1. #1
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    Default Fireground search for small children.

    I was curious if anyone has seen or heard of an instance where a small child was found hiding in a closet or dresser during a fire? We are taught to search these areas for small children during primary search. I have a issue with this because the primary search must be rapid. And if we are looking in cabinets and drawers are we wasting valuable time? I was involved in a tragic fire fatality that claimed the lives of three small children and thier mother a few years ago. None of the children in this case were found hiding in any way. Also, I have a 4 and 2 year old and it is hard for me to think they would want to hide from a fire because they don`t hide from anything really. Along with fire prevention in schools I think children are exposed to good fire safety.
    So my question is this a fire service myth that needs to be busted so that we can save valuable seconds wasted searching under sinks and in pantries and by-pass these area to swiftly hit the prime target areas to increase chances for survival
    Last edited by bradroger07; 11-06-2009 at 04:53 PM.

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    You think small children hiding under the bed or in a closet when they're scared or nervous is a myth??
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    I don't know about in drawers, they'd have to be very large. I know many kids that like hiding the the back of the closet, in large cabinets, behind/under beds, just in any small hidden space. It doesn't take much time to sweep a closet, check under a bed, open up an armoire.

    You aren't doing detailed searches of these areas, just stick your arm in and make sure there isn't any small person shaped objects inside.

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    Default Children

    I have attached two pictures of my niece, when she was hiding from mom because it was time to pick up the toys, now imagine a fire.
    Attached Images Attached Images   

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    We had a fatal fire where the mentally handicapped person was almost out the door with his mother and went back and hide in his room. So i'm guessing he counts as hiding ... can't remember if they found him under the covers or under the bed.

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    I`m sorry to hear that.But thanks for the information, any information to share and help save a life is well worth the time. I will put this in the mental tool box.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nameless View Post
    I don't know about in drawers, they'd have to be very large. I know many kids that like hiding the the back of the closet, in large cabinets, behind/under beds, just in any small hidden space. It doesn't take much time to sweep a closet, check under a bed, open up an armoire.

    You aren't doing detailed searches of these areas, just stick your arm in and make sure there isn't any small person shaped objects inside.
    I see new guys come out of recruit school and when they do a left or right hand search during training and spend too much time sweeping through 9 or 10 cabinets and just taking too long.Of course its always easier in training because there isn`t any clutter. These commercial/residential 2500 sq. ft. homes are getting larger,more rooms and more cabinet space,large kitchens and many pieces of furniture,even a mobile home can be hard to search if someone is a pack-rat,or may have multiple beds,cribs,bassinet,toys in one room etc. factor in zero visibility and the adrenaline its easier said than done.
    But you are right these searches need to be quick sweeps and I guess a good amount of experience is needed to make judgement of the amount of time needed to sweep during a primary search.
    Thanks for your feed-back

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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    You think small children hiding under the bed or in a closet when they're scared or nervous is a myth??
    Well, in a nutshell thats the question I`m asking. In your experience fighting fires or anyone at your firehouse have actually seen where children hide in the event of a fire? I think the human instinct of self-preservation over rides any fear during something like a structure fire. The question popped into my head partially from my own haunting experience and a article I read today about truck company operations that mentioned searching under a pile of clothes for a child. I thought that was crazy. I have been to house fires where the clothing was piled up past the window sill and took six men,a chainsaw to make a larger opening a hour to remove all the clothing for overhaul.I know that children get scared, what I`m thinking is time, how can I get to that child quicker, And hopefully save them this time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by owenscott View Post
    We had a fatal fire where the mentally handicapped person was almost out the door with his mother and went back and hide in his room. So i'm guessing he counts as hiding ... can't remember if they found him under the covers or under the bed.
    I`m sorry to hear that.But thanks for the information, any information to share and help save a life is well worth the time. I will put this in the mental tool box.
    Be Safe Brother

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    Quote Originally Posted by robs411 View Post
    I have attached two pictures of my niece, when she was hiding from mom because it was time to pick up the toys, now imagine a fire.
    That a good photo. I wouldn`t think to check inside a toy during a search.Wouldn`t even think a child could fit. I can imagine there are a lot of hiding places can find when kids are having fun,I know I have two kids, but thats what I`m trying to separate is what is imagined and what the experience is of the fire fighters during fire ground operations.
    Thanks agian for the photos, good eye opener.

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    A child's mental processing of "self-preservation" is vastly different than a grown adult. A child's idea of a safe place to preserve one's self is places like under the bed or hiding in a closet or crawling under the sheets. When was the last time you saw a kid get scared and run for a fire exit. No, they run and either cling to mommy or hide from whatever is scary.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Just think, kids are like cats, when scared they hide. And adults are like dogs they want to get out and away.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    A child's mental processing of "self-preservation" is vastly different than a grown adult. A child's idea of a safe place to preserve one's self is places like under the bed or hiding in a closet or crawling under the sheets. When was the last time you saw a kid get scared and run for a fire exit. No, they run and either cling to mommy or hide from whatever is scary.
    Many young children also think that if they cannot see the threat, the threat cannot see them either.

