FIRE OPS 101 Scenarios

The scenarios are the main component of your program. These events give your decision-makers hands-on experience and insight into what you do every day.

On the day of FIRE OPS 101, you will run three to five scenarios based on what you want your decision makers to know and the equipment and props that are available. Each scenario should run approximately 40 minutes. Allow 20 minutes between each scenario for rotating to the next and for participants to rest.

The scenarios listed in the categories to the right will include information for each scenario, including props/equipment required, instructors and staff needed, talking points, health and safety standards and the time period for the event.

Thinking About Your Audience

The scenarios may be similar to the training exercises that you went through when you learned to become a fire fighter. However, you must think about your audience, which is a different audience from fire fighters. These scenarios will be adopted for elected officials and the media. Consider their physical status. In addition to learning the challenges you face in staffing, equipment and response time, the scenarios will help them understand the physical qualities you must possess and mental stress you encounter.

Executing a Successful FIRE OPS 101

An effective FIRE OPS 101 event requires time and commitment. Anticipate challenges and prepare to manage the unexpected. Keep it simple to help ensure a safe event and make each scenario that requires direct hands-on participation as basic as you can.

Planning An Effective FIRE OPS

The FIRE OPS 101 event should reflect an appropriate level of difficulty. You don’t want participants to walk away thinking it’s an easy job, but you also don’t want them to push themselves too far. Part of this process includes continually making the point that this event features staged scenarios in an extremely controlled environment.

It’s also important to strike a balance between the reality of the job and the participant’s safety, particularly in the interior fire fighting scenario where participants may be overwhelmed by the PPE, the heat and the task before them in an unfamiliar environment.

It can be helpful to emphasize how much stress fire fighters experience in an actual incident. Instructors should remind participants of this repeatedly during the event. Taking this approach allows us to remain well within a comfortable safety zone.

Visit the Downloads page to view samples of agendas of FIRE OPS 101.

The Morning of FIRE OPS 101

Starting on time is important for a well-organized event. Consider sizing and fitting participants the night before to free up an hour of your morning for other tasks. For example, one IAFF local held a dinner the night before, showing photographs of other FIRE OPS 101 events to help orient and prepare participants for the following day. Another excellent idea is to transport participate to the event site on fire engines.

Grouping Participants

As participants register, group and color code them. The number of participants in the group should be determined by dividing the total number of participants by the number of scenarios. Assign one wrangler to each group. The wrangler should hold a sign or wear something to indicate his or her group color. The participants can be color coded using colored tape around their arm or on their helmet. Do not put adversaries in the same group.

The Morning Medical Check

All participants must complete a medical history form prior to arrival. This can be sent in advance and be included with the waiver and size chart. The department’s medical director may also recommend specific guidelines to determine an individual’s ability to participate. Recommend to participants to describe any problems that might prohibit them from participating in an event, such as a bad knee, asthma or high blood pressure.

On the day of FIRE OPS 101, check each participant’s vital signs, including pulse and blood pressure, and compare it with information they provided on their medical history form. EMS personnel should record the vital signs and note any red flags, such as: high blood pressure (above 200 systolic and 100 diastolic) or a heart rate above 100).

If any red flags are identified during the morning medical check, follow these guidelines.

Individuals who have no history of heart or breathing problems:

Participants may be excited on the day of FIRE OPS 101 and may have an elevated heart or blood pressure rate, even if they have no history of heart or breathing problems. If an individual fails to meet the requirements listed above, have him/her relax for 20 minutes and then repeat the vital sign check. If, after 20 minutes, the individual fails to meet the requirements, then politely tell the individual to sit out of the scenarios. The individual can be an observer for the day.

Individuals who have a history of heart and/or breathing problems:

If an individual has a history of heart or breathing problems and exceeds the vital sign rates listed above, he/she should sit out of the scenarios. The individual can be an observer for the day. These general guidelines should always be verified with the medical director and modified, if necessary.


An EMS unit with transport capability should be on site throughout the day. EMS will hold the medical history forms, color coded by group. The wranglers will be notified if anyone in their group has a notable medical history. The history forms should be kept in a confidential file with the waivers and other forms.

Visit the Downloads page to get Medical Check form or any other forms or templates you need for FIRE OPS 101.


Your day will run smoothly with the help of key individuals: your wranglers.

Wranglers serve a critical role — as leaders for the participants and the link between your elected officials and the messages to be communicated through FIRE OPS 101. Wranglers need to know the key talking points for each scenario/stations well enough to reinforce them throughout the activities. They also need to know their group well enough to be aware of any special needs or concerns.

Wranglers function as an informal team-level safety officer. It is their role to work with the Incident Commander and the individual event coordinators to keep things running and on time. This includes making sure the group finishes each station at the correct time and moves to the rehab area.

