Tuesday, June 8, 2010

simply commanding

I've neglected my education. It's a terrible thing for a fire chief to admit, but they say that confession is good for the soul, so here goes: I've never read "Fire Command" by Alan Brunacini.

Before the judge, jury, and executioner descend upon me, I hasten to add that I've attended gobs of incident command courses, most of them based on (retired) Chief Brunacini's doctrine. Over the years though, I've felt a certain lack . . . like I missed an important initiation rite into the mystical world of Incident Management. So I bit the bullet and ordered a copy of Fire Command for the Upsala Fire Department library, and now I'm filling in the holes of my incident management training. Here are my early observations about the book:

  • it's white, with a big picture of Command standing on a pedestal composed of Command doctrine books

  • there are no black, burned hog fuel stains on Command's white shirt

  • Command is surrounded by mad chaos in cartoon form

  • Command has that "I'm focused, I'm in charge, I'm cool" look, that I so wish I could perfect on the fire ground
As you can see, the cover made a huge impression on me. I did actually start reading the book though, and am currently enjoying the introduction. Here are my early observations about the content:
  • the book has lots and lots of pages (shudder)

  • the pages aren't numbered (probably so ADHD firefighters like me won't try to figure out how many there really are)

  • Brunacini has an annoying fascination with parenthesis (and so do I, by the way)

  • he is blunt, down to earth, and funny (he's my hero)

  • he has experience wearing filthy turnouts (so do I)

  • he had the good fortune of knowing a talented cartoonist, and the savvy to use him on every page (I'm still working on that one)

  • Brunacini knows the ultimate secret of writing for free societies: if we don't want to read it, we won't read it

  • he makes me want to read every one of those many, many pages (shudder)
I'm not saying that I have much in common with the guru of IMS, even though my twisted, manipulative writer-ramble seems to imply that. However, Brunacini did adapt the complex Californian FIRESCOPE model to the basic, everyday, bread and butter, structural fire world. Perhaps I could adapt it one step further and write my own book:

Fire Command In the Peripheral Edge of the Universe
A two-bit fire chief's perspective on managing chaos with three people

If you want to read Fire Command, you can get your very own copy here. No, I'm not getting a commission, but I really, really wish I was. And by the way, I do believe that Chief Brunacini earned his rightful spot as the guru of IMS.


Tis the season for ghost calls. Somebody, somewhere on Highway 17 hit a moose the other night. I don't know where it happened, but I do know for sure that it didn't happen by the English River bridge, even though we were paged at 02:43 to that very location for a van vs moose collision.

It isn't the dispatcher's fault that five firefighters had to leave their warm beds to go on a 50 km wild goose chase, but it sure would be nice to blame somebody. It seems heartless to blame the poor folks that hit the moose, so allow me to theorize about the Good Samaritan that called it in:

Cell Phone Samaritan: Hello? Is this 911?

Dispatcher: Yes, what is your emergency?

Cell Phone Samaritan: Some dude hit a moose.

Dispatcher: What is your location?

Cell Phone Samaritan: Um, let's see . . . I think I'm somewhere between Winnipeg and Toronto . . . what's this road called again . . . oh yeah, I'm on the Trans Canada Highway.

Dispatcher: Um, that's a pretty big area . . . can you narrow it down?

Cell Phone Samaritan: Narrow it down? Are you kidding? I'm out here in God's country! I've seen nothing but trees for hours. Wait, there's a bridge . . . it says "English River."

Dispatcher: We'll send help right away. Thank you.

Cell Phone Samaritan (closes his phone): Gee, I wonder if I should have told them that I drove for two hours before I got enough signal to call it in . . . nah, they'll figure it out.

Hopefully, they did.


  1. Brunacini's book IS good, but I'm sure you've commanded just fine without it. There's no substitute for experience, and besides there's no chapter about phantom moose calls in Brunacini's book. So what would HE know!?

  2. Definitely 'yes' to experience, not so sure about 'just fine.' At any rate, Brunacini should be a good read, and I'll hopefully learn something. SOMEBODY'S gotta manage those phantom moose . . .


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