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Firefighter/EMT Safety, Health & Survival: Rules of Engagement for Structural Firefighting

June 15, 2009

Return to June 15
issue of On Scene

IAFC On Scene: June 15, 2009

The IAFC Safety, Health and Survival Section is dedicated to reducing firefighter fatalities and injuries.

Fire-Rescue International 2008 in Denver, the section moved to develop rules of engagement for structural firefighting to serve as nationally developed model procedures (SOPs) offered by the IAFC. Over the past months, the project team has reviewed a number of existing fire-department rules of engagement SOPs and received comments from many subject-matter experts to develop the draft procedures described below.

Representatives from several other organizations, such as the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the Fire Department Safety Officers Association and the National Volunteer Fire Council, have also participated. The section is also sharing the work with representatives of the IAFF/IAFC Fire Ground Survival project team.

There are several project objectives:

  • to reduce firefighter risk of fatalities and injuries
  • to define critical factors that place the firefighter at risk
  • to be designed as a short bullet list that can be easily taught and remembered
  • to define a go/no-go decision that keeps firefighters safe
  • to be accompanied by a lesson plan that will provide proper training and explanation of the rules

Early on, the project team identified the need for two separate sets of rules of engagement: one for firefighters (who face the greatest risk) and one for the incident commanders. Each has similar bullets, but they’re explained in the context of different levels of responsibilities at a fire.

Because of space limitations, only a brief summary of the rules will be provided in On Scene. In this issue, we will cover rules of engagement for firefighters. The incident commander’s rules of engagement will be described in an upcoming issue. A broader explanation of both sets of rules of engagement can be found at the section’s website.

The section will continue to receive public comment on the proposed rules until FRI in Dallas this August. Readers are asked to email their comments to

Chief Gary Morris, Ret., serves as a director at large on the IAFC’s Safety, Health & Survival Section’s board of directors and is team leader for the Rules of Engagement project.