Collapse Incident Marking Systems for Structural Triage and Rapid Search Reconnaissance Operations

Of the numerous tasks and assignments that must be managed and orchestrated during collapse-rescue operations, the coordination and deployment of the search and rescue function becomes a monumental task.


The daily activities that comprise a typical company's tour of duty may vary greatly dependent upon the size and complexity of their response area and jurisdiction, the frequency of incident alarms and incident types, and the degree of risk potential encountered at incident locations. These incident encounters can be as common as service calls, investigations, ems and rescue calls or as demanding as structural fire alarm assignments, multiple-company working fires or complex heavy rescue operations.

This is in great contrast to the response and operational challenges posed by structural collapse incidents. The response and deployment of companies to structural collapse incidents are one of the most difficult and challenging of incident and rescue assignments likely to be encountered by fire, rescue and emergency services companies and departments. These incidents and their operational and management parameters can quickly overwhelm even the most experienced of agencies, when confronted with the complexities associated with structural collapse search and rescue efforts.

Whether it involves a single site-specific structural collapse or a large scale or region-wide incident with multiple collapsed buildings and compromised structures, the variety of buildings and occupancy types coupled with their variation of structural components and inherent construction and materials systems contributes to a wide degree of operational challenges and tactical demands when associated with conducting a well coordinated and complete search and rescue effort.

Of the numerous tasks and assignments that must be managed and orchestrated during collapse-rescue operations, the coordination and deployment of the search and rescue function becomes a monumental task without a pre-determined system in place that will ensure that all areas of a compromised or collapsed structure have been thoroughly searched. And that a logical, safe and sequential search pattern has been initiated, potential rescue areas with viable trapped victims identified and a measured deployment of resources assigned to carry out these required search and rescue efforts.

Unlike traditional search and rescue assignments involving interior operations conducted during structural fire alarm incidents, whereby various methods may be utilized to identify that an area or room has been searched, collapsed and compromised structures require a specific marking system and procedure that identifies and communicates specific information pertinent to the phase and completeness of tactical search and rescue assignments for each affected building and internal compartment area.

In the wake of post 9.11, the fire and emergency services has gained a clearer perspective and understanding of the magnitude and significant challenges presented in the management of structural collapse [urban search and rescue] operations. Strong, decisive and focused command presence for [US&R] Incident Command Management and resource deployment during the initial twenty-four hours is crucial towards establishing the Incident Action Plan [IAP]. As the magnitude and severity of an incident escalates, and the need for additional strategic and tactical resources becomes identified, the efficiency and effectiveness of initial incident action plans must consider how these task level efforts will flow into the larger, more integrated unified command management system when resources required, beyond the local or regional deployment level begin arriving on-scene and are integrated into the overall plan.

When considering the strategic IAP objectives for Structural Triage Assessment and Rapid Search Reconnaissance, the need for consistencies in methodologies and process demands local level competencies in these basic functional areas. The ability of the local [initial responding] agency to implement standard & recognized Structural Triage Assessment & Rapid Search Reconnaissance tactics and to utilize a designated marking system that is consistent with the operational procedures of upper tier Special Operations, Technical Rescue and US&R Task Force systems.

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