When was the last time you faced an emergency situation on the fireground? Have you ever experienced a personal emergency on the fireground (out of air, trapped with no immediate exit, disoriented, lost, entangled)? For many firefighters the answers are: never and no. When was the last time...
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When was the last time you faced an emergency situation on the fireground? Have you ever experienced a personal emergency on the fireground (out of air, trapped with no immediate exit, disoriented, lost, entangled)? For many firefighters the answers are: never and no.
When was the last time you reviewed and practiced rapidly locating an alternative exit (and exiting) during interior fireground operations? Preparation and training are the keys to success and survival when it comes to getting out alive when conditions change drastically. Preparation includes acknowledging that things can go wrong and training includes practicing the skills and techniques that will help you solve the problem when it occurs.
This article will review two emergency escape methods that may help you get out alive if your primary escape is cut off by rapidly deteriorating conditions or some other fireground event. The first method involves rapid location of a door or window and what to do when you find it. The second method involves making your own exit. In the event that conditions don’t allow any time to search for a door or window, or you’re unable to find one, breaching a wall into another area may provide you with an exit into a safe (or at least safer) area that will buy enough time to come up with another plan.
An awareness and recognition of potential problems is the first step to surviving a fireground emergency. When arriving on the fireground consider the current and expected conditions:
- Fireground conditions. Upon arrival, take a look at the fire and smoke conditions. What is the intensity, volume, and location of the fire. How about the smoke? Remember the signs indicating flashover and/or backdraft.
What are the operating crews doing? Are they advancing or is the fire holding them back. If crews are operating inside, and have been prior to your arrival, get a report on their progress. Are interior conditions better or worse than when they began?
- Structural conditions. What do you know about the building? Is there any preplan information indicating potential problems such as collapse or other hazards? What affect is the fire having on the structure? Don’t forget to factor in the type of construction and the potential affects of fire during an extended firefight.
- Interior conditions. Recognizing the interior conditions when entering the structure, and during interior operations, is extremely important. Failure to recognize any changes – for better or worse – could result in having to perform an emergency escape.
Even with a constant awareness and recognition of the fireground, things can still go wrong. This is when prior training gives you an advantage.
Here are two possible techniques that may help you get out alive if interior conditions force you to make an emergency escape.
1. Rapid location and escape from a door or first-floor window. Locating a door or window, rapidly, begins with a constant awareness of your location in the structure. What floor are you on? Are you on an inside, or outside, wall? How far back is the last window or door?
If you’re not in contact with a wall, rapidly move and sweep in front of you until you contact one. Once you contact a wall, choose a direction and go. Remember, sweep high enough on the wall to feel a window. Failure to do this may cause you to pass by a potential exit.