1. #1
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    Default Large Area Search

    I know, I've used the search function, but have some specific questions/issues that weren't answered after reviewing much of what's out there.

    Our FD is implementing a newer search rope system utilizing 200' main lines with knots and loops every 25 ft. and individual retractable "dog leash" tethers of 25 ft. In numerous drills we've come to make some observations that seem contrary to our standard search thought process.

    Issue #1: When crawling in using the mainline as a guide, the searching firefighters are slowed greatly by carrying a tool. basically it seems that if one hand is either on the mainline or tether, the other has to hold the tool, making crawling on all fours very unnatural.

    What types of tools are other FD's search teams carrying? We like having forcible entry/exit tools, but are finding this seems to slow an already slower search.

    Issue #2: Not so much a problem as an observation, but it appears the only way large area searches can be efficient is through heavily using the TIC. This isn't a problem until the TIC presents a problem. We've found that the lead man carrying the TIC can search access corridors and hallways with the camera quickly and then move into position where a tethered man search is required. Even from this point it's been far faster to use the TIC to put eyes on the space, allow the searcher to view the same then send the searching FF into the areas not readily viewable through the TIC. As soon as we take the TIC out fo the equation and begin using hands and tools to search, the progress slows greatly, leaving us fearful that in a small FD with few available resources our search will not cover nearly as much ground.

    For us, near zero visibility conditions in a building where we'll be utilizing a rope assisted search, means lots of things aren't going well. At what point is the search futile and concentrating on ventilation and fire control higher priorities, especially given a resource poor area? One must think twice when visibility is zilch in a Home Depot with 32 foot ceilings! Short of some school buildings our targeted large area buildings mostly have huge volumes of overhead space allowing for a lot to be wrong in the smoke above our heads.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RFDACM02 View Post
    For us, near zero visibility conditions in a building where we'll be utilizing a rope assisted search, means lots of things aren't going well. At what point is the search futile and concentrating on ventilation and fire control higher priorities, especially given a resource poor area? One must think twice when visibility is zilch in a Home Depot with 32 foot ceilings! Short of some school buildings our targeted large area buildings mostly have huge volumes of overhead space allowing for a lot to be wrong in the smoke above our heads.
    I have the same concerns when considering LAS. Fact is for most departments it simply isn't doable with the manpower available when other priorities exist.
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    I also agree. For most departments, that kind of search is going to be time and manpower consuming. Those resources will almost always be more effectively deployed elsewhere.

    If you've got the kind of space that requires a search rope for search, and visibility is that low throughout, you've probably got the kind of fire and fire load that you don't have the TIME to fully perform that kind of search through the entire structure. It can certainly be started, but command and operations need to keep the danger of collapse and the viability of victims in the front of their mind. There may need to be some serious ventilation and alternate points of entry created to facilitate easier searching of the far reaches of the structure, as well as egress for firefighters. Cutting holes in walls is not always an option on old factory buildings with 2' thick brick walls, but it's done often enough in these structures where it can be. Modern commercial spaces aren't built with heavy duty ANYTHING, so breaching and making a new door in a wall should be fairly easy. Use that to search from multiple points at once, or to shorten the distance from an egress point as you change entry points. Wide area search from a hoseline is also possible, but it ties you to that hoseline, which will be moving. It's certainly not optimal.

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    Thanks for the interest. Anyone else out there figure out the best way or best tools to carry during rope/line search ops? Maybe with more practical time we'll find it more comfortable, for now it's looks like a circus.

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    One more thing to consider is just who are you searching for? If you are having to utilize a rope based search you are more than likely in zero visibility, which means anyone without an air supply wont be surviving long in there. From a RIT perspective I see it being more useful since the downed firefighter may still be on his/her SCBA air supply; anyone who didn't make it out and has been laying there long enough for the fire to grow to the point of needed a large area search is more than likely dead. The risk just doesn't justify the benifit.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GTRider245 View Post
    ...anyone who didn't make it out and has been laying there long enough for the fire to grow to the point of needed a large area search is more than likely dead. The risk just doesn't justify the benifit.
    The issue here is that we've known for along time and now NIST and UL have data from actual testing that shows that a single closed door can make a huge difference.

    Our thought is also that we should deploy the rope ahead of the need. That is to say, we may go in on the line while visibility is still not zero, knowing that if things go to hell, we'll have the rope as our life line to the outside.

