When a fire company is dispatched for a house fire, there are five essential questions that need answers so that firefighters can do their job. Their priorities are protecting lives and protecting property, in that order. When the fire chief arrives on scene, he will immediately need to know the following:
- Where are the people?
- Where is the fire?
- How big is the fire?
- How big might the fire become?
- Where might it go in the next several minutes?
Answers to these questions affect where the chief tells the fire trucks to park, what he tells crews to do initially, and whether he calls the dispatch center and asks for a second alarm. At the Bird-in-Hand Fire Company we use our annual census book as one tool to help answer the question of how many people could be in a house (especially at night) and whether there are hazards present that could make the fire worse, such as a propane tank or oxygen cylinders.