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Lesson Plan Originally Created By: Scott Bryant

Chain of Command

Part of Unit: Fire Science Organization and Responsibility

Lesson Plan Overview / Details

The Fire Service is a "Paramilitary" organization.  It patterns itself after the military in many aspects, one of the most important being "Chain of Command".  It is this basic premise which allows the functions of the fire service to be carried out through a recognizable span of control as well as a common division of labor.

Firefighters always recognize the command function as well as the consequences for not following it.

Lesson Time


Objectives and Goals

  • Students will be able to recognize the Chain of Command and apply it to the many different facits of the Fire Service.
  • Introduction to "ICS" will also be utilized.

Activities in this Lesson

  • Imagine being on a large incident as the one shown in this video.  It seems easy enough but imagine being on scene with no incident commander, no officers, and no Chain of Command.  Undoubtedly chaos would ensue.  There would be duplication of efforts, comprimised personnel and the safety of the public would be greatly at risk.


    Chain of Command is the guiding principle in the fire service which keeps us organized and allows us as firefighters to be successful.  Understanding the chain of command and recognizing its importance is vital.

    Resources and Materials

  • The Fire Service is successful because of a defineable and recognizable chain of command.  While this chain of command may differ from fire district to fire district, the basic premise remains the same. 

    Chain of Command: Order of Rank and authority in the fire service.

    Within the Chain of Command there sre several basic principles, they are:

    Unity of Command: Reporting to only one supervisor maintains lines of authority and responsibility from the top down. With the Fire Chief bing the ultimate boss, everyone reports to the fire chief through the chain of command.

    Span of Control: Keeping staff within managable levels is important from both an organizational standpoint as well as a safety standpoint.  The fire service uses a "rule of thumb" when describing span of control.  This rule states that the ideal of span of control is one supervisor to every five firefighters.  This can also be applied with equipment such as one chief officer for every five apparatus.

    Division of Labor:  This is the process of dividing large jobs into smaller ones to make them more manageable. This allows the utilization of all personnel to make a large workload more reasonable.  Division of labor is necessary to assign responsibility, prevent duplication, and to make clear cut assignments.

    Disciplline: discipline is the glue that keeps the chain of command in tact. Without discipline, there would be chaos. Discipline sets the boundries for performance through the use of rules, or regulations. Ultimately there needs to be definable acceptable performance and desired outcomes. While discipline often times is considered as being negative, each individual must exercise self disciple.  In other words, firefighters must always do the right thing.

    By recognizing and using the chain of command, it allows fire service personnel to be successful in all aspects of the job. From day to day operations as well as emergency situations, the chain of command must always be used.

    Resources and Materials

  • From the top down Demo / Modeling

    Show students the ICS model and explain the Command Staff and the General Staff and how they are organized using the chain of command.  Ask students (who currently belong to a fire district) to explain the chain of command from theri respective districts. Know that each department may utilize a different rank system.  But many Chain of Commands will resemble the attached. While the position titles remain the same, the rules of span of control, division of labor, unbity of command, and discipline drive each department.  Without these guiding fundamentals there would be no organization.

    In the basic ICS model we can see there are two major components; the Command Staff and the General Staff.  Ultimately all of these staff members answer to the IC ( Incident Commander).  But in this model it shows a clear cut chain of command. Everyone is committed to an IAP (Incident Action Plan).  Throufgh the use of Chain of Command, the implementation of an IAP is realized.

    Resources and Materials

    • Anywhere Fire Department.doc [ Download ] null
  • A link in the Chain Guided Practice

    Have each student , on a blank piece of paper draw a chain of command.  Using various fire department positions, allow students to input where they feel those positions fall on an organizational chart.


    Select positions from Board of Directors or City Council through Chief and all the way to the lowest level of personnel.  Students should be able to develop an organizational chart.  Have students substantiate their answers.


Assessment Types:
Teacher-Made Test,

When utilizing a teacher made test, it is important to cover the components of the chain of command.  Utilizing a blank organizational chart and having students fill in the blanks is a good tool.  Also provide questions testing their knowledge on span of control, division of labor, unity of command, and discipline.  These four components are vital in the chain.  Testing their knowledge on these areas will provide a good assessment of the material that was covered.

Test 1. What is the term used that describes what the fire service is most like? 2. What is "Division of labor"? 3. What is "span of control"? 3. In terms of discipline, how does it apply to the fire service? 4. In the ICS model, what are the two types of staff that comprise ICS? 5. What is the ideal "span of control"? 6. What is an "IAP"?