Shoot, Move, Communicate, Survive: HazMat Leadership – PART II

Shoot, Move, Communicate, Survive: HazMat Leadership – PART II

Shoot, Move, Communicate, Survive: HazMat Leadership

In our previous installment (PART I) of Shoot, Move, Communicate, Survive we briefly discussed the dynamics and importance of shooting from a HazMat leadership perspective. Shooting (or in our case, HazMat Operations) can be difficult even during training. So consider how much more difficult it will be when the enemy (HazMat) is firing off rounds of its own.

Shooting is hard. Moving is harder.
All movements begin with a plan and the plan begins the moment you’re team is deployed.

“Tactical movement is inherent in all Infantry operations. Movement is multifaceted, ranging from dismounted, to mounted, to aerial modes, and is conducted in varying physical environments, including the urban environment. For the individual, movement is comprised of the individual movement techniques (IMT) of high crawl, low crawl, and 3-5 second rush; for the unit it is comprised of movement formations, movement techniques, and maneuver (fire and movement). Mastering the many aspects of tactical movement is fundamental. More importantly, Infantrymen must be thoroughly trained in the critical transition from tactical movement to maneuver.”(1)

It is important to note that while our movements will never be under fire, the last two sentences are of extreme importance especially during HazMat operations. Due to the dangerous nature of our business, our movements must be:

• planned
• calculated
• precise
• exercised
• and mastered.

Anything short of these will lead to injury and potentially death.
Because movement can be broad and multitiered, we will look at three aspects of it:

  1. Tactical Movement
  2. Operational Movement
  3. Strategic Movement

Tactical Movement

Tactical movement is the deployment of units assigned to an incident. The tactical movement is not direct contact with the enemy (i.e., HazMat), rather it is based on the anticipation of early contact with the enemy, either en route or shortly after arrival to the incident. Tactical movement ends when the unit reaches its overall destination.

While en route, you should be thinking ahead and determining operations and strategy based on the dispatch information. Additionally, you should be utilizing on-hand resources such as an Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG)(2), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health pocket guide (NIOSH)(3) or one of my personal favorites, the HAZMAT Response Field Operations Guide(4) by fellow glow worm, Jeff Zientek. By performing these steps en route, your tactical movements will place you ahead of the curve in outmaneuvering the enemy in front of you.

Operational Movement

Operational movement is movement within theater. On arrival to the incident, HazMat Response Teams (HMRTs) continue with the planning phase of operations in an effort to place personnel and equipment at the right place at the decisive time to ensure the tactical movement is overwhelmingly successful. When on scene, operational movement is ongoing based on terrain, weather and overall strategy. Should winds shift, inclement weather arise, or operational strategy change, units may need to be repositioned for personnel safety and/or effectiveness.

Strategic Movement

Similar to tactical movement, strategic movement is the deployment of people, equipment and materials from bases to the theater of operations. This falls more along the lines of our dispatch centers in the beginning and the Incident Commander (IC) for the duration.

Dispatchers launch the nearest unit(s) based on the type and scale of the incident. These models for dispatch/deployment are usually derived from set standard operating policies, procedures and/or guidelines (SOPs/SOGs).

Once the HazMat-IC has arrived on scene, he or she will begin gathering the needed information to formulate the strategy (5). Based on the strategy, the IC will begin operational movement of personnel and equipment.

So what you can see is that all movements correlate to the other and are dynamic in nature with some of the movements overlapping.

The foundation of any (HMRT’s) effectiveness is their ability to respond. In order to be exceptional, HMRTs have to be “best in class” at getting there and decisively mitigating the incident.

Few can do what we do, and it requires a lot of training and drill to orchestrate these types of movements. While training may not exactly be number one on your list of things to do each shift, it needs to be in order to be effective. Additionally, you’ll need buy-in from your organization’s administration in order to carve out the budget ensuring your team is trained and exercised effectively in all three levels of movement. Moving is difficult and can often require an entire change in organizational culture. As leadership, it is your job to steer the ship.

Leaders, ask yourself:

• What have I done to become better? What have I done to make my team better?• Are my team members capable of moving tactically while en route to a call?
• How’s my maintenance program (personnel and equipment)?

– Are my personnel mentally and physically capable of performing HazMat operations safely?

• How’s my leadership pipeline?
– Do I have leaders on the bench ready to move up when called upon and capable of making

the decisions to move operationally?(6)
• Are we logistically capable of handling large scale events or multiple small ones?

  • –  What contingency plans are in place (i.e., mutual aid)?
  • –  Are adequate SOPs/SOGs in place for our dispatch personnel to initially move our resources strategically?
  • –  Are the HazMat-ICs capable and trained to take command on arrival and think strategically?Shooting is hard. Moving is harder. Communicating is hardest and that will be the subject of the next article in our series.

    We’re half-way there, so stay with me now.


1 – Headquarters, Department of the Army, FM 3-21.8, The Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad. US ARMY; March, 2007.

2 –

3 –

4 –

5 – Remember, strategy is what you’re going to do and tactics are how you’re going to do them.

6 – The irony behind most situations is that the toughest and most difficult jobs usually fall to those who are least prepared for them.

About The Author

Josh Fowler is the District Chief of Beaumont Fire/Rescue’s 52 district in Beaumont, Texas. He is the program manager for the department’s HAZMAT team and Technical Response/Recovery Group. He has 18 years on the job and has served as a rescue specialist and technical information specialist with Texas Task Force 1 since 2006. Josh has been married to his best friend, Courtney, for 19 years and together, they have 6 children

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