Running Scenarios

Kicking Off the Event

Consider a creative kick-off. For example, at one FIRE OPS 101 event a dispatcher send a call over the loud speaker to start the morning.

A few examples:

  • Start the morning by laying a dummy in the middle of the room and telling participates that it could be a member of their family. Ask participants what they would do next to get them to think about the course of the events in an emergency.
  • Start the scenario and then wait three to four minutes to simulate response time. Use those few minutes to describe the rising heat and what they will face when they arrive on the scene.

Hydration Station

Your FIRE OPS 101 event must have an area for participants to re-hydrate following each scenario. Provide water, Gatorade or a piece of fruit to re-energize for the next task. Make sure there are enough stations around the scenario circuit for your participants to comfortably get water.

Debriefing and Lunch

It is important to wrap up your day by talking with participants once more. Emphasize your event’s objective, ask what they learned and find out how the event effected their views of the fire service. Eat lunch with the participants for the opportunity to build relationships with these elected officials and vice-versa.

Samples of Scenarios

Within each scenario category, there is a list of tasks that can be conducted at the event. Each task contains the objectives and criteria required to run a safe and effective simulation. The planning committee will choose one or more tasks within one or more scenario categories to run at FIRE OPS 101. For example, a four-scenario FIRE OPS 101 event may consist of the following

Scenario #1 - Engine Operations (Tasks - Live fire and shooting water)

Engine Operations

Engine operation scenarios generally involve live fire events. These scenarios require an extremely rigorous degree of safety. A small fire is all you need to achieve the desired visual results. Do not increase the intensity of the fire in an attempt to impress the participants. Live fire training must conform to NFPA 1403 and other applicable NFPAstandards.

Main Message
Fire fighting is a team effort and requires adequate personnel to complete a number of complex and time-critical tasks.

Tasks Involved in Engine Operations
The following are the basic tasks involved in Engine Operations. Local unions can use a combination or variation of these tasks to suit their needs.

I. Live Fire/Fire Pit
Applicable NFPA standards (1402 & 1403)
Talking Points:

  • Fuel fires are unpredictable, highly toxic and cause intense heat. Time is a critical factor in controlling the spread of fuel fires.
  • A sufficient number of fire fighters are required on the scene to perform the tasks necessary for control and extinguishment. Fire fighters are also required to conduct salvage and overhaul of the fire to assure that a re-ignition does not occur.

II. Hose Pull/Reel 
Applicable NFPA standards (1961-1965)
Talking Points:

  • This is a labor-intensive process that requires a minimum of four fire fighters (two fire fighters, one officer for operation, and one pump operator).
  • You will experience difficulty manipulating the hose due to the weight of the water and the inflexibility of the hose. There will also be significant force from the nozzle as water is released.
  • Interior fire fighting is a team effort and requires adequate personnel to complete a number of complex and time-critical tasks simultaneously.

III. Burn Room/Flashover
Applicable NFPA standards (555)
Talking Points:

  • Response times to fires are critical due to a fire behavior phenomenon known as “flashover.” Flashover is the explosive burning of all combustibles in the room. It typically occurs within eight to 10 minutes of the start of a fire and causes the fire to spread beyond the room of origin.
  • Fire fighters must quickly and efficiently place water on the fire to block its advance and allow for rescue. If a fire can be held to the room of origin, it will decrease the likelihood of injury, death or property damage.
  • Visibility may be poor or non-existent, communication is extremely difficult, it is physically demanding and heat is often a major problem.

Watch a video sample scenario on Live Fire at a FIRE OPS 101 event.

Scenario #2 - Truck/Ladder Operations (Tasks - Ropes/repelling)

Truck/Ladder Operations

Ladder operations involve climbing and other physical activities that may be difficult or intimidating to participants. Participants who are afraid of heights or who have back or knee injuries might want to sit out of these scenarios. These exercises require a one-to-one instructor to student ratio.

Main Message
Ladder companies provide access to and exits for all parts of a fire building. They are responsible for removing heat and smoke to allow greater visibility and permit engine companies to move safely within a fire building.

Ladder operations are dangerous and require skill and stamina. Fire fighters must be comfortable working at high altitudes and have the strength to operate equipment for forcible entry and ventilation of a building.

Tasks Involved in Ladder Operations
You can use a combination or variation of these tasks.

I. Aerial Ladder Climb
Applicable NFPA Standards (1914 & 1915)
Talking Points:

  • Aerial ladders provide access to the upper levels of a building. Using aerial ladders for rescue can be difficult and dangerous. Climbing a ladder with PPE and tools requires skill and stamina.
  • Ground ladders are used for rescue on lower floors.
  • Fire fighters must be comfortable working high in the air.
  • Rescue using a ladder is difficult and dangerous.

