1. #1
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    Default Defensive Search Tactics

    A recent NIOSH report into a multiple fatality fire where 3 firefighters also lost their lives recommended that firefighters should be trained in 'defensive search tactics.

    I would suggest that in the case of this particular incident, and several other similar cases where firefighters were killed, the use of defensive search tactics would probably NOT have saved their lives. It is NOT flashover we are concerned with but the build-up of gases throughout a fire involved structure in compartments (rooms) above and adjacent to the original fire room.

    It is SMOKE EXPLOSION we should be concerned about and defensive search tactics as described will not counter these hazards!

    Recommendation #3: Fire departments should
    ensure fire fighters are trained in the tactics of
    defensive search.

    As stated in Command and Control of Fires and
    Emergencies, There are two warning signs that
    may precede flashover: heat mixed with smoke
    and rollover. When heat mixes with smoke, it
    forces a fire fighter to crouch down on his hands
    and knees. If you are forced down to the floor by
    intense heat, consider the possibility of flashover.
    As mentioned above, rollover presages flashover.
    Whenever one of these danger signs exists, you
    must use defensive search tactics.

    Three defensive search tactics are as follows:

    1. At a door to a burning room that may flashover,
    fire fighters should check behind the door to the
    room and sweep the floor near the doorway. Fire
    fighters should not enter the room until a hoseline
    is in position.

    2. When there is a danger of flashover, fire fighters
    should not go beyond the point of no return.
    The point of no return is the maximum distance
    that a fully equipped fire fighter can crawl inside
    a superheated, smoke-filled room and still escape
    alive if a flashover occurs. The point of no return
    is five feet inside a doorway or window.

    3. When searching from a ladder tip placed at a
    window, look for signs of rollover if one of the
    panes has been broken. If rollover is present, do
    not go through the window. Instead, crouch
    below the heat and sweep the interior area below
    the windowsill with a tool. If a victim has
    collapsed there, you may be able to crouch below
    the heat enough to pull him to safety.

    the full NIOSH report is available at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/face200004.html
    Last edited by PaulGRIMWOOD; 04-08-2002 at 07:27 AM.

  2. #2
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    Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Recommendation #3: Fire departments should
    ensure fire fighters are trained in the tactics of
    defensive search.


    Of the recommendations in that report, the one that would have made the most difference was left out -- Fire fighters are reminded that the putting water on the fire is almost always the most important life safety tactic.

    We'll never know what ***'t Chief McNally heard as he approached the building that morning. Maybe he heard cries for help inside.

    In a situation we're your short-staffed and there is no obvious "pick-offs" such as people hanging from a window, you've got to focus first on getting water on the fire.

    Five guys on two trucks initially, and the next due manpower (from a recall) is 10 minutes away. You don't have the staff to search AND vent AND spray.

    "It is believed, through interviews conducted, evidence at the scene, and a fire model developed by NIST, that the dining room flashed, causing secondary flashovers in the living room, and ventilation conditions created a path of least resistance up the stairs, unjuring and disorienting the three fire fighters enough to prevent their escape from the structure"

    Is there or is there not a more classic case for having the top interior priority be getting a hoseline to the protect the stairs, and if possible advance on the seat of the fire?

  3. #3
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    I couldn't agree more Matt and made the same point on my website http://www.firetactics.com/HOMENEWS.htm

    Its not right to second guess any Chief or Firefighter in such a situation but there have been so many instances where firefighters have lost their lives in similar circumstances.

    You are right Dalmation that is a recommendation that should have been included - but I also think we talk of 'flashover' without understanding the principles of how a fire escalates into adjacent compartments. In this case 'defensive search tactics' were not relevant.

  4. #4
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    Paul,

    If I may add my penny. I agree that the most important item left out was putting water on fire. It has, and remains, the choice of champions.

    I think that an understanding of flashover is absent on this side of the lake. We have firefighters who learn to get ceritified but who do not learn. There are many exceptions to this. However many firefighters do not believe that knowing that "book stuff" can help them. They are therefore left in the dark and don't know what has occured until it is past. Whats worse is that many have never seen flashover, in their minds, so they don't believe what is said.

    Just my penny.

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