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by Scott Savage
Third Degree Communications

Why apply science to law enforcement critical incident response?

It seems law enforcement activities are under more scrutiny than ever before. During incident reviews and court trials, incident commanders are often forced to explain why they made certain decisions. Note that any law enforcement officer, even first arriving junior officers, may be the de facto "incident commander" until relived by a supervisor.

Other public safety professionals who make tough decisions, such as paramedics and hazardous materials technicians, rely heavily on the science of anatomy and chemistry (respectively) to guide their decision making. What science do we as law enforcement officers rely on? If you were being questioned by a grand jury about your decisions at a critical police incident, what science can you cite as the foundational rationale for why you did what you did?

According to Sid Heal, author of such renowned texts as "Field Command" and "Sound Doctrine: A Tactical Primer", tactical science is "the systematized body of knowledge covering the principles and doctrines associated with tactical operations or emergency responses and reconciling scientific knowledge with practical ends." [1]

Whether we give it a formal name like tactical science or not, the study and application of principles such as "defining the commander's intent" and "out maneuvering a suspect" are keys to success. Tactical science is not lofty academic theory, but rather well-established and sound principles to help guide our decision making.

Consider an incident commander leading an operation to apprehend a dangerous suspect who has fled into the neighborhoods. His decision making may have a range of consequences such as: allowing the suspect to escape and therefore endangering the public, inconveniencing citizens by closing down streets, and even costing his agency lots of overtime expenditures as he brings in additional resources. How does he decide what to do and can he later justify his decisions? Fortunately, the incident commander is well versed in tactical science and makes decisions based on sound principles. He knows statistically how fast a suspect will run and how to employ an envelopment tactic to catch him. He knows how to most efficiently employ his personnel so his impact to the public and overtime cost is only what is necessary. He clearly defines his "commander's intent" to his personnel who quickly implement his plan and apprehend the suspect. If asked to explain his decisions he can point back to current tactical science books and training courses as the basis for those decisions.

Understanding tactical science or becoming a tactician isn't just for those assigned to SWAT teams. Anyone who may find themselves being an incident commander, even for a short time, can benefit from a basic understanding. That understanding doesn't automatically come with being promoted or having time on the job. Instead it comes with years of experience, attending trainings and studying the relevant literature from the experts.

Scott Savage instructs the Third Degree Communications course entitled "Response Tactics for Critical Incidents and In-Progress Crimes".


[1] Charles "Sid" Heal, Field Command, (New York: Lantern Books, 2012), 11.

In the new issue of NFPA Journal®, President Jim Shannon said the Association will focus on the leading causes of home fires, including cooking. "We also need to continue to push hard for home fire sprinklers. That's still a large priority for NFPA, and we plan to work very aggressively in 2014 on our residential sprinkler initiative," he said.



This recall involves the EFLC1105 E-flite Ultra Micro-4, 4x9W, AC/DC Battery Charger from E-flite. The charger has four independently functioning charge circuits with a LED status display. Each port can charge one 30–150mAh, 1S UM cell, a 1S MCPX cell, or one 120–300mAh 2S pack equipped with a JST-PH, 3-wire connector. The charger measures 5 inches tall by 7 inches wide by 1.5 inches deep.  The charger is blue with a gray, black and blue faceplate with white and black type. “Eflite Celectra UMX-$ Battery Charger” is printed across the center of the charger.


See the full details at CPSC

NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations plays a fundamental role in fire and explosion investigations. A new edition of NFPA 921 is scheduled to be published in 2014. For years, this document has played a critical role in the training, education and job performance of fire and explosion investigators. It also serves as one of the primary references used by the National Fire Academy to support its fire/arson-related training and education programs. It is imperative that investigators understand the scope, purpose and application of this document, especially since it will be used to judge the quality and thoroughness of their investigations.

NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations plays a fundamental role in fire and explosion investigations. A new edition of NFPA 921 is scheduled to be published in 2014. For years, this document has played a critical role in the training, education and job performance of fire and explosion investigators. It also serves as one of the primary references used by the National Fire Academy to support its fire/arson-related training and education programs. It is imperative that investigators understand the scope, purpose and application of this document, especially since it will be used to judge the quality and thoroughness of their investigations.


SAN DIEGO - A Team 10 and Scripps News investigation found arson fires are not investigated properly in many American cities -- including San Diego -- due to a chaotic patchwork of reporting systems and standards.

Many deliberately set building fires are not reported to the federal government.

Nationally, just 5 percent of all residential building fires are intentionally set, according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.  Data collected by Scripps News suggests the national arson rate to be significantly higher.



This recall involves Nestlé three and five gallon cold and hot water dispensers. The units are white and silver in color and measure about 38 inches tall by 13 inches wide. Water is dispensed from the large plastic water bottle on the top of the unit through the machine by pushing on the paddles below that are marked with blue for cold water and red for hot water. The Nestlé Waters North America logo is on the front of the units. Only the following model and serial numbers are included in this recall. The model and serial numbers are printed on a white sticker on the back of the units.

Details can be seen at CPSC.


Model Numbers
Serial Numbers

















Trivia Questions of the Month

The trivia questions are not only fun but informative.  Who doesn't like learning something new, right?

Trivia question for August

The first propulsion means for fire pumps, whether they were hand or steamed powered, consisted of human beings pulling the pump.  Fire crews from the early 1900s were carried around by people, the apparatus had little room for personnel, they moved slowly and when they arrived at the scene, the firefighters were often too tired to do anything.  Luckily, in most cases, the fires died out before they even arrived, so there was little left for them to do.

Towards mid-1800s, and the age of steam, the introduction of the paid firefighters made room for horses to be largely put to use and pull the fire pumps.  This improved the response time of the fire brigades, but still didn't solve the firefighter transport issue.  People literally ran to the fires and, despite the fact that the pump was already there; they had some resting to do before getting to it.  The introduction of running boards and back steps, tail boards, later solved this problem as well.

The continuing development in fire-fighting technologies and equipment made life a lot harder for the horses.  The increase in weight of the fire engine slowly turned the horses as ineffective as the people were before them.  Often, after half a mile or so, the travel speed would decrease dramatically.  This called for a new means of propelling the engines.

Enter the self-propelled fire equipment.  The first self-propelled, steam powered fire engine in the US came to be in 1841 and it was built in New York.  Strangely enough, it didn't catch on.  Firefighters considered such a propulsion solution dangerous and unreliable.  It took decades before the steam powered fire engines really caught on.

However, the reign of the steam didn't last long.  Despite the fact that steam powered fire engines were still in use, here and there, up until the 1920’s, motorized fire trucks became more and more common by the early 1900’s.  Horse-drawn or steam powered engines started being turned into motorized fire engines.  By 1913, Ahrens-Fox Manufacturing Company from Cincinnati was the leading company when it came to the conversion.  From 1911, Mack Trucks began producing fire trucks, slowly becoming the most famous manufacturer in this field.

Many take the motorized fire equipment we use today for granted.  Yes it is big and shiny and very impressive, BUT, when was the first motorized fire engine used and where was it used?  What was the first fire department in California to become motorized?

I could ask that you trust to memory, but I know many will go to their computer for help. Good luck.

Click on any link below to find the trivia question and answer for that month.





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