Truck company work is one of the most frequently overlooked of the tactical fireground functions, yet proficiency in all these functions is necessary if lives and property are to be saved. Your number-one priority is saving lives endangered by fire. To do this, however, you must see that...
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Rescue is very labor intensive. Many times, it takes two rescuers to rescue one victim. It has been my experience that two people are needed to properly search a room so that all parts of an area are covered.
It is essential that search and rescue operations be performed in a thorough, careful and methodical manner. Should you miss an area, people may die. Consider these important safety guidelines:
- Work in teams of at least two members
- Each team should have a radio
- Start at the door (outside and inside)
- Work toward the center of the building
- Stay along the walls, occasionally crisscrossing the hall or room you are in to check the center area for victims
- Check under tables, behind furniture, in bathrooms (tub and shower stalls), under beds and in closets
- Note escape routes, windows and doorways to other areas
- Vent as you go, when practical
- Continually communicate with your partner
- Stay within sight, touch or voice of your partner
- If you find a victim, consider the quickest way out, call help as needed and ensure that the search is completed
Once is never enough when it comes to searching for potentially trapped fire victims. Ensure that both primary and secondary searches are conducted. Be on the lookout for victims as soon as you enter. People might have passed out just short of the door or window. You can remove them quickly and return for more. Your portable radio can be used to get help or direct others to previously unsearched areas. Always consider the quickest way out for the victim — non-breathing victims have but a few moments before brain damage or death.
My next suggestion may seem obvious, but is often overlooked in the haste of an emergency scene: Always search in a definite pattern. There are a number of different patterns. It is critical to emphasize that your search must be conducted according to pre-determined guidelines. All floors that are involved in fire must be examined.
The most essential element in a search and rescue operation is time. The more time that the fire allows you, the more people you can save. Here are some things to remember:
- Be sure someone has a line working on the fire
- If you cannot see your feet, drop to your knees and proceed by moving forward on your hands and knees
- By using a tool to feel ahead of you, "sound" floors, halls and stairways before entering
- Completely search one room before moving to the next
- Start your search on an outside wall; you can ventilate as you move about the room
- Be sure to search under furniture; move it if you must
- Mentally note the location of emergency escape routes
- Search under beds, in bathtubs and shower stalls
- Periodically stop and listen; sometimes, you can hear people moaning or calling for help
- Report any fire extension
- If heat prevents you from entering a room, feel ahead through a door or window with your tool; maybe you can locate someone who is within easy reach
- Once you have removed a victim, place the individual in someone's care so he or she will not go back into the building
Have a means for marking an area once it has been searched. This is particularly important in larger occupancies, both residential and commercial. Some fire departments carry pre-printed tags. Others use chalk or other temporary marking devices. One of the old marking standbys involves turning a chair over near the entrance to the room or area.
During the course of a search and rescue operation, a firefighter may become disoriented or begin to lose his or her cool. The following are some further tips for completing your mission safely:
- If you start to feel lost or lose contact with your partner, get to a wall and follow it to a door or window
- Follow the hoseline; you will meet the attack team or find your way out
- If you can, get to a window or safe place and call for help
- Let your officer know your partner may be missing
Your responsibilities as the officer of a truck company are challenging indeed. I'll continue with this critical discussion in my next column.