High Risk/High Reward - Searching for Life on the Fireground - Part 1

Preparations for performing fireground search must be mental as well as physical.This article is a part of a series of articles focused on considerations for primary search.

In a commercial structure, tile may be located in main aisles which could lead to exits and carpeting could be located in work or display areas. Door swings are also possible indicators for orientation points. Generally speaking, doors to bedrooms and bathrooms will swing inward as well as entrances and exits in residential structures while closet doors will swing outward to allow more space for storage. In a commercial structure, entrances and exits should swing outward. Again, these are generalities and may not always be true depending on what has been changed or renovated in a building and if it was inspected under a specific set of building codes. Searching firefighters in multi-family and commercial type occupancies must also be very wary of any outward swinging doors that they encounter on the interior as these can possibly lead to elevator shafts and other hazards.

An excellent training exercise to reinforce "mental mapping" with firefighters is to set up a room or area with furniture and obstacles and have them enter with their SCBA facepieces covered and perform a search of the area. Once they exit the area, they should remove their gear and sketch the area on a piece of paper that they searched. After drawing the area, they should be allowed to enter the area to compare their drawing to the actual area.

The search of fire buildings can be one of the most rewarding actions taken on the fireground but can also be the most hazardous duty performed. The next article in the series will focus on the search process itself. Until then; are you prepared to meet the challenge if presented on your tour of duty?

  • Learn from Battalion Chief Pindelski Live: He will be presenting "Saving Your Crew Tonight-Why Are We Still Losing Firefighters" at Firehouse Expo in July.


JEFFREY PINDELSKI, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a 18-year veteran of the fire service and currently serves as a battalion chief with the Downers Grove, IL, Fire Department. Jeff is a staff instructor at the College of Du Page and has been involved with the design of several training programs dedicated to firefighter safety and survival. Jeff is the co-author of the text R.I.C.O., Rapid Intervention Company Operations and is a revising author of the 3rd edition of the Firefighter's Handbook. He particpated in Training & Tactics Talk on Radio@Firehouse.com To read Jeff's complete biography and view his archived articles, click here. You can reach Jeff by e-mail at firelt226@aol.com.