    If they hide in the closet/under the bed/in a cabinet, they cannot see the fire. If they cannot see the fire, then the fire cannot see them. If the fire cannot see them, then the fire cannot hurt them. They don't think about the fact that fire is fluid and that it can burn through walls and doors. They think that if they hide from it they will be safe.
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin

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    One of the most common mistakes i see when teaching searches for firefighter 1 is guys searching every square inch. They pat every little nook and cranny. I try to impress that when searching the key is to sweep. By kicking a leg or an arm under a bed you can hit most of it with one try. Their is no need to search behind every bed post. you are looking for bodies not pencils
    Last edited by RFD21C; 11-07-2009 at 03:06 AM. Reason: spelling and grammer

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    RFD21C thats why our instructors would never ask us to search for bottle caps .. because that what we would do in a real fire .... you looking to save kids/adults not bottle caps.
    Last edited by owenscott; 11-07-2009 at 02:16 AM.

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    owen- i hear you that drives me nuts, to see people do that. you are not lookig for a contact that you lost. sweep with you limbs.

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    bradroger07,

    Do a Firehouse.com search using the words "closet found". There are several pages of articles referencing both children and adults found in closets at structure fires. Keep up the good work - Never stop learning.

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    i haven't personally been to a fire where its happened, but I do know of several instances of children being found under a pile of clothes in my area.

    A lot of older houses with livable attics have small knee walls that are accessible through small doors (maybe only 2' by 2') so you can store stuff back there. I've seen a couple littered with toys that looked like the kids were using it as a little hangout. Those would be difficult to search, you'd either have to give it a quick glance with the TIC or punch through the wall every few feet to let you sweep an area

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    I'll give my two cents.

    I worked a fire where 2 kids died in the room where the fire started. They had crawled under the coffee table and basically were in plain site and located quite quickly. But given the situation, they had no chance.

    I worked a fire that was quite the opposite. The fire started in the kitchen. One child (6yo) ran out of the Mobile Home. Two children (4yo/3yo) ran to a bedroom and crawled under the parent's bed. The child that ran out alerted a neighbor about the fire. By the time the first units arrived, the roof and the front wall had collapsed. Kids did not survive.

    These situations did not present crews a chance to save lives. But the searches nevertheless were performed.

    Another fire that I worked presented a different situation. Parents insisted two kids were in the house. Search teams had checked the entire house, without locating the children. While hose crews began attacking the fire in the utility room and kitchen, the kids were found, ALIVE, in the car in the garage.

    I don't believe in myths. I do believe in facts. You cannot ever predict what a child will do, and each situation is different; each structure is different. If this was easy stuff, we would have no fire deaths and LODDs.

    We teach our crews to be "methodical". They must use their best judgement and be prepared to react given the situation. Be swift, but thorough; opposed to fast and lax.

    Firefighters cannot try to get into the mind of a child to predict behavior. We do not think or react the same way. So the challenge remains as it has always been. You begin based upon the best information possible, but check everything.

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    Cool

    Originally posted by PaladinKnight

    If this was easy stuff, we would have no fire deaths and LODDs.
    And Cops could do it..... LMAO
    "Be LOUD, Be PROUD..... It just might save your can someday when goin' through an intersection!!!!!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by basic1 View Post
    bradroger07,

    Do a Firehouse.com search using the words "closet found". There are several pages of articles referencing both children and adults found in closets at structure fires. Keep up the good work - Never stop learning.
    Thanks! yes I normally use the web to answer most of my questions but I decided to use this form of research to see how the results were. It`s great to see and hear feedback from different areas of the country. I will definatly check that out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PaladinKnight View Post
    I'll give my two cents.

    I worked a fire where 2 kids died in the room where the fire started. They had crawled under the coffee table and basically were in plain site and located quite quickly. But given the situation, they had no chance.

    I worked a fire that was quite the opposite. The fire started in the kitchen. One child (6yo) ran out of the Mobile Home. Two children (4yo/3yo) ran to a bedroom and crawled under the parent's bed. The child that ran out alerted a neighbor about the fire. By the time the first units arrived, the roof and the front wall had collapsed. Kids did not survive.

    These situations did not present crews a chance to save lives. But the searches nevertheless were performed.

    Another fire that I worked presented a different situation. Parents insisted two kids were in the house. Search teams had checked the entire house, without locating the children. While hose crews began attacking the fire in the utility room and kitchen, the kids were found, ALIVE, in the car in the garage.

