Company assigned RIC. With the paper roster, you don't have to worry about a tag or chip, you just log their names, assignment, unit, entry and exit times. It sounds a little confusing, but we run a lot of Automatic/Mutual aid and we found it makes things easier. It seems to work for us, we've been using this system for about 10 years.

Sorry to sound a bit dense, but what exactly is an Interior Firefighter? Do you mean that there are some Firefighters who can't go interior? What do you have to do to become an Interior Firefighter, is there extra training one would have to take to do so? We only hire people who have gone through a recognized State Fire Training Academy, so they have all been trained in FC3 prior to starting on the job.
Geez Mike, so many questions! All of them are good and each deserves a separate post...

Starting with accountability: A couple of weeks back I ran the accountability board at a multi-department incident. Among the problems I had there were:

Different types of tags for each of the departments
A couple of the departments had no tags
One person without a tag kept going in/coming out alone, with no partner/buddy
Some people went in one entry point but came out another

So I had to mentally form a description of the people who weren't equipped with tags, in case something went wrong. Fortunately it was not a huge fire, mostly smoke, so the danger was not that great.

I considered limiting access to the building to only those properly identified, however since I was a mutual aid person I left that to the interior sector and IC.

We occasionally have off-road rescue situations that involve sending people in teams as they show up. Our department has a tag system, however for these incidents I have found pencil and paper works as well. I note down every one - rescuers, law enforcement, civilians, everyone - to make sure everyone comes back out.

As far as qualfications go, boy, you would expect that if you ask for interior FFs you would get them but that isn't the case. In our department, in order to be interior certified we need to have the basics plus several years of experience, FF safety/survival and a 32 hour SCBA confidence course run by the county. We train together and when on mutual aid assignments, buddy up together. We try not to pair up with members of other departments specifically because of the training difference.
Mike I was involved in accountability back when most of the departments in our area didn't know what it was. I cut my teeth in a HAZMAT team and worked for an Industrial site as a HAZMAT Technician several years before the departements around here even used a system. I remeber working with a Captain from the department to the south of us on their first system.

We used the tag system and have passports on each appratus. We are volunteer however no-one is allow to go direct (accountability). They must be on a peice of department equipment. There is one exception, Officers have the choice of coming direct but never do. It is there to give the flexability in case they need to setup command and direct 1st arriving companies. You are right when you say that this is a very important job; and one that get complicated at times. The passports help if they are used from the start of the incident.
In relation to the training issue, I've had many a robust conversation (via forums) with you guys on the other side of the world and I've gotta be honest- I think many of you are your own worst enemy.

I've riased on other websites the whole standardisation of the Fire Departments across the various States and have been shot down by countless people because "It's what sets us apart", "We don't all want to look the same" and "we don't no one else telling us how to do our job", etc, etc.

Well c'mon guys! Get serious about accoutnability and standardisation of training, equipment, vehicles, etc.

I'll give you a few examples from our side of the world and the benefits that standardisation has in a few different areas-

Agencies- Each State around Australia is similar to urs, but specific to my state (Vicotria) we have 3 fire services. MFB, responsible for Metropolitan Melbourne and surrounding areas only, CFA, responsible for the reaminder of Victoria and DSE who are responsible for Crown land, national parks, etc, FOr Police, we have 1 Police FOrce in each State and then at the Federal level we have the Australian Federal Police who are responsible for crime against the Commonwealth, etc. We have 2 Ambulance Services- MAS (Metropolitan Ambulance Service) and RAV (Rural Ambulance Victoria) responsible for the remainder of the State.

I tell you what, when it comes to standardisation, it doesn't come much simpler than that!

Uniforms- Come to my state (Victoria) and the whole of the CFA (Country Fire Authority) have 1 type and colour of uniform for each type of response (ie: there's structural fire turn out gear and wildfire turn out gear). It doesn't matter where you go in our State, every station has the same uniform. That means the same colours, the same agreed standards have been met in manufacturing, supply, etc. That's regardless of whether you're from a career, volunteer or combination station. Same goes for the MFB (Metropolitan Fire Brigade) and also DSE (Department of Sustainability and Environment- or Department of Scorched Earth due to a few burn off's getting out of hand in the last couple of years causing considerable damage!!!)

Vehicles- go to any CFA station (for example) in Victoria and every Tanker is laid out the same, with the same equipment! That means if you have to, for any reason, respond or work from another truck, there's no confusion! And all fire trucks are RED! (Well probably 98% of them)

Equipment- A brigade can't go out and buy additional equipment without first getting approval from a Regional Planning Committee. That means that the station down the road can't go out and a gas flare off kit becuase the next station along does. It means we're not wasting tax payer money doubling up on equipment, training, etc. Sure, it can be a bit frustrating at times and anal, but ultimately this process it's there for a purpose. Equipment is also generally brought at the State level so this means that you get good bargaining power with the suppliers. Instead of 1 BA set, they buy 50 at a time- you get a far better deal from them! And it means that if you respond with another station, guess what? You already know how to use the BA becuase your own station has the same!!!! Isn't it awesome????!!!!

