Firefighting: Strategies and Tactics

By: Derek Kaucher, BS, Firefighter/CCEMTP

In the fire service, we hear the words strategies and tactics often, two words that have been part of our culture since firefighting began. Too often, we get caught up in all the other required training components, and forget to train our crews on strategies and tactics. So, let’s refresh a bit on just what those words mean. In simple terms, strategy is the “what” we are trying to accomplish, and tactics are the “how” we get the “what” done.

The strategies that we employ for different types of firefighting emergencies are often general in nature. More emphasis should be placed on training related to our overall strategies. We focus a lot on continued training evolutions that deal with tactics, but often expect the strategies to be known by all levels of firefighters, when in fact, they aren’t.

As company officers, we must remember to talk about our strategies as much as we train on our tactics. Think of it this way, instead of just doing “hands-on” evolutions at the fireground, try and implement scenario-based training as well, that allows us to effectively perform our tactics while reinforcing our strategies.

Coordination and communication are extremely important in allowing our strategies to mirror our tactics and vice versa. This has to happen for our incident outcomes to be successful. While many will say that tactics play a bigger and more important role than strategy for a successful outcome at a fire, one is not more important than the other.

Generally speaking, company officers are more involved with developing strategies and firefighters are tasked with performing the tactics to accomplish them. However, the relationship between the two should be taught to all members to achieve the common goal. As the incident commander gives orders on the fireground, the crews must understand those directions and be able to put the direction to action. Every firefighter has a responsibility to be versed on the overall strategy at the fireground. This will allow them to choose the best tactics to accomplish the goal both safely and effectively.

Remember, strategies and tactics are interrelated. The strategy is simply the plan of bringing the incident under control and tactics are the techniques or procedures we use to accomplish the strategy.

“Training promotes knowledge, knowledge dispels fear; train hard, fear not” -Unknown

Derek is a firefighter/CCEMTP with over 15 years in the fire and EMS world. He has been involved with volunteer agencies, municipal agencies as well as industrial departments. He currently teaches fire and EMS continuing education, works for a fire department as well as part time for a county EMS service. He has multiple certifications in fire, EMS, hazmat, and technical response and is in the process of completing his Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership for Fire and Rescue Executive Leaders.