Rule Number 1: Do your homework and find someone else who know more than you do. If it was me, I would follow this guy...
Truck Company Operations by John Mittendorf, published by Penwell.
APPARATUS PLACEMENT IS DEPENDENT UPON THE BASIC STRATEGY OF THE INCIDENT COMMANDER
Whether a fire department uses the incident command system or not, the first officer to arrive at an incident is in command. After a brief size-up, the officer will begin to lay the foundation for the balance of the incident by initiating a specific direction for the initial company, giving specific directions (or not giving specific directions) to incoming companies, and other similar actions. The responsibility for initial actions (or lack of initial actions) belongs solely to the first-in officer. What an officer does with this responsibility is a result of SOP's, or in the absence of SOP's, the result of the officer's judgment (or lack of judgment).
EFFICIENT APPARATUS PLACEMENT REQUIRES SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE FROM THE INCIDENT COMMANDER
Once the first-in officer assumes command of an incident, conducts a size-up, and determines a course of action, it is time to issue specific instructions to company personnel at the incident and incoming companies, if necessary. Let's combine principles 3 and 4 and apply them to an incident that is a four-story apartment house with a fire in one unit on the fourth floor. Because it is a multistory building and an aerial device is responding, the front of the structure should be left open by the initial arriving engine companies for the later arriving aerial device to provide quick access to the fourth floor and/or roof. As this operation would not accidentally happen, let's analyze two different size-ups that can minimize or maximize the effectiveness of this fireground operation:
Engine 1 arrives on-scene, stops in front of the apartment house, and gives the following size-up: "Dispatch from Engine 1, we are on scene at 320 Grant Avenue, with fire showing from an apartment on the fourth floor of a four-story apartment building. Engine 1 is taking an attack line to the fourth floor." In this scenario, the first-in officer has enhanced the possibility of the next arriving engine company also spotting to the front of this structure, and in combination with the congested street, possibly preventing the first-in truck company from using an aerial device for quick access to the fourth floor and/or roof.
Now, let's consider the next size-up which would result in enhanced apparatus placement:
"Dispatch from Engine 1, we are on scene at 320 Grant Avenue with fire showing from an apartment on the fourth floor of a four-story apartment building. Engine 1 will be command and is taking an attack line to the fourth floor. Additionally, I want the next-in engine company to provide a back-up line on the fourth floor, and the first-in truck company to ladder the roof in the front of the building, provide ventilation operations, and check for extension in the attic." Notice the first-in engine company did not spot directly in front of the building, and the first-in officer communicated the following:
Engine 1 is in command of this incident.
Specific directions for the second-in engine company.
Specific directions for the first-in truck company. Additionally, by giving specific directions to the first-in truck, the officer tactfully communicated the fact that unless responding apparatus are equipped with an aerial device, don't even think about parking in front of the building. This approach gave direction to the first-in truck company, and ensured the correct spot was available when it arrived.
THE PLACEMENT OF INITIAL COMPANIES WILL BEGIN TO FORM THE PLAN FOR FIRE SUPPRESSION OPERATIONS
It is a fact that the proper placement of apparatus will provide the opportunity to use their capabilities in the most effective manner. Therefore, if the placement of initial companies (which are normally engine companies) is correct, other apparatus (i.e., truck companies) placement can also be correct. The first-in officer must assume the responsibility for considering both engine and truck company responsibilities. If the first-in truck cannot properly spot to a building due to poor engine company placement, it is normally the fault of the first-in officer, as illustrated. In many incidents, the first one or two engine companies prevent the first-in truck from spotting to the appropriate portion of a multistory structure and providing quick access to the upper floors and/or roof. If the placement of the first alarm assignment at an incident is not correct, it is impossible to call a "time-out," regroup, and start over again.
THE PLACEMENT OF ENGINE COMPANIES NORMALLY OFFERS MORE FLEXIBILITY THAN THE PLACEMENT OF TRUCK COMPANIES
This simple but often forgotten principle is based on the fact that it is possible to pull another length of hose, but impossible to stretch a ladder. If a truck company with a 75-foot aerial device is needed to rescue a trapped occupant on the fourth floor of a four-story building and is forced to spot 78-feet from the fourth floor by one engine company or chief officer, what has been accomplished? Depending on the needs of an incident, it may be necessary for initial engine companies to give the best spot to an incoming truck company and pull additional hose to reach an objective. In some cases, the address of a building belongs to a truck company, not the initial arriving engine company. Spotting of the initial companies will establish the basis of your overall fire attack plan. The proper placement of companies will maximize fireground capabilities, while the improper placement of companies will minimize capabilities and often create an unsatisfactory condition that is often tolerated for the balance of an incident.
RESPONDING COMPANIES SHOULD NOT APPROACH AN INCIDENT FROM THE SAME DIRECTION
Companies responding to an incident (i.e., specifically the first two companies), should not approach an incident from the same direction for the following reasons:
Companies responding to an incident from opposing directions will collectively see more sides of a building.
Opposing companies can develop a primary and alternate source of water.
Opposing companies will not drive over a supply line in the street.
Opposing companies can easily park in-line, leaving more of the street open for other apparatus.
APPARATUS ARRIVING AFTER THE INITIAL COMPANY (OR COMPANIES) SHOULD STAY BACK IN AN UNCOMMITTED POSITION UNLESS A SPECIFIC TASK HAS BEEN ASSIGNED
Simply stated, responding companies that do not have an assigned task should stop at least a block away from an incident. Adherence to this principle will minimize incident congestion and maximize scene access and spotting opportunities for additional companies (if necessary). When nothing is showing as initial companies approach an incident, the emphasis should focus on:
The initial company spotting for possible future operations, and conducting an investigation.
Additional companies spotting at the nearest intersection. This will enhance room in front of an incident, the ability to bring a source of water to an incident (if necessary), and allow uncommitted companies to quickly access an appropriate location for the incident.
If a working incident is encountered, the assignment of specific tasks by the incident commander should be able to dictate proper apparatus placement. If specific tasks have not been delegated, responding companies should ask the incident commander for an assignment prior to arriving on scene (as an example, "Engine 1 from Engine 2, we are several blocks away, how can we help you?"). At large incidents, staging areas are commonly used to park apparatus until assignments are delegated. In summary, additional companies other than the initial company responding to an incident should not drive into an incident and look for something to do without specific instructions. Adherence to this principle will eliminate a noteworthy percentage of fireground freelancing. Remember that strategic and tactical options are minimized if fireground congestion eliminates or detracts from proper apparatus placement.
A CHIEF OFFICER DOES NOT NORMALLY BELONG DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF AN INCIDENT AT THE EXPENSE OF FIREFIGHTING APPARATUS
Although a chief officer should be able to view an incident to develop and coordinate an effective attack for a problem that is constantly changing, chief officers do not carry hose, water, ladders, or directly extinguish fires! Therefore, if it is necessary to spot apparatus directly in front of an incident in order to effectively use their capabilities, a chief officer serving as an incident commander should select a location that offers the best view of an incident but allows apparatus to use their capabilities. As an example, In some incidents, incident commanders (chief officers) can park on the sidewalk across the street from the incident, allowing truck and engine companies to strategically spot to the building.