Mutual Aid- What mutual aid agreement? The CAD system has been set up after loads of consultation to dispatch the reuqired services to the specific incident. So for example, if you get an MVA with entrapment and fire, it'll disptach the ambulances, the fire brigade, the rescue provider, Police, etc to the location. You don't get a choice on who you get. You call a "Fourth Alarm" (MFB) or "Make pumpers 4" (CFA), the CAD system dispatches who it's been programmed to dispatch. You have a HAZMAT, it'll disptach the Ambulance, Police, Fire Briagde, HAZMAT response team, etc.

Now the real kicker- Training (Which is what started me off on this rant -sorry!!

Now the real kicker- Training (Which is what started me off on this rant -sorry!!!)- We have nationally agreed competencies for the emergency services. That means that every person in the fire briaged (Again, regardless of whether you're from a career or a volunteer or a combination station) has been trained and assessed to the same competencies. And gues who wrote these competencies? The fire departments and Fire Unions from aorund the WHOLE country so it's nationally agreed!

Here's an example of the BA competency-

Element 1-Conduct predonning checks and tests on breathing apparatus
Performance Criteria for Element 1-1. Breathing apparatus is inspected for immediate use in accordance with the organisation’s procedures
2. Faulty or damaged equipment is reported and recorded in accordance with the organisation’s procedures

Element 2-Don and check breathing apparatus
Performance Criteria for Element 2-1. Breathing apparatus is donned in accordance with the organisation’s procedures
2. Breathing apparatus is started and checked in accordance with organisational procedures
3. Breathing apparatus control procedures are followed in accordance with the organisation’s procedures
4. Ancillary equipment required for the task is selected for use

Element 3-Operate breathing apparatus
Performance Criteria for Element 3-1. Hazards are identified, monitored and controlled in accordance with the organisation’s procedures
2. Communication is established and maintained with members and other appropriate personnel throughout the activity
3. Activities are undertaken as a member of a team, demonstrating effective application of breathing apparatus in accordance with the organisation’s procedures
4. Entrapment procedures are implemented in accordance with the organisation’s procedures
5. Personal safety is maintained at all times

Element 4-Conclude operations
Performance Criteria for Element 4-1. Breathing apparatus set is closed down in accordance with organisational procedures
2. Breathing apparatus set is removed in accordance with the organisation’s procedures
3. After use cleaning and maintenance of breathing apparatus is undertaken in accordance with the organisation’s procedures
4. Equipment is made ready for operational use in accordance with organisational procedures

Now it's not anally restrictive. It's not rocket science. It's not hard.

What it does mean is that every operator of Open Circuit Breathing Apparatus is taught and assessed against this competency. That means we know what "basics" they've been taught. And they'll get issued a Nationall Accredited certificate "PUAFIR207A Operate Breathing Apparatus Open Circuit" which means they can go to any fire brigade Australia wide, show the certificate, and they're through. (They may be required to prove it with a challenge test, written assessment, etc just to make sure- but so what? That's all part of accountability)

And we have these competnecies for 1000's of units for Police, Fire, Ambulance, SES, etc.

They include assessment criterias, variables, explanations of each of those elements and perfromace criterias, etc. (If you want to download them, go to )

Now back onto my rant! (Sorry, got sidetracked a bit more...) This all feeds into accountability on the fireground. Sure, it doesn't address the issue of tunnel vision and people being sucked in by the smell and the pretty colours, etc. but it goes a long way to addressing loads of the issue in the original post in this discussion.

