Basic Survival Skills and the Probationary Firefighter - Part 4

The fourth and final part of this series continues where we left off last time. We continue to discuss skills, techniques, and tactics that if implemented properly will keep us safe. Skills and Techniques


The fourth and final part of this series continues where we left off last time. We continue to discuss skills, techniques, and tactics that if implemented properly will keep us safe.

Skills and Techniques

PASS alarm: The firefighter’s PASS alarm is an excellent way of aiding in your rescue. After making the appropriate Mayday transmission, activate your PASS alarm. The PASS alarm has a feature whereby it activates if you don’t move after a limited time. The other feature it has is the manual feature that sounds the distress signal immediately. The moment you think you need help, transmit your Mayday and activate your PASS alarm manually! To aid your rescue, don’t roll onto the PASS alarm and muffle the sound. Position yourself so that the alarm will be heard. Make sure the batteries are always good in your self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) by checking these features often.

Lost or disoriented: If you are lost or disoriented, remain calm! If you exert yourself, you’ll use your precious air supply…calm down, think clearly. You have two choices, you can attempt to escape or you can remain in place and slow your breathing down. Use your flashlight to attract attention and make sure your PASS alarm is sounding and not obstructed. Here you have two means of getting attention: visual and audible. If you choose to initiate a self-escape, stay low, crawl, and use your light to aid you in your escape. Stop periodically and turn your light off. Look and listen for other sounds and other lights. Remember to probe cautiously in front of you to prevent falling down a flight of stairs or into a shaft.

Endangered by fire conditions or building failure: You must seek to escape immediately. During your Mayday transmission, make a request for resources that can help you. If endangered by rapidly spreading fire conditions, call for a charged hoseline to your approximate location, request additional means of egress such as a ladder placed to a window, or a door forced to aid your escape. Whatever the circumstances, you can’t quit! Continue to fight for your survival. Use all the skills identified here plus anything else you have been taught; you can’t give up.

Wall breaching: Another way to escape from danger is to breach a wall and escape to the other side. The Halligan tool, a flathead ax, or a 6’ hook all allow for breaching a sheetrock wall. A masonry wall will require much more time and effort and it might be a lot easier to try a different wall. To breach a wall, plunge your tool through and make sure there isn’t a refrigerator or toilet bowl on the other side. Through this same hole you create, look to see if the room is heavily involved in fire. Make sure there is a room on the other side and you are not going to fall down a shaft or an outside wall.

Signal for help: Let’s say you made it to a window and you require a ladder for your escape. No one sees you or knows you’re at the window, so what do you do? Signal with your flashlight and your activated PASS alarm (audible and visual assistance) from your position. Be leery about throwing any of your personal protective equipment (PPE) to attract attention, you might need it!

Ladder bail out: This is a technique taught in survival programs that requires a firefighter to bail out of a window headfirst. The room is ready to flashover and the firefighter must stay as low to the windowsill as possible. This technique is a last ditch effort and requires previous training before you ever attempt it.

Rope bail out: Every firefighter should be equipped with the ability to escape from an upper floor. The alternative is not pleasant at all. This technique is an insurance policy. You hope you don’t need it, but it’s nice to have just in case. This technique requires planning on the part of the department and training on the part of its members!

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