    I don't believe in myths. I do believe in facts. You cannot ever predict what a child will do, and each situation is different; each structure is different. If this was easy stuff, we would have no fire deaths and LODDs.

    We teach our crews to be "methodical". They must use their best judgement and be prepared to react given the situation. Be swift, but thorough; opposed to fast and lax.

    Firefighters cannot try to get into the mind of a child to predict behavior. We do not think or react the same way. So the challenge remains as it has always been. You begin based upon the best information possible, but check everything.
    Thanks for this information brother. This is exactly the type of experience I was fishing for. Its very difficult thing to disscuss sometimes. I am happy to hear about the fire where the children survived. I am influencened by my singular experience. What I saw was 3 and 4 year old children who appeared to be trying to get out,near doors and windows.You are right, its really hard to get into psychology of children or adults. We are fire fighters and we have enough responsiblities, therapist definately isn`t one we need to add to the tool box. But seriously, I appreciate your feed back, this can be very valuable to everyone in the fire service. Using the very best tactic based on the initial scene size-up,information from family members or by-standers,the type of building construction, location and amount of fire,and appropriate search technique will help build the complete picture.

    Take care and be safe
    Brad

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    Quote Originally Posted by bradroger07 View Post
    I was curious if anyone has seen or heard of an instance where a small child was found hiding in a closet or dresser during a fire?
    Absolutely, also in chest and bath tubs. The places are limitless....

    We are taught to search these areas for small children during primary search. I have a issue with this because the primary search must be rapid. And if we are looking in cabinets and drawers are we wasting valuable time?
    You are right, the primary needs to be quick. Adapt to the situation. Are you searching for life or are you searching for fire? Where are you? Did you come in through a window in front of the engine? Did you follow the engine through a door? Are you on the floor above? All these factors are to be addressed when searching. Primary searches on the fire floor are to be rapid, check the main avenues of egress, Remember, we want to locate the fire first so we can confine it, let the engine know and take them there. If its a KNOWN life threat, meaning you have seen someone or hear them, then yes you are going to check as much as possible as fast as possible. A-lot of guys have incorporated closets, tubs and under beds into their primary searches.....

    Next time you walk into one of your rooms where you live, think about it as if you where coming there to do a search, stand at the window and then in the door way, look around...as you would at a job. Think "avenue of egress"...where would I go? What do I see? Where am I? Where would I hide?

    I was involved in a tragic fire fatality that claimed the lives of three small children and thier mother a few years ago. None of the children in this case were found hiding in any way.
    Sorry to hear that, we all tend to critique ourselves in a bad way after something like that happens. Don't do that, things happen for whatever reason. We didn't start the fire, we just have to deal with it. As long as you made a good effort and did your job, no one can ask anymore than that. People die, and will continue to die in fires.....we can't control that. We can try to educate and prevent, but there is only so much we can do. 2 jobs ago, we pulled a 5 year old out. He was missed by the inside team, but grabbed by the outside vent man as he came in through the window. He was on the bed, but he was a little guy for his age...and managed to stuff himself in the corner of his bed under a bunch of blankets.....a heads up OVM doing his job got the grab and the kid is alive today.

    So my question is this a fire service myth that needs to be busted so that we can save valuable seconds wasted searching under sinks and in pantries and by-pass these area to swiftly hit the prime target areas to increase chances for survival
    Well its not a myth. That is a primary search. A secondary is the painstakingly thorough one. Again, situation will dictate as no two fires are alike. Size up size up size up. Where am I? Where is the fire? What is it doing? Is there a line in place? Are there reports of people trapped? etc etc etc.... and hell...if you are behind the line and they are controlling the fire and you have time to spare...if you find yourself sitting and waiting for them to advance...then sure, expand your search parameters.
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    Good thread, good discussion.

    I don't have anything to add to it, but I appreciate that the OP thought to ask a question that others feel seem obvious.

    It's good to have some first hand accounts to back up what a firefighter is being taught.

    .
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    Department near me had 3 kids found hiding between the mattress and boxspring, all burned from heat. I don't remember but I don't think they all survived.

    I'm not even 100% sure they were found during the primary. I don't remember that part well enough, but something is sticking in my brain about something else weird about the find besides their location.

    Many young children also think that if they cannot see the threat, the threat cannot see them either.

    If they hide in the closet/under the bed/in a cabinet, they cannot see the fire. If they cannot see the fire, then the fire cannot see them. If the fire cannot see them, then the fire cannot hurt them. They don't think about the fact that fire is fluid and that it can burn through walls and doors. They think that if they hide from it they will be safe.
    Quoted for truth. So, by all means- make your primary search as rapid as you want.
    Last edited by emt161; 11-11-2009 at 12:40 AM.

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