Pre-incident plans or pre-fire plans are most often associated with structures or other man made sites. However, some target hazards that involve deployment of technical rescue assets, involve topography challenges, or are considered wide area search operations that might garner special attention with regard to pre-planning. In my experience this involves a different approach to our pre-incident planning process. We are not looking for typical items associated with structures such as hydrants, FDCs, PIVs etc. Conversely, special attention is given to topography, access, and operations that are predetermined best practices given the target hazard. The following illustration was created with this in mind and is a 3 page pre-incident plan that acts as a exploded view of a particular section of one of our rivers that produces 8-10 incident per year. That being said, we have gotten pretty good at operating within this environment based solely on our institutional knowledge. But what happens when the new guys have to operate in this taget hazard? Or when a new commander is assigned to the target hazards first due? This is where the pre-incident plan shines.
So how do we create these pre-incident plans? There are a lot of digital drawing programs out there with various learning curves for the end user. These range from Microsoft Visio on the lower end of the drafting spectrum all the way up to the commercial free hand vector based programs such as Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator. This particular plan was built with Corel Draw overlayed on a GIS terrain map. All icons, text, roads (basically everythimg but the map portion) was created using this software. I have 20 plus years working with Corel Draw in various applications so this program suits me well. I have taught firefighters how to use this particular software up to a level of competent production, but as we all know, time in the seat superceeds time on the job and some firefighters are better suited for this particular skill set if given the right instruction and ample time in the seat.
The style in which the finished pre-incident plan looks like is entirely dependent on the templete that you design for your agency. Care should be given to not deviate from the template as the end user instinctivley follows a predetermined path of information gathering when first looking at the pre-incident plan. Couple this with a 0200 hrs call and heightend stress levels, any major deviations on how things look or where text information is stored could result in the end user scrapping the whole process, thus rendering the pre-plan useless. This is the second of three pages and dives into the weeds if you will on the particular features of this section of river. Note the attention to gradient changes with regard to trail systems found in this area. Suggested staging locations, command post locations and operational items such as launch points and down stream containment areas have already been pre-determined and memorialized within this document.
The third page is a continuation of critical information pertinent to this area and gives vital information and resource information.
The need for mixed media within these documents is paramount. I am a firm believer that a lot of firefighters are visual learners. And looking for a picture or map is the first thing they go for. This is fine for a quick look or reference, but as the scale and duration of the incident lengthens most firefighters will start looking for text information pertaining to their needs.
Pre-incident planning is often overlooked or falls down the orginizational priority needs of many departments. I am not here to tell you where this program should fall within a particular agencies heiarchy, however I would say and truly believe that developing a program and maintaining it is easier than most people think. These plans not only help us mitigate a problem faster and more effeciently, but also could save a firefighters life. To me, its worth it!