Roof Ventilation vs. Rescue Roundtable
In Novembers Fire Engineering I read the Roundtable discussion, "Roof Ventilation vs. Rescue" starting on page 32.
The question is as follows:
A firefighter is assigned to operate on the roof of a five-story, flat-roof apartment building. Equipped with a hook, an ax and a lifesaving rope, he moves to the roof by aerial ladder. His officer instructed him to perform vertical ventilation by opening the door at the top of the stairway bulkhead. This will assist the search and fire attack efforts below. While walking towards the bulkhead, the firefighter hears a person shouting for help. He goes to the roof edge and sees a man below at a window from which heavy smoke is venting. There is no direct access to the window from the building's front or side B or D. Which of the following actions should the firefighter take and why?
1. Initiate the rescue using the lifesaving rope, and notify his officer to assign the ventilation to another firefighter.
2.Begin working on ventilating the bulkhead, and notify his officer that a victim needs to be removed.
3 Some other action (explain)
Now although there are some unknowns here, here are the facts as presented.
-5 story apartment building (probably ordinary const.)
-1 firefighter is initially is assigned as the roof man.
-Fire on 1st floor.
-Man at window with heavy smoke and is ready to jump.
-Your tools are as listed above.
-There is no exterior access (read: fire escapes) from any side of the building. Smoke or Fire is possibly blocking this avenue or he is in an inaccesible room.
-It is implied that he is inaccesible to aerial or portable ladders.
I read this question that presented a typical scenario that any firefighter or officer in my Dept would be able to answer without pause. And I would wager that the responses from everyone, regardless of rank would almost identical. There are plenty of texts that address this issue and there have been 1000s of fires in these buildings that have lent themselves to creating safe procedures that have been effective at saving lives, either actively or by preventing someone (FFs) from getting injured or killed.
I choose no. 3 some other action: I personally would notify the Batt Chief that there is a civilain hanging out a x-floor window on side 3 and continue to force the bulkhead...once that is complete I would check the landing, shafts and rear for more victims and advise the Chief of my findings and notify him that I am intiating a rope rescue from this location. I would then with the 2nd due roof man prepare to be lowered to the victim. (note I didn't say remove him. it might not be necessary) Hopefully the inside team can get to him from inside.
I realize there are many ways to skin a cat. I've personally seen many ways of accomplishing any certain task. All those that are accepted are perfectly defensible and explainable. However there are some firefighting procedures and rules that are universal. Some of the responses were accurate and based on sound Firefighting procedures and practices. However, many of the responses I read from some of the firefighters and in some cases high-ranking officers of Depts. were unsettling and embarrassing to those who wrote in and I also felt somewhat irresponsible of FE to publish some of the statements.
While I can imagine there might have been some confusion or misunderstandings, which by themselves cannot account for the apparent lack of knowledge and procedures needed to affect the duties of the roof-man presented in this example.
I personally think the largest misconception is the understanding of the phrase "Initiate lifesaving rope rescue" This does not mean perform it from start to finish. This means to notify the officer find a substantial object, tie off, select a lowering point...etc. That is until the 2nd due roof man or another FF comes up to assist. This evolution takes at least 2 and preferably 3 men at a bare minimum.
Many responses seemed as if they were guessing or postulating their own theories about what should be done...it would seem in the face of sound tactics and procedures that were developed after Civilian and Firefighter deaths and injuries at such fires.
Is possible that some of the cities presented have no apartment buildings over 3 stories tall? Although highly unlikely, if that is the case I would then think it would have been better if those FFs who do not have these buildings or experience with this type of building should not have replied. I know I have no business commenting on what tactics are required at wild land fires as those found in California. (I've done field fires but not forest fires, big difference.)
I am upset that any firefighter who is unsure of what tactics and procedures to perform in this situation might just follow some of this bad advice. I'm most upset at the officers that responded that have the responsiblity of thier members safety and the profesional performance of thier company that had little to no clue as to what to do...or in many cases do the wrong thing. I wonder how some got themselves into such positions of responsibility.
Failing to plan is Planning to fail and the fireground isn't the time to develop procedures and tactics to overcome this situation. Period. If we really are profesionals as oopposed to amatures I would say that these depts should get their act together. They don't need to have procedures just like my dept. However there should be something set up rather than guessing at what one should do or relying on the Truck Officer for a solution while he is supervising the interior search.
Has anyone else read this article and noticed the some of the same problems that I did? What would you do in this situation?