Thursday, 17 October 2019 13:47

High Rise Guideline



            Initial Tactical Checklist (under development)

            CP & Staging Considerations (under development)

            Special Considerations (under development)



SCOPE:  The provisions of this guideline will apply to operational and evacuation practices conducted at a high-rise structure as defined within this guideline.  This guideline may also be applied to structures not classified as high-rises, but containing similar building characteristics and firefighting challenges.


PURPOSE:  The following information consists of a guideline for conducting suppression activities at a reported structure fire using the Burlington County Incident Management Plan at any high-rise occupancy, or structure with similar challenges, within Burlington County, New Jersey.  This guideline is intended to familiarize the wide-range of personnel anticipated to be involved in a high-rise incident in Burlington County, NJ.  Generally, there will be more automatic- and mutual-aid at a high-rise incident than there is from the authority having jurisdiction.


  2. High-rise incidents are unique, complex, low frequency, high-risk operations for both firefighters and civilians.
  3. As a general rule of thumb, it takes three times the effort and resources for a high-rise incident as it does to address a 1- or 2-story structure.
  4. Personnel should make every attempt to bring a minimum of one (1) spare cylinder aloft with them or at least to the lobby area for future deployment to staging.


  2. Because structural firefighting, specifically high-rise firefighting, requires a coordinated, near simultaneous execution of fire ground tasks (suppression, rescue, ventilation, etc.) during the initial stages of an incident, it is recommended that the following response recommendations occur with minimal delay.
  3. Minimum recommended response for an automatic fire alarm

                  1 engine

                  1 ladder or other company as determined by the department

                  1 chief officer


  1. Minimum recommended response for a reported structure fire

    4 engines

    2 ladders

                        1 rescue

                        2 chief officers

                        1 ambulance

                        1 rapid intervention crew




  1. AUTOMATIC FIRE ALARM-When companies are dispatched to an alarm system at a high-rise, units will take the following actions-


  1. First arriving unit
  2. Establish command
  3. Report to the main entrance of the facility
  4. Position apparatus in a position to proceed to the standpipe or to another location, as needed
  5. Verify alarm location(s) from the fire alarm control panel/annunciator
  6. Obtain keys and information (as needed) from key box (Knox Box)
  7. Investigate the first reported alarm location annunciated on fire alarm control panel.


  1. Second arriving unit
  2. Company officer, and crew if needed, will report to the alarm panel unless otherwise directed by the incident commander
  3. Assist with investigating alarm


  1. First arriving chief officer
  2. Assume command after transfer with initial IC
  3. Establish command post, preferably in Division-A
  4. Determine strategic and tactical priorities based on scene size-up


  1. Additional arriving units will Level I stage and await assignment from IC.


  1. STRUCTURE FIRE-When companies are dispatched to a reported fire at a high-rise, the following actions will be taken:


  1. First arriving unit (typically first due engine)
  2. Establish command.
  3. Give a preliminary report.
  4. Declare strategy as offensive or defensive.
  5. Obtain information from occupants, building management, or security.
  6. Check the alarm panel for activations.
  7. Take control of elevators.
  8. Verify the location of the fire.
  9. Identify and communicate the location of an attack stairwell, evacuation stairwell, and ventilation stairwell (roof).
  10. Get keys and info from key holder and/or Knox Box.


  1. Next assigned engine (may be first arriving unit also)
  2. Connect to and supply the building sprinkler system before supplying the standpipe.
  3. Verify the location of the fire before committing hand lines.
  4. Hand line diameter will be determined by the engine company officer, based on construction, occupancy, and size-up.  Fires identified with wind-driven conditions necessitate larger caliber hose streams (2 ½”).
  5. Operate on fire floor using closest stairwell or standpipe connection on the floor below the fire unless wind-driven conditions or civilian evacuation necessitates a change in the attack stairwell.
  6. Ensure stairwell is clear of civilians prior to compromising stairwell with hand line or ventilation.