    We have a few fairly large industrial plants that have rooms inside of large floor spaces for offices, parts, small shops ect. I'm also thinking searching school classrooms from the hall vs. trying to make window entries into each? What if the student roll call comes up with students missing? No doubt the risk is high so the benefit must be carefully weighed, but our plan is to train like we'll need to do it, and continue hope we don't. Not to say that we haven't had fires that we look back and think, "that would have been perfect for a rope assisted search or foray vs. bumbling through an industrial building going around fork trucks, pallets of stock, all things that have no fixed place, making you question your certainty about where you are and how to leave.
    Last edited by RFDACM02; 04-17-2012 at 06:21 PM.

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    Having done drills like this in an actual school building....going down hallways into the classrooms (in our case) was easier/faster when not using the search ropes at all. We simply went room by room with teams and covered the hallway. Adding the rope method to this just slowed the process down.

    We also searched in cafeteria settings and found the ropes hinderances due to all the tables and chairs. Proved to be so many entanglements, we were found to be missing half the room at least. No better method found other than quick ventilation in that area.

    The only area of the school we found success with the rope method was searching a gym. Very few obstructions to tangle anyone up and a reliable way to cover the entire room.

    As for tools....a water can and some haligans was all we took. The can is left at the main line so it's available for anyone that needs it and they know where it is. As we move down the line, the can is moved with us. You need it, you go back to the main line and get it. Being that we are searching mostly open areas off the rope...there are not lots of FE needs so our tool list is low.
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    Whilie I understand the mindset of in order for a large structure to be full of smoke the fire has to be big. However that simpily is not true. Last week one of our companies used a search rope to search a below grade parking deck for the location of the fire. The company was faced with a parking deck with limited to zero visablity smoke conditions. However no heat. After search for several mins they found an activated sprinkler head. The fire was confined to a venilation pit outside of the buildng and the sprinkler head haulted the spread of the fire into the building. However the basement of the building was still filled with smoke. You have to consider the use of search ropes in "Cold Smoke" conditions as well as under fire conditions.

    The use of search ropes in large building is a huge benift. However proper and continual training is a must. These are the type of buildings that kill firefighters not cilivians. I know I am preaching to the choir in this case.

    But to answer your orginal question we have a similar set up. our tool assignment do not change if we are searching with a rope. However typically the can will be passed to the driver (the man that controls the rope bag) this lightens the load of the canman and enbles him to search easier.

    You are dead on with the use of a search rope in searching say a long hallway of classrooms. We have trained on this on several occasions. However we apply it to a center core highrise type structures (mazes of cubicals). By using the search rope down the hallway and conducting and oriented type of search in the cubicals off of the search rope. Same tactic just different setting. I can say that we have also apllied the same tactic to a center hall way type apartment building. In this case we were searching under near zero visablity conditions with heavy fire on the floor and the floor above. The egress stairwell was in the middle of the building. By using the search rope to go down the hallway and conducting searches off the rope into each apartment we were able to search the floor. This allowed use to maintain our location in the hallway and easily retrace our path back to the stairwell.

    If you would like i can go more into detail of the assignments of each member during a rope search evalution if you are interested. We have a very similar set up as you all and have the duties assigned to each firefighter on the rig. When we use our search rope we typically will deploy as a whole company not as an inside/outside team.

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    Bones: Thanks for the reply. We have been using a vacant school for numerous training scenarios for the last year and while we know we can search without the rope, the fact is the potential for disorientation was far higher. Our observations have been rather than rely onthe rope as a search tool, creating sweeping patterns, we deploy it mostly as a safe egress line and utilize TIC's heavily to search using sight, and send FFer's to those areas that are hidden from view only, while the rope control man watches conditions and searchers through the camera.

    RFD21C: Good point on the cold smoke. Some of the worst visibility conditions I've encountered were small fires controlled by sprinklers causing cold smoke with nearly no movement and subsequently very high CO levels. Our department relies too heavily on off duty and call personnel to make up entry crews to utilize a formal company assignment process, so most assignments are made in a "resource pool" area sans the first due personnel who have riding position assignments. Those later arriving have tool assignments assigned to the seating positions but actual fireground duties may not fall into traditional second, third due type assignments. We do have a few "cubicle farms" this system is ripe for as well as planning the use for large assembly, industrial and warehousing facilities.

    I would love more detail on your assignments, I'm never one to turn down info and assistance. The one thing we know, is that we don't know it all and we tend to look at things through our traditional set of glasses that brought us here today, even if some of that was by luck!

