Chapter 4 – Risk-Benefit Analysis

David Mark

The Risk vs Benefit Analysis is a key component to the IC’s size-up when deciding on a strategic mode. The Fire Department will “risk a lot to save a lot”, “risk a little to save a little” and “risk nothing to save nothing”

Risk a lot to Save a Lot

The IC will determine that there is a high chance of survivability and they have a strong chance of rescuing an occupant, protecting property or the environment. They will assign crews to do an aggressive fire attack and search while risking the health and potential death of a firefighter. These risks could include floor collapse, roof collapse, medical emergency, flashovers and backdrafts. An offensive attack with multiple crews entering a two-story house with a compartmentalized fire and heavy smoke with reports of a trapped child would be risking a lot to save a lot.

Risk a little to save a little

The IC will determine that there is a low to moderate chance of survivability or protecting the structure, property or environment. While there may be the potential for a patient to be rescued, the fire might need to be controlled before the firefighters enter the structure. A quick attack from outside the structure to darken the fire may allow the firefighters to then enter and perform their tasks.

Risk nothing to save nothing

The IC will determine that there is no benefit to risking the firefighters’ life, safety and health when there are no signs of survivability or damage to the property/environment is too great. Significant fire involvement, extreme heat or building collapse would lead the IC to this decision. This would become a defensive fire, and firefighters would attack it from outside only.

Contributing factors into the Risk vs Benefit Analysis

Time of Day

Is the building occupied? At night, a house is expected to have people inside vs daytime when they might be at work/school

Is it a Holiday/Stat or a regular workday


Are there cars parked in the driveway/parking lot, or is the driveway/parking lot empty

On Scene Reports/Indications

Occupant indicates there are people still inside the structure

Neighbours can inform you if the family is away on holidays, or if they are normally home at this time

Are there children who should be at school, or toddler aged children who would normally be home with a parent

Are there elderly, handicap or special needs people inside the house

Is the house abandoned/boarded up/slated for demolition

Smoke & Fire Conditions

Is there significant fire involvement throughout the house

Is the fire through the roof/has the roof collapsed

Is the fire isolated to a single room

Are the smoke conditions favourable for an occupant to survive

Where is the fire located

Structural Specific

How long has the fire been burning, and has it started to affect the frame structure

What type of building construction

What is the layout of the building

Are there sprinkler systems/shelter-in-place procedures

What is the Occupancy Class

Fire Department Specific

Is there a water supply available

How close is the next in Apparatus

Is there a RIT team


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Emergency Scene Management I - FIRE-1114 Copyright © by Justice Institute of British Columbia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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