  1. First assigned ladder
  2. Conduct a preliminary inspection of building exterior.  Chauffer will work with company unless aerial main is needed for access or rescue.
  3. Position apparatus for maximum scrub area of building on Division-A or where immediate rescue or life threat exists.
  4. Report to fire floor and work with initial suppression engine company.
  5. Conduct primary search of fire floor.
  6. Check plenums and void spaces on fire floor.


  1. First assigned chief officer
  2. Assume command.
  3. Announce ICP location and establish command post.
  4. Declare strategy as offensive or defensive.
  5. Determine strategic and tactical priorities based on incident size-up and declared strategy.


  1. First assigned RIC
  2. Proceed to Staging Area two floors below lowest fire floor.
  3. Minimum equipment required-
  4.       RIC scba and spare cylinder
  5.       Extra cylinder for each member assigned

                                                                      iii.      Thermal imaging camera

  1.       Spare radio batteries for members


  1. Next assigned engine
  2. Support the water supply of the standpipe supply engine.
  3. Proceed to the fire floor to support initial suppression engine.
  4. Assist with first hand line.
  5. Stretch a 2½” hand line as the second line, if needed.


  1. Next assigned ladder
  2. Position apparatus for maximum scrub area of Division-C, unless IC/situation dictates aerial is needed in another area
  3. Proceed to floor above fire floor
  4.       Perform rescue and occupant removal as dictated by conditions on floor (removal versus shelter in place)
  5.       Assist engine company, as needed

                                                                      iii.      Check for extension

  1.       Determine ventilation needs


  1. Second assigned chief officer
  2. Report to IC
  3. Suggested assignments are support incident commander at command post, Lobby Control, Operations Section Chief, Safety/Accountability Officer, or Division/Group supervisor as directed by the IC.
  4. Coordinate suppression, ventilation, evacuation, and staging area needs from floor below


  1. Next assigned engine
  2. Proceed to floor above fire floor with hand line
  3.       Uncontrolled fire on fire floor requires minimum 2½” hand line
  4.       Checking for extension requires minimum 1¾” hand line
  5. Perform rescues and occupant removal from floor above
  6. Check for extension
  7. Coordinate activity with ladder assigned to same floor


  1. Next assigned apparatus
  2. Proceed to top floor to check
  3.       Civilians trapped in stairwell
  4.       Roof access

                                                                      iii.      Ventilation openings

  1.       Fire/smoke extension


  1. Next assigned apparatus
  2. Officer to Lobby Control
  3. One member to control elevator return and use of Phase I & II Fire Service
  4. One member to control utilities with building engineer


  1. Subsequent arriving units/alarms proceed to Level II Staging Area for deployment as needed.  Possible job tasks include:
  2. Control of utilities
  3. Control of stairwells and evacuation
  4. Control of elevators
  5. Assist in engine company operations
  6. Assist in ladder company operations
  7. Assignment to command post/ staging area
  8. Relieve companies going to rehab


  1. Subsequent arriving chiefs will report to the command post for assignment to a position within the incident management system.




  1. Building evacuation managed by the fire department should be managed in the following order:
  2. The fire floor
  3. The floor above the fire
  4. The top floor of the building
  5. Floor below top floor down to fire floor


  1. The above floors will be given priority, but care must be taken to see that the rest of the building is evacuated.


  1. If sheltering in place, a clear communication to units on location shall be declared and safe area of refuge identified.


  1. Occupants not sheltered in place and that have evacuated the building should not be within 200 feet of the exterior of the building (protection from overhead debris/glass).


  1. Evacuated occupants shall be moved to an assembly area for accountability and, if needed, triage, treatment, and transport by emergency medical service.




  1. Elevators may be used at the discretion of the incident commander for incidents on or above the 7th floor of a high-rise.