II. Ropes/Repelling 
Talking Points:

  • Ropes are used to access areas that are unreachable by an aerial ladder. Ropes can be used to rescue victims who are in tall buildings or to pull victims (conscious or unconscious) from confined spaces.

III. Forcible Entry / Ventilation
This exercise can be used in conjunction with the aerial ladder climb. Make sure to use tools that participants can safely use to break through a structure (e.g., use a sledgehammer, not an ax).
Applicable NFPA standards (92A, 92B, 204)
Talking Points:

  • Fire fighters use tools to break through a roof, door or other structure in order to ventilate a burning building. This releases smoke and toxic gas and helps contain the fire.
  • Most fatalities occur as a result of smoke and toxic gas.

Scenario #3 - Search & Rescue/HazMat (Tasks - Search & rescue/communications)

Search & Rescue

Some of the search and rescue activities involve enclosed spaces and crawling. Be mindful that some participants may feel claustrophobic during these exercises. Reassure participants that they can stop the exercise at any time.

Main Message
Fire fighters essentially operate “in the blind” during search and rescue at the scene of an emergency. Before fire fighters can enter a building to make an internal attack on a fire or perform rescue, there must be at least four fire fighters on the scene to comply with the 2-in/2-out regulation established by OSHA. This regulation assures capacity for rescuing fire fighters should an emergency occur. At least two fire fighters are required to enter a structure fire to locate and remove victims.

Tasks Involved in Search and Rescue Operations
The following are the basic tasks involved in search and rescue operations. Local unions can use a combination or variation of these tasks to suit their needs.

I. Confined Space (maze/crawl with mask)
Applicable NFPA standard (1620)
Talking Points:

  • All search and rescue activities are performed with a partner while maintaining constant communication with safety personnel outside the structure.
  • Structural fire search and rescue is typically performed blind, due to heavy smoke. Fire fighters typically do not have prior knowledge of the structural layout, making the search more hazardous.
  • It is important to crawl on the floor to avoid toxic fumes.

II. Smoke House (rescue victim) 
Applicable NFPA standards (92A, 92B)
Talking Points:

  • The atmosphere is poisoned by toxic gases; superheated to 1400°, with is no visibility in the building.

Watch a video sample scenario on Search and Rescue at a FIRE OPS 101 event.

View sample scenarios on HazMat/WMD.

Scenario #4 - EMS (Task - Mega Code)/Extrication


An EMS scenario will show the participants a key aspect of the fire fighter job — patient emergency care.

Main Message
Fire fighters are trained to provide emergency medical care in addition to fire suppression and rescue. Fire fighters run thousands of calls that involve critically ill and injured patients.

Tasks Involved in Emergency Medical Services
The following are the basic tasks involved in Emergency Medical Services. Local unions can use a combination or variation of these tasks to suit their needs.

I. Cardiac arrest (AED/Defibrillator) 
Applicable NFPA standards (450, 473, 1250, 1561)
Talking Points:

  • Medical emergencies are time-critical and require rapid intervention. One of the most time-critical events is cardiac arrest – the number-one killer in the United States. Fire fighters and paramedics are specifically trained to deliver immediate care to these victims.
  • When the heart stops pumping, brain damage immediately begins to occur. Rapid intervention is the key to saving lives. Restoring electrical rhythm to the hear must occur within four to six minutes.

Watch a video sample scenario on Cardiac Arrest at a FIRE OPS 101 event.

II. Trauma 
Applicable NFPA standards (450, 473, 1250, 1561)
Talking Points:

  • Medical emergencies, including trauma and injuries, are time-critical and require rapid intervention. Fire fighters and paramedics are specifically trained to deliver immediate care to these victims.
  • Exposure to infectious diseases and other injuries is a constant problem.
  • EMS personnel have the skills and the tools to care for critically injured patients.
  • Fire fighters and paramedics run thousands of EMS calls, including many that involve trauma.

Watch a video sample scenario on Vehicle Extrication at a FIRE OPS 101 event.

View sample scenarios on Extrication.

The scenarios can combine two or more tasks within one scenario or be adjusted to suit your needs. Your planning committee can also create its own scenarios/tasks, as long as they are conducted in a controlled environment and meet the applicable NFPA safety standards. You may consider doing a task with a staff of three — and then again with four — to explore staffing issues.

Visit the Download page to view General Scenario Logistics Information.

More Samples of Scenarios


An extrication scenario at FIRE OPS 101 is best experienced as a demonstration for the participants to observe. The equipment used to perform this task is heavy and requires advanced training for safe operation.