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    Quote Originally Posted by RFDACM02 View Post
    Bones: Thanks for the reply. We have been using a vacant school for numerous training scenarios for the last year and while we know we can search without the rope, the fact is the potential for disorientation was far higher. Our observations have been rather than rely onthe rope as a search tool, creating sweeping patterns, we deploy it mostly as a safe egress line and utilize TIC's heavily to search using sight, and send FFer's to those areas that are hidden from view only, while the rope control man watches conditions and searchers through the camera.
    I guess I'm just not seeing the "ease of use" in a classroom full of desks and chairs and the rope. Unless you are using a long rope in the classroom itself, you aren't going to cover very much with a 25' bag in a room. Just too much stuff in the way. I'm looking at a classroom right now (on my lunch) and thinking of a guy going down the 1 wall, gets to the end, now trys to come back up between the 1st two rows of desks. He's maxes out the 25' and not made much progress. Now he's got to back out of that row, move to the next and will get a bit less into the next set. Yes, depends on the classroom layouts of course.

    You say you've done this in vacant schools...try a school building with classrooms full of desks and such. Should be fairly easy to get access, I know my school is always willing to let the FD train (non destructive) in the buildings.
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    by the way....nice job with good discussion here.

    Refreshing to see a good thread...
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    Bones: Great point on the active classrooms. I suspect the TIC will only "see" so much and require entry, on the tether which will be difficult at best with only 25'. A few quick thoughts are to give the camera to the searcher, leaving the hallway with no camera to watch conditions (situational I guess) and another idea is to disconnect from the mainline and search the room returning to the door, not venturing through any other doors, while the control man watches the search and conditions with the camera.

    We've really looked at this for a while and had previously had search ropes but determined the need for a better more formalized system was in order. The overall thought is that with limited resources we will try and cover as much key area as possible, kowing this is far from a 100% accurate search. But doing a very good search and only getting 1/3 of the area compared to hitting 100% of the doorways and corridors is leading us down our current path (no pun intended).

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    Quote Originally Posted by RFDACM02 View Post
    Bones: Great point on the active classrooms. I suspect the TIC will only "see" so much and require entry...
    Especially when you get into the lower grades... Classrooms are becoming living rooms and dens as opposed to structured rows of chairs. Bean bag chairs, work "centers", partially separated work areas...heck, you can't see the entire floor area in daylight with no smoke!
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    Very interesting discussion here..... My Crew is current building our LASR and need to fine tune it before we perform the "in-service training"and officially put the tool into service.

    My primary thought process was that we'd deploy it on our wide-rises, center hallway barracks, large offices, and storage rooms for the PX and Commissary.

    RFD21C, thanks for confirming that there is definitely a benefit when there is a possibility of "Cold Smoke" which is the primary justification when deploying the LASR in the storage areas that I've mentioned.

    As far as a tool assignment, I set my Crew like this: 3 Person; Captain/Leader (TIC/Marriage), 1st FF (LASR), 2nd FF (RIC Pack). 4 Person; Captain/Leader (TIC), 1st FF (LASR), 2nd FF (RIC Pack) Engineer (Marriage). I've never thought about bringing a can with us even if we were to deploy before the Engine, but that's an interesting thought. Our tether lines are attached to our BAs and the line inside is approx. 40' or so just for the reasons listed regarding wrapping around desks, posts and such (plus, they double as our bail-out bags which is interesting).

    Thanks for the intelligent conversation on such a great subject.
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    Mikeyboy: How do you find the 40ft. tether works when it's non-retractable? This was how our "old system" (I hesitate to call it a system, more of a train of thought) was, but we found when we started really trying to use it, it slowed us way down, going from area to area as we need to reel in the line and the length required us to back track further when we finally realized the line was caught on something. The shorted retractable dog leashes don't give us as much reach, but they tend to make it easier to note when they fetch up on an obstacle before reaching the end. Also, returning to the main line is simple with the retracting line picking itself up neatly.
    Last edited by RFDACM02; 04-22-2012 at 10:55 AM. Reason: Just 'cause

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    We currently have a bag that has 150' of high temp type rope. At the end of the rope is a biner with a tag with the company name on it. This is used so that one can esily id which company is searching on which rope. Every 25 ft is a steel ring and a knot for each 25 ring before it. So for example at the 75 ft mark their are three knots and one ring. In the bag are two 12 ft sections of rope with a knot at the 6 ft mark. I hope that explains the bag set up fairly well.

