The Fairfax Fire Department command vehicle. PPhoto courtesy FFD
ICs can operate from the back or front of the vehicle. Both arrangements are appropriate for certain situations and involve different equipment.
Working from the driver’s seat (with the command aide sitting in the front passenger seat) works well for incidents handled by a first-alarm assignment or about 10 to 12 responding units. The advantages of working from the front seat include operating in a work area with comfortable seating that is out of the elements, working in an area where the commander can listen to a mobile radio and limit noise distractions by keeping the windows up, and working in close proximity to the mobile data terminal or mobile computer.
The most significant benefit of working from inside the vehicle is that the commander can focus on the units operating in the IDLH, because the command aide is in a position to assist in unit and crew accountability and to serve as the gatekeeper to the command post. In this position, small command boards or command worksheets are the best tools for the commander and command aide to use for tracking units and documenting incident benchmarks.
If the incident escalates to a multi-alarm event or becomes an extended operation, the IC should consider moving the command operation to the rear of the vehicle to use the vehicle’s built-in command module. These larger boards can accommodate more resource assignments and make the transition to a fixed facility command post much easier. The command aide should facilitate setting up the large command boards in the rear of the vehicle. The IC should not relocate until these resource and accountability boards have been completely transferred. This step reduces confusion and the possibility of missed radio traffic.
A properly equipped command vehicle module should be designed to fully accommodate two people operating on two separate radio channels using headsets, have a space for laying out preplans and maps, and have space to deploy additional large command boards for the SITSTAT and RESTAT functions. Ideally, a mobile computer should be available in the rear work area so that the command aide can access digitized preplans, aerial pictometry, hazmat databases and other reference materials. The key to success with these resources is ensuring that all potential command aides have a working knowledge of the software applications.