FRIDAY FORUM: Roof SA Part 3 - Trust but Verify

E19 is on location, 2 story, occupied, end of the row, 15x45, heavy fire 1st floor, Bravo same size and dimensions, correction breezeway…

It was night, responding as the SOC company on the box and assigned to the roof position.  Over the siren I heard the report: “2 story, end of the row…” My size up and mental visualization had already begun.  When we arrived I climbed a 28’ on the Delta side (without getting a good look at side Alpha) and began to look around, heading for the exposure roof as was my custom to stage my tools.  

As I walked toward the Bravo, my mind had already formed a picture of the party wall I’d have to step over to gain the next dwelling, but through the smoke my eyes began to see not a wall but a void. Half of my brain tried to carry me forward (“you’re just seeing the other roof Tim…”) while the other half rapidly reassessed what it was processing.  “Wait, what was that part at the end of the size up? Something about a breezeway???”  In a split second it all clicked.  This was a row type dwelling, very close to but not connected to its exposure but separated by a narrow breezeway even with the roof line. So close that even the first-in officer didn’t recognize it at first and had to correct himself.  I stopped short of stepping right off the side of the roof, but just barely, as the momentum of body weight and 100lbs of equipment did not want to stop on a dime.

There are two lessons here.  First, roof ops have the very real danger of simply falling off.  With all of the focus necessary to constantly assess conditions and perform tasks, it can be easy to simply lose track of the edge. “Spatial” awareness must remain at the center of your “Situational” awareness. 

Second, our environment is defined by the constant size up of uncertainty. We are constantly Observing, Orienting, Deciding, and Acting, but we almost always do so with incomplete information.  Remain skeptical of your own perceptions. Make decisions, but always be on the lookout for the Black Swan...

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