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  1. #1
    Forum Member Fire304's Avatar
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    Default Large area tagline search

    Just wanted to share the results of our RIT training where we conducted tag line searches of a large commercial structure. The following is the RIT officer's (Lt. W) debrief critique letter to all of us...

    Training Location: In cooperation with the PFD we utilized the old Ames building to conduct our large area search training. While we have a number of similar structures in town, utilization of this abandoned structure eliminated any concerns about our training damaging the building.

    Skills Sessions: The team was divided into groups of three to practice two search methods – the straight line search method and the leap frog search method.

    The straight line search method was accomplished by having one firefighter (designated “the anchor”) with tools remain on the outside wall with a piece of rope in hand (designated the “search rope”). Another firefighter with tools (designated “the sweeper”) extended from the wall toward the center of the structure with the other end of the search rope in hand until the rope was tight. The third firefighter followed the anchor on the wall carrying the supplemental air and the tag line which was anchored outside the structure. The anchor and the sweeper moved parallel to each other in either a left hand or right hand search method keeping the rope tight. The amount of rope between the anchor and the sweeper can be adjusted as circumstances dictate however for purposes of our skills sessions we utilized approximately 30 feet. Keeping the rope tight and right at floor level the anchor and the sweeper made their way through the structure until the rope caught on something, at which point the sweeper moved down the rope to identify the obstacle. It is important to note, the anchor never left the wall so as to maintain bearings in the structure.

    The leap frog method was practiced by once again having the anchor with tools and the sweeper with tools separated by a piece of rope approximately 30 feet long. Again the third firefighter followed the anchor on the wall with the supplemental air and the tag line which was anchored outside the structure. Unlike the straight line method, the leap frog method had the sweeper extend out on the rope until it was tight and then swept in an arch (keeping the rope tight) until the sweeper came back to the wall on which both the anchor and the third firefighter were located. At this point the sweeper became the anchor and the former anchor became the sweeper and would sweep out on an arch the length of the rope. In this fashion the sweeper and anchor would “leap frog” along the wall with the rope at floor level. If the rope hung up on an obstacle the sweeper would investigate while the anchor and third firefighter would remain on the wall. As the sweeper and anchor moved up the wall the third firefighter would move up the wall as well.

    Lessons Learned:

    1. While both search methods were effective, the leap frog method was too time consuming – especially for RIT operations.

    2. It was difficult for the sweeper to detect when the rope hung up on an obstacle, especially utilizing the leap frog method. Utilizing the straight line method the anchor definitely felt the rope hanging up on an obstacle.

    3. The longer the rope the more difficult communications became between the anchor and the sweeper.

    4. Because we were relying on the rope to perform the “search” of the area between the anchor and the sweeper it is imperative to remember ropes can pass over weakened floors, holes or other hazardous obstacles without anyone knowing. Therefore, if the rope fetches up on something the sweeper must aggressively sound the floor when moving along the search rope toward the obstacle.

    5. While we should all be periodically checking our air supply as operations progress in any type of structure, it essential we perform these checks in large buildings such as strip malls, schools, industrial buildings etc . . . It is very easy to get so far into the building that we could run out of air if we wait for our low air alarm to sound before beginning our exit.

    6. Searching large area structures is DIFFICULT! Additionally, the building construction of many of these structures contains numerous hazards (truss roofs spanning large distances, increased roof loads with HVAC units, electrical systems in the floors, high fire loads, etc. . . ). As a RIT we need to be prepared for rescues in these buildings, but as firefighters and officers in a non-RIT role we should strongly weigh the risks versus gains of committing firefighters to such structures during normal fire ground operations - understanding that if a firefighter gets in trouble inside one of these structures it may be difficult to perform a successful rescue.

    Evolutions:

    1. Firefighter sounds a mayday disoriented and low on air somewhere on the Charlie side of the structure (this is what happened to Phoenix, Arizona firefighter Bret Tarver). RIT team of three was activated for the rescue. Utilizing a search rope of approximately 25 feet the team entered the structure with tools and supplemental air to perform a straight line search in zero visibility. The sweeper extended out on the rope until it was tight and then the team began moving parallel on to the Delta side wall until they hit the Charlie side wall. At this point the anchor and the third firefighter worked their way up the Charlie side wall until they reached the sweeper and then the sweeper extended out toward the center until the line was tight. The team then made their way down the Charlie side wall heading for the Bravo side wall. As obstacles were encountered the sweeper would investigate while the anchor and third firefighter investigated obstacles within their reach on the wall. The downed firefighter was located when the search rope hung up on him and the sweeper moved to investigate. Since this evolution focused on search techniques only we did not extricate the downed firefighter. Once the downed firefighter was located the team exited the building by following the tag line out.

