Searching for Victims

Good morning from the jumpseat! Often when I sit down to write my next "Views from the Jumpseat" blog, I pull from my personal experiences and today is no different.  Recently I had experienced a situation that put us in the door searching for reported victims trapped. Okay, so what is the big deal, right? It’s not a big deal if you are #jumpseatready, but are you?

A structure fire with reports of people trapped can be one of the most stressful calls that come across our radios. It seems to focus all the responders attention in on the task of rescue. So are you prepared to jump in the window, isolate the fire, and search without the protection of a hose stream? I believe this type of procedure can be one of the most dangerous tactics that we use but can be one of the most successful. 

With the materials used in manufacturing today, firefighters are facing a more toxic smoke, hotter fires, and quicker flashovers the time to rescue trapped occupants have never been reduced this low. This means that once you establish that people are trapped you need to make some quick decisions:

  • Where was the last know location of victims
  • Number of victims
  • Fire and smoke conditions
  • Points of entry

Whether you are the first arriving officer or firefighter these decisions should be made by everyone, quickly. If you choose to make a search for trapped victims without a hoseline, you should be well trained in using different methods to stay oriented. If you choose a right or left hand search you must remain in contact with the wall at all times, which can prove to be difficult these days due to overloaded houses.  A search line is a useful tool in searching without a hoseline, but you need to train with the line in cluttered conditions.  If you choose the oriented search, where one person stays oriented in the doorway while the other conducts the search, teamwork and communication should be your focus during training.

So what is the jumpseat view on searching? You should train on it, repeatedly. Fire does not know how long you have been on the job, nor does it care.  Performing an aggressive interior search for victims can be one of the most dangerous jobs we do, and that means it should be one of the topics we train on the most. If you do not review the types of searches and become “rusty” in your skill set you, might not be able to make that grab or even worse put yourself at a greater risk of death!

The next drill you should do might need to be a basic search drill where you work on your skills while developing the bond with your fellow firefighters.  A bond forged in fire,a fire that may have someone trapped inside it!

Thanks for the stop in the jumpseat!

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