Main Message
This activity requires at least three fire fighters for safe and effective operation while assuring that the patient is protected during extrication. Extrication must occur rapidly and efficiently to ensure patient survival. Extrication is often completed in extremely hazardous conditions.

Task Involved in Extrication Operations
I. Vehicle Extrication
Applicable NFPA standard (51B)
Talking Points: Use main message above.


HazMat scenario shows the hidden dangers of the fire service.

Main Message
Fire fighters are constantly exposed to toxic environments, including fuel spills and chemical releases. Fire fighters are specially trained to “size up” the hazardous material at the scene and apply the appropriate techniques for fire suppression, clean-up and rescue. Federal law requires HazMat training for all first responders.

Task Involved in HazMat operations
I. Decontamination/Trailer (don HazMat suits and use meters) 
Applicable NFPA standards (471, 472, 1991, 1992)
Talking Points:

  • These activities require specialized training and equipment.
  • The protective clothing has its own special hazards.
  • Emergency responders are constantly exposed to toxic and oxygen-deficient environments.

Skill Stations

Skill stations can be set up throughout the circuit for participants who are finished with their other scenario. For example, if a participant is finished with a scenario, you may demonstrate how your department uses a specialized Hazmat vehicle.

Skill stations are also an opportunity to provide additional. Consider adding skill stations to replace a scenario you wanted to include, but did not have time.

Possible Skill Stations

  • Investigations and Inspections Table: Explain specific fire hazards (e.g., electrical appliances) and items retrieved from arson investigations.
  • Short video (2-5 minutes) of an actual rescue or emergency incident.
  • Hydrant pre-connect demonstration.
  • Demonstration of wildland fire apparatus and equipment.
  • Driver simulation.

Tips from the Field

Tips from Past FIRE OPS 101 Events

  • Start on time and end on time. Many of the decision-makers who participate have other engagements later in the day.
  • Make no major changes on game day, such as adding or changing scenarios. When finalizing your objectives and the events that correspond, do not change the plan once it has been communicated to your team. It is very difficult to keep everyone on the same page with late-breaking or significant changes.
  • Make sure your base camp tent contains essentials for the day, such as sunscreen, extra supplies, a place for participants to change clothes and a location to keep their belongings.
  • Providing a meal is important — it’s a chance for everyone to come together at the end and talk about the day. It can be a cookout or a meal cooked in nearby firehouse. Consider putting on a morning event and ending it with a lunch.
  • Even with a fairly lean set of focused objectives, you will run late. This is due to the nature of a first-time event and the large number of participants. So remember, the more you try to accomplish, the more difficult the day will be.
  • Emphasize participation over demonstration as you plan your event — this will ensure that your participants have the maximum experience. Limit demonstrations to lunch, a skill station or after all the scenarios are completed.
  • Be prepared with a plan B. Some of the challenges you might face include crew shortages, equipment shortages, apparatus shortage and weather. Anticipate these challenges with extra hands and extra equipment.
  • Set an alternate day for FIRE OPS 101 in the event you must cancel it due to extreme weather conditions. Set up a cancellation policy for FIRE OPS 101 (e.g., the department will call the participants).

Safety Tips

  • Make safety your first priority for the event.
  • Participants must be checked by EMS the morning of FIRE OPS 101 (see morning medical check.
  • Participants must wear protective gear at all times.
  • Although you want to encourage participation, a participant may need to sit out one or more of the events due to their physical abilities.
  • Make sure EMS is onsite to help if an injury or emergency arises.
  • Aside from the natural fear associated with going into a burning building, the second concern for participants is claustrophobia. They will be wearing PPE and SCBA for the first time. Your instructors and support staff will need to watch participants closely for signs of abnormal stress related to either the donning of PPE or the entering a confined environment. Participants who exhibit discomfort or are hesitant should be encouraged to either observe or go only as far as they are comfortable and no further.
  • Slips, trips and falls are also a major concern. Participants will not be familiar with the chaotic nature of an emergency scene and are at greater risk for this type of injury. This applies to interior operations and climbing ground or aerial ladders. Some participants (and some activities) may require one-on-one supervision.

Tips for Working With the Media

  • A FIRE OPS 101 event could be one of the best opportunities for the IAFF local and fire department to generate media coverage. Consider inviting reporters to participate in the scenarios, in addition to covering them.
  • Have your local or department’s public relations liaison work with the media and choose locations for them to film.
  • Consider creating press passes to limit the number of people around the scenarios.
  • Make sure your media liaison is familiar with all of the talking points.
  • Consider getting the names of the participants sewn on the back of their turnout gear to identify them in photographs.
  • Don’t photograph participants in compromising positions.