    As for the operation. We typically run a four man crew. The use of a true large area search is a four man operation.

    firefighter 1- The most experienced guy that can monitor conditions an see changes in the environment. He is the lead man. He plays the rope out from the bag and ensures it is pulled tight at all times. (this is critical if the search rope is left loose it will create a mess.) He always stays one ring ahead of the search. Stops and waits until the search team gets to the next ring and then moves forward one ring.

    Officer- He stays at the ring that is being searched off of and monitors the search and provides voice contact to the searchers.

    Firefighter 3 and 4- are the search firefighters. they clip the 12' rope to the ring and crawle parallel with the main line until the reach the first six ft knot. Then they will arch off of the line keeping the teather taunt. Then repeat at the 12 ft mark. upon completion they report their air and condition to the officer and move to the next ring.

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    To answer a few questions you might have.

    Why 150'? 150 is as far as you want to go in a large building in zero visablity. Think of how far 150' is when you are craweling on your knees. Add in the time that it takes to search every 25'. I am willing to bet you will run out of working air prior to finishing the 150'. Remember in a large buildings we are talking about you cannot wait for the low air alarm. We use the half bottle rule in the situation. 1/2 in and working, 1/2 to get out.

    Why only 12' teather? First it is half the distance between rings you search off. 2nd 12 ft is also about the max that the officer can maintain voice control of his troops and monitor the men working in zero visablity. 3rd with the amount of stuff you will be searching around we have found much more then 15ft the line get tangled around so much crap it becomes worthless.

    But you are only searching a 25' by 150' area? By running a line down and using other search lines off of each ring one can expand the search. Think of a football field. Now you can expand the grid and assign each company to a path. Now i have never done this in the real world only in training and have my doubts on the fesablity in a real fire environment. Thats what the department experts say.

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    In your situation you described above i am not seeing the reason to use a search rope in a classroom type setting. If i was the officer assigned to a company of 3 or 4 assigned to search a school. I would proceede down the hallway. I might use the search rope as a safety to quickly retrace my steps but probly not. Upon each class room I would dump my two or three firefighters into the room. As they pass me in the doorway I will Let them look at the room with my TIC and have them do a left or right handed search of the room. Three men can easily search 18 ft off a wall. That would cover a classroom that is 36x36. Upon completion we would exit the room and move down to the next one. Just like we search apartments off of a common hallway. Put the company in the area to be searched. Monitor the conditions and the progress of the search with the TIC and voice.

    Also most classrooms that I have seen have windows. If conditions permit. Vent the windows. Once you enter the room if the heat is not so high that you are worried about ventilation enduced flashover. Knock out the windows. Have the officer control the door. This will lift the smoke layer off the floor and improve visablity. Once you have searched the room exit and close the door.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RFD21C View Post
    In your situation you described above i am not seeing the reason to use a search rope in a classroom type setting.
    Agreed, again we're basically utilizing a vacant school so while we talk about other occupancies really being the targets, our practical evolutions have been in the school type building. To me, the way we're utilizing the hallways and classrooms basically establishes the fundamentals of the use of the system. Some of the details learned then help us determine if changes are required to the draft policy.
    Quote Originally Posted by RFD21C View Post
    If i was the officer assigned to a company of 3 or 4 assigned to search a school. I would proceede down the hallway. I might use the search rope as a safety to quickly retrace my steps but probly not. Upon each class room I would dump my two or three firefighters into the room. As they pass me in the doorway I will Let them look at the room with my TIC and have them do a left or right handed search of the room. Three men can easily search 18 ft off a wall. That would cover a classroom that is 36x36. Upon completion we would exit the room and move down to the next one. Just like we search apartments off of a common hallway. Put the company in the area to be searched. Monitor the conditions and the progress of the search with the TIC and voice.
    Without a doubt, there's little need for a tether inside 99% of classrooms, the above thoughts are clearly how I hope most of our personnel would view the same evolution. I like the main line on the hall also to mark the progress if the initial team cannot complete the assignment. By tying off the bag and exiting, a relieving crew can scoot into the position where the previous team left off.
    Quote Originally Posted by RFD21C View Post
    Also most classrooms that I have seen have windows.
    Another reason getting to complex in a classroom is likely over stating the hazard as compared the real intent for the rope assisted search.

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