  1. Before using the elevators:
  2. All elevators shall be returned to the lobby utilizing phase I elevator control.
  3. Check the elevator shaft for fire, smoke, or water penetration by shining a hand light between the elevator car and the shaft.  If there is evidence of any fire, smoke or water in the shaft, the elevator will not be used.
  4. Personnel using elevators shall be trained in self-extrication from elevator cars.
  5. Members shall communicate their unit number and elevator car number to the incident commander or lobby control.
  6. Only one company (maximum of 5 members) may occupy the elevator at one time.
  7. Personnel shall have SCBA donned and turned on and prepared to don their mask. Appropriate tools for use in self-extrication from an elevator shall also be carried.
  8. Members utilizing elevators shall know the location of the nearest stairwell.


  1. If there is any doubt as to the reliability or integrity of the elevator, the elevator will not be used.


  1. Using elevators
  2. Activate phase II elevator control in the car.
  3. Check elevator for proper operation within the first five (5) floors.  If there is a malfunction, report it immediately to the incident commander.  The company will then utilize the stairs.
  4. Members shall exit the elevator at least two (2) floors below the fire floor or two (2) floors below the lowest level of fire alarm initiating device activation, whichever is lower.




  1. Use of HVAC to exhaust smoke.
  2. Systems should be shut down until the fire is under control.
  3. Decisions to reactivate these systems should be made with the knowledge of the Incident Commander, Operations Chief, and Building Maintenance.
  4. All personnel should be advised of these actions by the IC and removed from the fire floor(s).


  1. Vertical Ventilation
  2. Pressurizing stairwells from the ground using high volume positive pressure fans will help maintain tenable conditions for firefighting and evacuation.  This shall be coordinated with Operations Section prior to being implemented.
  3. Can be supported with PPV fans from the ground.
  4. Must be coordinated with companies on the fire floor.
  5. Vertical ventilation cannot be conducted in the evacuation stairway until it is clear of occupants.


  1. Horizontal Ventilation
  2. Pressurizing stairwells from the ground using high volume positive pressure fans will help maintain tenable conditions for firefighting and evacuation and can assist in horizontal ventilation.  This shall be coordinated with Operations Section prior to being implemented.
  3. Can be conducted as necessary during fire operations.
  4. Wind conditions shall be checked prior to ventilation to ensure that horizontal ventilation will be favorable to conditions.
  5. Glass breakage shall only be conducted with the permission of and after the IC is notified of the location of the window so that a warning can be issued on the ground.  Precautions should be taken to prevent unwanted damage to hose lines and injuries to personnel.  Open window and pull window glass to inside, if conditions permit, in order to prevent glass from falling to exterior. 


  1. INCIDENT COMMAND-The incident commander should appoint the following positions within the Incident Management System, as needed, for a high-rise incident.
  2. Staging Area Manager
  3. The Staging Area Manager reports to the IC in the initial phases of an incident.  When the Operation Section Chief role is staffed, the Staging Area Manager will report directly to the Operations Section Chief.
  4. Staging will be established two floors below the fire, unless conditions dictate otherwise.
  5. It is recommended that a company from the first alarm assignment set up staging.
  6. Rehab shall also be set up in staging for firefighters needing rest, recycling, or requiring medical attention.
  7. Staging will maintain a record of resource status for personnel accountability.


  1. Base Manager
  2. Base may be implemented when the Level II staging area and Staging Area Manager have determined the resources outnumber the space allocation allotted for Level II staging.
  3. Base serves as a deployment point from which personnel and equipment are distributed.
  4. Base Manager reports to the Incident commander if the Logistics Section Chief has not been established.
  5. Base should be located a safe distance from the involved structure, normally 200 feet or more.
  6. Responsibilities of Base include:
  7.       Establish one or more safe routes into the building
  8.       Coordinate movement into the building with Lobby Control

                                                          iii.      Maintain an accurate log of resources contained in Base.


  1. Lobby Control Unit Leader
  2. Establishing lobby control should be a priority for all working high-rise incidents.
  3. Lobby Control Unit Leader shall report to the Incident Commander if the Logistics Section Chief or Support Branch Director has not established.
  4. Responsibilities of Lobby Control include:
  5.       Use of the building communications system to address occupants
  6.       Control of all firefighting personnel and civilians entering and exiting the building

                                                          iii.      Determine occupant egress to ensure a safe corridor for exiting people

  1.       Direct personnel to move occupants at least 200 feet from the building
  2.       Coordinate the use of elevators
  3.       If not already assigned to Ventilation Group, pressurize the stairwells with fans when the building HVAC cannot be used.


