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Team lookouts (safety officers)

The primary role of a team lookout is to observe and monitor a crew or team deployed at a wildfire incident. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, it may be desirable or necessary to join together a number of crews to form a larger team.

In addition to the responsibilities for safety officers outlined in Incident command: Knowledge, skills and understanding and National Operational Guidance: Incident command, team lookouts should be deployed to ensure the safety of all team members and should:

  • Ensure that all personnel are fully briefed on the situation, their task and the implementation of the LACES safety protocol
  • Ensure all team members operate within the LACES safety protocol at all times
  • Monitor personnel and ensure safe working distances are maintained between personnel using hand tools and equipment, and between personnel and vehicles
  • Establish and maintain communications with tactical lookouts and other personnel as appropriate
  • Communicate relevant information to the team, other teams and with other personnel within the command structure
  • Plan, evaluate and monitor escape routes and safety zones and communicate any changes to the team and other members of the incident command structure
  • Monitor and communicate any observed and predicted changes in fire behaviour and firespread to the team, the incident commander and other personnel as appropriate
  • Monitor and report any observed or predicted extreme fire behaviour to the team, incident commander, tactical lookouts and other personnel as appropriate
  • Monitor and report the location of members of the public, vehicles and aircraft not involved in firefighting operations to the incident commander and other personnel as appropriate
  • Initiate and monitor the withdrawal of personnel from areas that become too hazardous

Team lookouts should take up a position where they can observe the activities of all team members and the area surrounding the team. Team lookouts should continually review their position throughout the incident, relocating as the incident progresses, to maintain sight of all team members. If visibility is limited by topography, smoke or other conditions then multiple team lookouts may need to be deployed to observe and monitor a single team and the surrounding area.

It may be necessary to deploy team lookouts to monitor teams using, or positioned near to, vehicles. When performing this role, team lookouts should:

  • Position themselves in a place that enables them to view the vehicle, driver, team and the surrounding area
  • Continually identify, monitor and communicate escape routes to the driver and team
  • Monitor fire behaviour and firespread and inform drivers and the team of any changes
  • Monitor the surrounding area, taking into account other personnel or members of the public that may be present in the area, and ensure that the vehicle does not drive into a hazardous area and/or does not present a hazard to others
  • Initiate and monitor the withdrawal of the team, driver and vehicle from the area if the operation becomes too hazardous