OPERATIONAL SERIES The On Scene Report

Welcome to our Operational Series.  This series will post 12 blogs explaining basic operations of the fire service.  This week we will write about the incredibly important, stage setting on scene report. 

OPERATIONAL SERIES:                                                                 The On Scene Report

Picture yourself as one of multiple fire companies driving to an incident.  You are aware of the type of call you are driving to, however until one of those responding companies arrives and describes what they see, you are driving with assumed thoughts.  When that first arriving company officer is on the radio describing what is seen, that officer is giving an On Scene Report.  This report sets the stage while providing a visual for responding companies still enroute.

The report must be brief and comprehensive with a goal of painting a picture in the minds of other responders.  There are a few guidelines of what an on scene report should entail such as a description of what is seen, what that particular company officer is going to do and what that officer wants the immediate incoming units to do.

Let’s first look at describing what is seen.  If the fire companies are responding to a residential structure fire, the on scene report should begin with a description of the structure itself.  Think of a house.  Does that house have one or two stories or accommodate a single or multiple families?   Is there smoke or fire showing or panicked residents yelling about someone still inside?  That information would be crucial and is the first part of your on scene report.   Now think of a traffic accident on the freeway, we’ve all driven by one at some point.  Does the accident in your mind have multiple vehicles involved?  Are those vehicles on the right shoulder or in the center divider and where are the occupants of those vehicles?   These few pieces of information are extremely valuable to incoming companies.

The next component of the on scene report will focus on what that company intends to do, in other words, what actions they plan to take.  Let’s go back to that residential structure fire.  That first on scene fire company, under normal circumstances, will attack that fire.  The officer must let incoming units know his/her crew will be designated as “Fire Attack” and if a water source is secured.  Fire engines carry 400-500 gallons of water that will go fast if 100 gallons a minute is flowing through the fire hose and nozzle, so connecting to a fire hydrant will be a high priority.  Regarding the traffic accident on the freeway, under normal circumstances, the first on scene fire company will initiate patient care and designate themselves as such.

The third and last component of the on scene report should advise the next arriving units of what actions they should take.  Going back to our residential structure fire, if the first arriving company assigns themselves to attack the fire, the second arriving fire company will need to take charge of the incident and manage the situation and start delegating assignments to incoming units as they arrive.  With the freeway traffic accident, the second arriving company may be assigned to stabilize vehicle hazards while the first company manages the patient care.

All in all, a brief and comprehensive on scene report is crucial to ensuring an organized approach is initiated at emergencies.  It paints a picture of what’s happening and lays the foundation for incident organization and mitigation.