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The Kitchen Table Debrief – CHAOS and ICS

The Kitchen Table Debrief – CHAOS and ICS

Ed Raposo

The biggest lesson you’ll learn in the following article is that we are destined to be students forever. We may think we have learned all there is to our jobs or to life in general, but the truth is that we are all crawling around this planet as perpetual students. The longer it takes to accept this reality, the longer it takes for us to open up and learn new lessons.

CHAOS – Chief Has Arrived On Scene

Sure seems like that sometimes, but that is the opposite of what the Chief, or the senior officer, wants at the outset of an incident.

I come from a 40-member all-volunteer department. Several years ago, we added paid personnel during the week, but initially it was volunteer only.

When we had a fire, it was typically chaos. Confusion, tension, and stress. Not much has changed. I would bet that’s pretty similar to what you see in your Department. In our rural community we don’t see many fires; maybe 10% of our calls, and that includes brush fires and car fires. The real cookers, those fires that provide fodder for kitchen table conversations, only occur every couple of years. But they do occur.

Sure, we’ve all heard: “That kitchen fire on Pine Street spread quickly, and the basement fire on Reynolds Road was intensely hot, but do you remember the Red Tavern fire a few years back? The tar was bubbling off the roof and splattering us on the aerial ladder as we were venting and….!!” Yadda, yadda. And of course, most of these stories end the same way: “Things were going fine until company XYZ showed up!”

Small fires can be dispatched pretty efficiently. Get in, do what you have to do, get out. But the bigger fires, those that require mutual aid companies, usually go through periods as a mixed-up cluster, or at least have confusing moments during the evolution.

In my 18 years in the Fire Service I have been in enough “mixed-up clusters” to form the opinion that most big incidents are a mixture of confusion and haste in the beginning, before control sets in later in the evolution. I wanted to avoid that mixed-up cluster altogether. I was determined to find someone, or some group that “did it right” because I was sure we were doing something wrong.

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