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LAFD Glossary

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LAFD Helicopter Bell 412

Although the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) uses a “plain English” format in its communications, the following list of terms may help you to better understand LAFD Operations.

“A” Assignment – The normal response to a reported structure fire in a single family dwelling (SFD).  This assignment usually consists of two engine companies and one truck company under the command of a Battalion Chief (BC).  Each engine and truck company is comprised of 4 firefighters.

Air Ambulance – A helicopter equipped with medical supplies and staffed with Paramedics.

ALS – Advance Life Support - This is a type of care administered by Paramedics. Also a designation for a rescue ambulance staffed with Paramedics.

AO – Apparatus Operator.  Usually the driver/engineer of an engine or truck.

A-Unit – An Arson or fire cause investigator.

Aerial Ladder Truck – See ‘Truck.’

Alarm – Any notification to respond to an emergency.  LAFD does “number” alarms.  See ‘Greater Alarm’ and ‘Major Emergency.’

Apparatus – Any Fire Department vehicle or boat.

Apparatus Operator – A specific rank and job title within the LAFD that denotes a member who drives, maintains and operates an engine or aerial ladder truck.

Assistant Chief – The Chief Officer in charge of a Division. Also called a Division Chief. There are 9 Division Chiefs, one for each of the three duty shifts for each of the three Divisions.  There are also Assistant Chiefs in other areas of the LAFD.

Automatic Aid – A system in place as a result of a formal agreement wherein two or more fire departments operate essentially as a single agency to respond routinely across jurisdictional boundaries.

“B” Assignment – The normal response to a reported structure fire in a large high density residential or high hazard setting.  This assignment consists of three engine companies, and two aerial truck companies under the command of a Battalion Chief (BC).

BLS – Basic Life Support – This is a type of care administered by Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT). All sworn LAFD members are EMTs. This also a designation for a rescue ambulance staffed with only EMTs.

Backdraft – An explosion caused during a hot, smoldering fire in the confined atmosphere of a structure resulting from the introduction of oxygen.

Backfire – A fire purposely set to burn out an intervening area in order to combat a structure fire.

Base – In a large incident, location where primary logistics functions are coordinated and administered.

Base Station – A select hospital with staff that is trained and equipped to communicate with Paramedics, usually by cell phone.

Battalion – A subordinate of a Division comprised of a group of approximately six fire stations.

Battalion Chief – The Chief Officer in charge of a Battalion.  (Approximately six fire stations)

BES – Bureau of Emergency Services – A branch of the Fire Department commanded by a Deputy Chief. Now called ESB, or Emergency Services Bureau.

Board of Fire Commissioners – A five member Board, appointed by the Mayor with absolute authority to oversee the Fire Department.

Bottles – Pressurized tanks of oxygen or breathing air for the Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).

Breather – A term often used to refer either to an SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) or to a medical patient having difficulty breathing (difficult breather).

BSS – Bureau of Support Services – A branch of the Fire Department commanded by a Deputy Chief.

Bureau – A major sub-division of the Fire Department.  Bureaus are headed by Deputy Chiefs.

CAN – Conditions, actions & needs to be reported to the Incident Commander.

CAR – Company Accountability Record – A report of the status of each company (engine, truck, etc) on an incident to be reported to the Incident Commander.

CAV – Conditionally Available – In this status, a unit is not recommended for dispatch, but may be summoned with delayed response if conditions warrant.  Units may be CAV while returning to their districts after a move-up, from training, etc.

Captain I – The Company level officer in charge of a single engine company, station or unit.

Captain II - The Company level officer in charge of a task force, station or unit.

Chief – There are several levels of Chief Officer: Deputy Chief, Assistant Chief, Division Chief, Battalion Chief, and Chief Engineer or Fire Chief.

Chief Engineer and General Manager – The Fire Department’s top ranking sworn member.  Now officially referred as the “Fire Chief”, he or she reports directly to the Fire Commission.

CLO – See Community Liaison Officer.

Code 20 – An incident that is particularly newsworthy.

Cold Trail – Extinguishment of fire remnants and establishment of cleared paths or trails at the fire’s edge.  This operation typically occurs at the final phase of a grass or brush fire.

Command Post – A location established by the Incident Commander from which overall incident management is accomplished.  The Command Post is not designed for media access.

Community Liaison Officer – A Battalion Chief whose primary responsibility is maintaining channels of communications and acting as a liaison between the citizens of Los Angeles and the Fire Department administration.  The Community Service Unit and Public Information/Service Officers are under this command.