And it's at a national level. No State, County, Department, City, Town egos at play here....
Train like it is the real thing, all the time, We use the passport system in my dept. and on fire scenes we implimented a door officer system as a secondary system to enhance the passport system. We also have one person soley dedicated to scene safety, he is a retired career firefighter this makes a third system to enhance the primary system. The door officer works like this, the person at the door is responciable for pulling a tag from each FF that goes in his or her point of entry and is responciable to get the tag back to the FF on exit. then the crews report back to the I.C. for reassignment or rehab or demobe, etc. it basiclly is a three fold system. We use it on scene and when we train, each and every time until it becomes a habit. DEDICATION AND DEVOTION MY BROTHERS, DEDICATION AND DEVOTION.
Sorry Mike- I think my rant scared everyone away!!!! Great topic and it obviously got my buttons pushed a bit....
Mike, for smaller incidents(car fire, residential smells and bells) we normally only tag to the truck and the OIC for the truck runs accountability. For larger incidents we have 2 people that are desiginated for accountability and 2 safety officers. That means most of the time we get one of each on scene. We also have 1 vehicle that is setup for command and accountability that has all required paper work for preplans, mutual aid and accountability boards. We use a 2 tag system(1 on the truck you rode in on and 1 for job you are assigned) and carry spare blank tags for our members and for mutual aid departments. If some one doesnt have a tag they are issued one with their name handwritten on it at accountability. The way it is supposed to work( and normally does) is accountability is with command at command car as units arrive the officer brings the tags for their members to accountability to be tagged with their job as they get it from IC.
As far as qualifications for interior fighting at a minium you have to do at least 3 smoke houses or structure burn classes(and meet all prereq's for those classes). We are lucky that several of our members are state level instructors and more of us help out when they are teaching so we get a chance to see how you perform in the class. Then the line officers and chiefs will vote on whether its time to let you go in or not. We have and odd number of line officers and you need a majority to be cleared. Once your cleared you are only allowed in with a line officer or training officer. We do attempt to run 3 man handlines if possible. As you get more exp. then the officers back off and you can go in with the more expierenced firefighters. We do have several members that prefer not to be interior firefightersand that is just fine also, we try not to force any one to do it but do encourage it.
We work and train with our mutual aid companies on a regular basis and know most of their members as well as we know our own. At some point most of us have been in one or the other of our mutual aid departments.
For training we require at least 25 hours of yearly training per member, with line officers and chief officers more is required. As the informal rule for us is that we will go bankrupt paying for training about 1/4 of our roster had 100 hours or more in training.
Good post though will be interesting to read the expierence around the world
Actually, I think its GREAT! I totally appreciate and respect everyones posts. It opens up new ideas and thoughts as to how others operate and causes us to step back and take a look at ourselves once in a while. Sometimes its easy to get caught up in the mode of thinking that this is how our Department does it, so its gotta be the only way and the right way. If someone can see or hear somthing they can bring back to their Department to impliment and it keeps someone from getting killed someday,,,its all worth it! Thanks for posting your info, great imput!
Be Safe Brother!
In our Department, we have personel catagories that go like this:

Fire Police

Interior and Exterior Firefighters are all required to, at minimum, take FF 1 . The difference is to become Interior, you MUST become SCBA qualified through testing and completing a MASK confidece course which includes buddy breathing and basic RIT skills.
Some people, due to various reasons, have no interest in going into a building or toxic environment that would include using SCBA.
They assist with every other aspect of fireground opereations including driving apperatus.
Fire Police and Support pretty much speak for themselves.

Thanks and Be Safe!

Well Firefighter Mike, what can I tell you. My view on this whole accountability thing is if you can't have the discipline to follow it, then why bother to have any SOG on this. Yes, I agree accountability is totally relying on the HUMAN factor. We are all in this job for the reason of saving lives, but we shouldn't have to be worried whether the lives we may have to save are "OUR SILLY IRRESPONSIBLE OWN MEMBERS" .

Maybe I am too safety minded, but if we can't play safe ourselves, our can we be depended on the public we are all sworn to serve to protect to provide them with being safe.

Now as for living up to other (neighbors) departments SOG's or raising the bar in your own to be equally or better trained than you already are is open for discussion. I know myself personally of a department in my area that seems to come across as being so well trained and above in their own mines. So much as to want to tell a neighboring department that has a manpower issue that they won't change their own rules to meet that departments rules and answer the mutual aid request of only to respond with an engine and the manpower it carries. When this department says they only want that and want no POV's responding to their scenes, they reply with "we will not change our rules to comply with one department". My question in this it, you are to abide by the department that has requested you, are you not??? Meaning if they request only an engine with manpower and want no other vehicles, why can you not simply follow that request. My view of this is if that is what they want comply with that request . If I was that requesting department, I think I would take that company off that pre-arranged mutual aid request for failing to do as I ask.

Now this brings me to another thing, "Why would you want to even go to that department to try and dictate to them how to run their department when yours has trouble getting themselves out at times". I would think that you would try to get your own things in order before you try to tell other how to run thier department.

Anyway, I got off the accountability question. My feeling is I think that accountability is neccessary and should be done at "ALL INCIDENTS", but this is a seperate responsibility that is not the safety officer's job. Yes that is right, not the safety officer's job, he should have enough other things to do that he would not have time to be watching over who is where and when, most of the time.

So, accountability is neccessary and should be done at ALL SCENES, because if you can't be accountable then you will pay with a life when the S*** hits the fan...

I have to close, I am rambling on more than I wanted too... So, in closing "I SAY YES" to accountability and do it everytime, all the time and never let anyone go unaccounted for..


See around brother..
I'm a little surprised that I dont hear more folks talking about PASSPORT. Maybe I missed it but I dont see it anywhere here. We use it like a religion and it works. I got my helmet tags today and from now on we dont move without them. If it is used as it is designed to be (ie backup PASSPORTs, engineer's tag upside down if he is only doing engineer duties and right side up if he is doing other things as well) it saves lives and and gives the IC an at the glance access to who is where. Of course there is always human error and it gets people hurt and killed, but systems like this rather than "Hey, Chief, Im here" go a long way to making sure we all go home. As see the 16 Directives being touted by Billy Goldfedder.

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