  1. Stairwell Support Unit Leader
  2. The stairwell support function is implemented when equipment cannot be moved to staging by elevators or when additional water supply is needed.
  3. The Ground Support leader shall report to the Incident Commander if the Logistics Section Chief or Support Branch Director has not established.
  4.       Stairwell Support responsibilities includes movement of equipment (cylinders, hose, rehab, etc.) via the stairwells to the staging floor


  1. Rapid Intervention Crew


  1. Rapid Intervention Crews will stage two floors below the fire floor, unless directed otherwise by the Operations Section.


  1. The crews will be made familiar with operations and locations of companies.


  1. As incident escalates, additional Rapid Intervention Crews should be added to match incident alarm level based on number of companies operating in IDLH environment and number of floors involved in incident.





Stairwell Support Unit:  Functional unit within the Logistics Section.  Personnel assigned are responsible for the transportation of portable equipment (cylinders, hose, tools, rehab supplies, etc.) up stairwells from ground level to the staging floor of a high-rise structure.


High-Rise: A building with an occupied floor located more than 75 feet (22860 mm) above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access.


Incident Commander (IC): Individual responsible for managing all incident operations.


Incident Command Post (ICP): The location established by the IC and designated as ‘CPXX” where XX refers to the district (i.e. 10, 22, 32, 36, etc.)


Lobby Control: Control point for fire fighting resources located within the lobby of a high-rise structure.  The Lobby Control Officer is responsible for controlling vertical access of emergency personnel to known safe routes, operating elevators, controlling the air handling system and coordinating the movement of supplies.


Medical Rehabilitation Unit / FF Rehab: Crews that have members who have exhausted two SCBA cylinders will be directed by their assigned Division/Group supervisor to report to Firefighter Rehabilitation.  That crew will be replaced by fresh crews assigned out of staging.  The primary goal of firefighter rehabilitation is to ensure firefighter safety.  When crews have been cleared from rehabilitation, they will report back to the Staging Area Manager for next assignment, unless directed otherwise.


Resources:  Resources include personnel and major items of equipment, supplies, and facilities available or potentially available for assignment to incident operations and for which status is maintained.


Staging:  Location established where resources can be placed while awaiting a tactical assignment (usually two floors below the lowest fire floor or one floor below the Operations Post).  The Staging Area Manager reports to the Operations Section Chief, once established.  There may be more than one Staging Area at an incident.  When this is the case, Staging Areas are designated by geographic names.


Level I Staging: Implemented during initial stages of response as defined under the Burlington County Incident Management Guideline.

Level II Staging: Is a specific location assigned by the IC consistent with the Burlington County Incident Management Guideline.


Stack Effect: Stack effect is the natural movement of air within a building.  It becomes noticeable in buildings more than sixty feet high and becomes stronger as the building gets taller.  It is caused by the rising of warm air through stairways, elevator shafts, utility chases, and all else.  The Reverse Stack Effect can occur when air tends to sink in an air-conditioned building with hot weather.



Published Resources Used in Developing This Guideline (various fire department guidelines were consulted also, but not enumerated)


  1. Developing Effective Standard Operating Procedures. FEMA. 1999.


  1. Norman, John. Fire Officer’s Handbook of Tactics, Second Edition. Saddle Brook, NJ. Penn Well Publishing Company. 1998


  1. Model Procedures Guide for High-Rise Firefighting, Second Edition.  Fire Protection Publications. 2003.


  1. Burlington County Fire Chiefs’ Association,, Incident Command System-Burlington County, adopted September-1992, effective January-1993, and revised July-2010.


  1. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Emergency Management Institute,


  1. 2009 International Building Code® New Jersey Edition, second printing, International Code Council, Inc. 2009.