Community Service Unit – This unit includes Public Information Officers (PIO’s) and Public Service Officers (PSO’s) that inform the public of Fire Department operations and related events.  The unit insures an accurate depiction of the LAFD both locally and on a world-wide scope.

Company – Members under the command of a Company Commander, assigned to a station with apparatus.

CRO – Community Relations Officer assigned to the three divisional offices.

DB – Dead body.

Decon – Decontamination.

Deputy Chief – A chief officer subordinate in rank only to the Fire Chief.

Division – The LAFD is divided into three geographical Divisions.  Division 1 – Metro LA Area; Division 2 – South LA and the Harbor Area; Division 3 – the San Fernando Valley Area.

Division Chief – The Chief Officer in charge of a Division.  Also called an Assistant Chief.

Drafting – The drawing of water from other than a fire apparatus or hydrants, such as swimming pools, lakes, rivers or the ocean.

Emergency Air (EA) – A mobile unit, with an air compressor capable of replenishing and repairing firefighter’s self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) at the scene of an emergency.  This unit also has emergency lighting and other equipment on board.

EMS – Emergency Medical Services.

EMS Captain – A Paramedic Captain with the administrative responsibility for LAFD medical resources in a given geographical area.  This member also coordinates medical resources and is the liaison to medical facilities in a given area (usually a Battalion).

EMT – Emergency Medical Technician – All LAFD firefighters, up to and including the rank of Captain II are certified as EMT’s and can provide basic life support.


Engine – Commonly known as a “Triple’ combination.  The basic fire fighting apparatus.  The three major components are water tank, water pump and firefighting hose.

Engineer – The member who drives and maintains the engine.

ESB – Emergency Services Bureau – A branch of the Fire Department commanded by a Deputy Chief.

Exposure – Anything (a house, building, tree, etc.) that is in a position to be affected by an incident, usually fire.

Fire Line Tape – Yellow plastic tape used as a barricade and/or to signify extreme danger.  Although members of the media have the right to bypass fire line tape in most circumstances, they should confer first with the PIO or appropriate Fire Department Officer for specific hazards which may be present.

First-In or First-In District – The area in which a Company normally responds to a fire or other emergency.

Full Standby (or Full Response) – The highest level of response at LAX Airport.  This response consists of all apparatus in the immediate area of LAX and the on-airport Crash/ARF vehicles.

Greater Alarm – Six or more companies committed to an incident.  Media notifications are made on all greater alarms.

Gurney – A stretcher on wheels.

Haz-Mat – Hazardous Materials or a Hazardous Materials response or response unit (a Haz-Mat Unit).

Heavy Rescue Unit – A unit designed and equipped to respond to firefighting, physical rescue and overhaul operations.  The unit looks like a very large tow-truck.

Hydrant Member – A firefighter assigned to attach and load the supply line from the water hydrant to a pumping apparatus (engine, pump truck, ladder truck).

IC – The Incident Commander – This is the member, usually a Chief Officer, who has overall command of an incident.  The term IC is also used to indicate the Incident Command location.

ICS – The Incident Command System – A standardized system for coordinating management of emergency incidents.

Inside Member – A truck firefighter assigned to provide forcible entry into a structure for the Engine Company firefighters with hose lines.

Jaws – Hydraulically powered rescue tool capable of lifting, spreading or cutting with tremendous force.  All truck companies carry jaws.

Knockdown – Extinguishment and control of a fire.

Light Force – An aerial truck and one engine or pump.

Litter Basket – See Stokes Litter Basket.

Lock Out – An individual prevented from getting into their home, office, or vehicle.

Loom-Up – A column of smoke indicating the presence of a fire.

MAC – Medical Alert Center - Located in the City of Commerce near the Citadel. Notified for any multi-casualty incident to determine which hospitals are available to receive patients.

Major Emergency – Fifteen or more companies assigned to an incident.

MDT – Mobile Data Terminal – A vehicle mounted computer that allows field units to receive incident information, report their status, and send and receive message to and from OCD or other apparatus.

NAV – Not available for response.

Normal – A type of dispatch of resources for LAX Airport for a limited response.

Nozzle Member – The firefighter assigned to advance and operate the hose line of an engine company.

OCD – Operations Control Division – The LAPD dispatch center.

Officer – A member of the LAFD at or above the rank of Captain.

