National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Instructions and Assignments Not Clear


6. Instructions and assignments not clear. One firefighter uses a drip torch to ignite grasses on the right side of the image.  Two firefighters spray water from a yellow fire engine onto burning grass on the left side of the image.

6. Instructions and assignments not clear.

The Incident Command System (ICS) is used to provide uniform chain of command on all incidents. This Watch Out shows an engine crew working in a counterproductive manner, without clear instructions towards an expected outcome.

Read about all 18 Watch Out Situations.

Every firefighter will give and receive briefings at some point on the job. Briefings are an effective way to disseminate information that can make the firefighter’s job safer and easier. When giving a briefing, it is important to keep the following questions in mind and remain perceptive to how the audience is receiving the information:

  • Did you use the Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461, standards briefing checklist?
  • Did they ask questions? Do you get empty stares? What feedback are you looking for to ensure they understand you?
  • Talk with coworkers about what it is like giving a briefing.
  • Did they take notes? What kind of information would you like to see people write down?
  • Did they repeat information back? What other ways can you identify that your briefing is understood?
  • Did you give all the necessary information? How will you ensure that you covered everything necessary?
    • Task
    • Location
    • Communications
    • Hazards
    • Who, when, etc.

It is also important for the firefighter who is receiving instructions to be mindful of the following during the briefing:

  • Did you really listen? What do you do to make yourself pay attention to everything being said?
  • Did you understand the assignment, location, and the nature and location of hazards? Do you expect to figure it out for yourself when you get out there or do you step forward and ask questions?
  • You must know the location of the assignment and:
    • What is to be done.
    • Who you are to report to and how often to report.
    • Expectations for completing the assignment.
    • Hazards.
    • Communication plan frequencies.
    • Weather and fire behavior.
    • Status of adjoining forces.


Fire Communication
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Aug 2021

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