Searching For A Firefighter

One of the most difficult task assignments during a fireground emergency is searching for a lost or missing firefighter.


One of the most difficult task assignments during a fireground emergency is searching for a lost or missing firefighter! Organized chaos is the term that may best describe this operation. Adrenaline will be flowing, to say the least, and emotions will be difficult to control. Discipline is a must. Training is the key to making this a successful operation.

When searching for a missing firefighter everyone seems to forget the basics! Here are a few points to consider when faced with this difficult assignment.

  • Use a Systematic Search!
    Don't let emotions control the event. Sure, you'll probably use a combination of search techniques to find the firefighter - but the foundation of the search will be based on basic search and rescue skills. Remember the basics!

  • Remember, Speed is Critical.
    This goes without saying - but it's often overlooked. Conducting a primary search for a civilian is not the same as conducting a search for a missing firefighter. For starters, you know when the firefighter got there and the probable location he may be in. Don't forget it must still be a thorough, systematic, search!

  • Perform a Search Size Up
    Get as much information as possible before and during, the search. If you're a member of the RIT then this RECON is part of your fireground assignment. Consider some of the following pieces of information.

  • Who are you looking for?
    This is an important piece of information for a few reasons. One obvious reason is that the person may not be missing (it's happened)! Another reason is that it may help identify the location, or possible location, of the firefighter. How aggressive is the person? How competent is the person? How fast does the person move inside structures under these conditions? It may be possible to answer some of these questions and help determine a probable location.

  • What was the assignment?
    What was the missing firefighter doing? Attack? Ventilation? Search and rescue? Knowing the assignment and combining that with the building type, the location and extent of the fire, the probable location of occupants, and overall fireground conditions (visibility issues, known hazards, etc.) it may be possible to narrow down the search area.

  • What's happening on the fireground?
    Are conditions improving? Are they getting worse? Has any progress been made since the first units arrived? All these questions will give an indication of the conditions that may have lead to the problem. The information gained will assist in developing the search plan.

  • Have a Plan
    Searching for a firefighter, as stated above, will be one of the most difficult assignments of your career. How will the search be conducted? How many are in the search team? Who's the leader? What is each member responsible for? Who's responsible for knowing the way out? Who will maintain contact with Command? Does the search end when the firefighter is found or will someone search for the closest exit? What is the procedure if the search party gets split up? Who's responsible for keeping the search team intact? The list goes on.

Search Techniques

Searching for a missing firefighter will draw from all previous fireground skills and training, guaranteed! Some of the following techniques, coupled with basic search and rescue skills, may assist in locating the missing firefighter.

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