Overhaul – The phase of firefighting where final extinguishment and debris removal occurs.

PAL Device – Personal Alarm Device – An alarm device that activates if its wearer does not move for 30 seconds.

PAR – Personnel Accountability Record – A report of the status of each member of a company (engine, truck, etc) on an incident. The PAR is combined into a CAR (Company Accountability Record) to be reported to the Incident Commander.

Paramedic – A firefighter trained and certified to provide advanced life support and care in emergency incidents.

Physical Rescue – An operation to free a victim from confinement, such as freeing someone from an overturned car or a collapsed building.

PIO – See Public Information Officer.

Platoon – One of three work groups that are on duty for a 24 hour tour.

Plug Buggy – A full sized pick-up truck used for utility work that has limited firefighting capabilities.

PSO – See Public Service Officer.

Public Information Officer (PIO) – An LAFD representative who interacts with and provides information to the media at incidents.

Public Service Officer (PSO) - An LAFD representative who interacts with and provides information to the media by phone.  Also responsible for issuing incident reports.

Pump – An apparatus similar to an engine, staffed with one engineer and part of a two piece engine company or task force.

Quarters – Fire station.

Radio Watch – When firefighters monitor their radios for messages during a failure of one or more of the in-station incident notification systems.

RAT RigRehab Air Tender - A specialized apparatus that carries, and can refill, air bottles but whose secondary task is to provide hydration (water, Gatorade, etc.) and food for rehabilitation of firefighters..  This unit also has emergency lighting and other equipment.

Red Alert – When any firefighter deems that immediate withdrawal from a structure is necessary.  This is the highest level of immediate caution or warning and overrides all other emergency incident communications.

Rescue Air Cushion – A pneumatic cushion used as a “life net” for falling or jumping persons.

Rescue Ambulance – A mobile intensive care unit with advanced life support equipment staffed by paramedics.

ReStat – Resource Status – A graphic representation of companies assigned to an incident.

RIC Unit – Rapid Intervention Company - Apparatus assigned to a Battalion Chief for rapid intervention to rescue trapped or injured firefighters.

Roger – A response used to indicate that a radio message has been received and understood or a positive response to a question.

Run – An incident.

SA – See Staff Assistant.

SCBA – Self Contained Breathing Apparatus.

Section – An administrative section commanded by a Battalion Chief.  (See Incident Command System)

Shops – The LAFD supply and maintenance facility which is the logistics hub of the LAFD.

Shift – A 24 hour tour of duty.

SitStat – Situation Status – A graphic representation of what is going on at an incident.

Size-Up – A verbal report of an incident that tells OCD or others: “I am at … I have… and I need….

Spot Fire – Fires outside the boundary of the main fire which are usually set by flying sparks or embers.

Staff Assistant (SA) – A firefighter assigned as a Chief Officer's administrative aid who usually drives the Division or Battalion command vehicle.

Staging – The location where resources are ‘staged’ and available for immediate assignment to an incident.

Stokes Litter Basket – A wire basket stretcher used to securely move injured persons.

Strike Team – Five engine companies and a Battalion Chief who form a tactical unit for brush fires.

Swift Water Rescue – Rescues made in fast moving waterways.

TFC – Task Force Commander – The Captain II in command of an aerial ladder truck company and a two-piece engine company housed and operate together.

Tac Team – Tactical Team – A group of firefighters temporarily assembled for a specific purpose.

Task Force – A truck company and a two-piece engine company (two engines or an engine and a pump).

Tiller Member – The member that steers the rear of an aerial truck.

Top Member – The member on a truck company that will assist with roof ventilation.

Tower (Drill Tower) – The tower at a training area or fire station.

Triage – Literally means ‘sorting’.  In a multiple casualty incident, patients are sorted into four color-coded groups according to the severity of their injuries:  Minor (green), Delayed (yellow), Immediate (red) and Dead (black).

Triple Combination – See Engine.

Truck – An aerial ladder truck with a 100 foot aerial ladder.

USAR – An Urban Search and Rescue team or apparatus.

Ventilate – To remove fire gases from a building or to provide air to a victim who is not breathing.

Wet Water – Water that has had a wetting agent added to it. Wet water can penetrate tightly packed paper, fabric, etc. more effectively than plain water.

800 Unit – A rescue ambulance equipped and staffed for basic life support only.  The unit number is prefixed with an ‘8’ as in rescue 857 or RA 857 which is housed at fire station 57.

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