Emergency Scene Size Up – First Responders

Every situation is unique in some respect, this is why a SCENE SIZE UP must be performed for all operations.  Not every call may warrant a 360 walk around, medicals for example, however a size up of the area of operations must be performed. Knowing  the layout, conditions and other information provides a great level of understanding when designing the IAP and having the most information  available for occupant and responder  safety.


Captain Thornton arrived on the first engine  that was dispatched with other units to a report  of smoke in a garage. Captain Thornton reported  nothing showing upon his arrival. Firefighters  including Captain Thornton advanced an attack line into the structure and began to search for the source of the smoke, after talking to the  home owner which saw smoke inside the garage. Their attempts to locate the source failed, so they went to the  upper floors leaving their hose line. Fire conditions deteriorated rapidly.

Captain Thornton ran out of air and buddy-breathed with the firefighter. A second attempt to buddy-breathe was unsuccessful, and Captain Thornton fell to the floor. The firefighter broke out a window, signaled distress, and went back to find Captain Thornton.

The firefighter was unable to locate Captain Thornton, but was able to find his way out of the structure. Captain Thornton was found by firefighters and removed from the structure after some time had passed. LODD reports indicate had Captain Thornton performed a 360 walk around the fire’s location would have been identified on the far side basement area and suppression efforts could have been focused there.

NIOSH Report F2005-05 http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/

Size Up and Command Drill

Each member will conduct their own 360 walk around of any given structure. When the structure is too large to perform by foot, the initial IC may instruct another unit to perform a size up of areas not accessible by the initial IC.

Decide a location for the first size up. Upon arrival the initial IC will give a radio report of what can be seen from the seat of the apparatus. In this report include any scene conditions, initial actions to be performed and the operational radio frequency. The initial IC will exit the apparatus and begin to perform  a walk around of the structure.

During the 360, take note of any hazards, conditions and the like that could affect responders that will be operating. The initial IC is also looking at the layout of the building including significant items such as structural damage/stability, basements, window bars, electrical boxes, mailboxes and of course fire/smoke conditions.

Once the 360 is complete the initial IAP can be con- firmed or changed based upon any new information. At this time the initial IC can make a follow up radio report if conditions dictate the need for additional resources or changes to the incidents dispatch  purpose. All members will take turns performing this then move to another location, if warranted.