    Lessons Learned:

    1. As noted above, it is essential to thoroughly sound the floor while searching both in the straight line fashion and while moving down the search line toward an obstacle.

    2. While PASS devices are easily heard, the vastness of these types of structures causes the alarm to echo making locating the device difficult and hampering communications within the team.

    3. Once the firefighter is located trying to recoil the search line and stow it in zero visibility is extremely difficult. Leaving the search line out while crawling back toward the exit potentially exposes one or more of the team to entanglement hazards. Additionally, it becomes easy to confuse the search line for the tag line increasing the potential for disorientation. If the search line cannot be easily retrieved and stowed in a timely fashion it is recommended that it be left out of the way of the team so as not to impede extrication along the tag line.

    4. When the team moves from one wall to another the tag line will straighten out into the center of the space. The further one travels down another wall different from that which was used on entry the greater the tag line will straighten such that in this case the tag line was easily 20 feet off the wall when the team followed it out of the structure. The team was moving along the tag line over ground previously searched by the search rope only, which exposed the team to potential hidden hazards (weak or missing floors, electrical hazards, etc…). For this reason it is important that upon exit the lead firefighter on the tag line aggressively sound floors and probe for obstacles on the way out. Alternatively, the team should pull the tag line toward the wall and use both the wall and the tag line as a guide toward the exit (although this may be more time consuming).

    2. Firefighter sounds a mayday disoriented, low on air and boxes collapsed onto him somewhere on the Charlie side of the structure. RIT team of three was activated for the rescue. Utilizing a search rope of approximately 25 feet the team entered the structure with tools and supplemental air to perform a search in zero visibility. One member of the team was not clear on which search method was being utilized making a complete search of the area difficult. As obstacles were encountered the team searched around them and then removed the obstacles to an area already searched. By periodically checking their air the team was able to exit the area before becoming low on air. While the victim was not located, the team survived and some good lessons were learned.

    Lessons Learned:

    1. Whether it is a RIT assignment or any other assignment on the fireground, all team members must know the plan. While it is the team leader’s responsibility to communicate the plan, it is the responsibility of each team member to ensure they know the plan. If you don’t know the plan or need clarification demand it from the team leader or one of your teammates.

    2. While moving objects after searching around them and placing them in an area already searched can make the search go faster, it may make exit more difficult as “landmarks” are no longer where they were upon entry and the objects could be inadvertently placed on the tag line.

    3. Periodic monitoring of air supplies in large structures in imperative.
    Thanks to 304 for coordinating this valuable training. As we discovered there is a lot to conducting large area searches. We are by no means experts at this and there are certainly many other skills we will need to learn (how to communicate when longer pieces of rope are used, how to search large areas with aisles, etc . . .). While we don’t have many fires in our area involving large structures the potential certainly exists. Because of the potential and the relative lack of experience in fighting fires in these types of structures there is certainly an increased likelihood that the team could be activated for a rescue in such a structure. Accordingly, we will continue to practice and expand our skills in this area.

    Thanks,

    LT W.
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  2. #2
    Forum Member Fire304's Avatar
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    Photos from out RIT training...

    Straight line search
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    Forum Member Fire304's Avatar
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    A view of the entire building
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    Forum Member Fire304's Avatar
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    Leap frog sweep method, note anchor man is not moving...
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    Another picture of the leap frog, this as the sweep is almost completed...
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    Here we encounter debris that would be typical of a retail space...
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    Dealing with more debris...

    Note, this is not the proper way to deal with the debris, by going over the debris it is possible to miss the victim who is near to the pile.
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    Note we did not search further than 30 feet from the wall so we did not have to deal with the posts in the store. Nor did we search an area with merchandise in aisles which would have made for an extremely complicated search (imagine searching a large super market, how do you find your way out?) The "blind" searches were conducted in the warehouse at the back of the store which still had lots of debris to deal with and was a real challenge.
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  9. #9
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    Last quarter we had a similar drill where we were blacked out and doing these searches. The question that was never answered was, when are we going to be entering into a large area such as a gymnasium/theatre on hands and knees to do a totally blind search?

    If the smoke/heat is that bad in that large an area that is unable to be vented, there are much deeper problems such as questionable structural stability to worry about.

    It was a good tag-line drill, but I just question the practicality.
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    Forum Member Fire304's Avatar
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    When?

    Here's one which was the focus LODD of this particular drill...
    http://www.firehouse.com/lodd/2001/az_mar14.html
    Bret was faced with a fairly "safe" situation when his team entered the building which rapidly degraded into a RIT activation.

    Also you must consider that HVAC systems in building like this tend to spread the smoke over a relative large area, so even though there may not be any heat and the fire may be some distance away you may find the high school gym or pool building (with its associated large quantity of chlorine) filled with smoke and a report of victims last known to be in the locker room, possibly incapacitated by smoke on the middle of the gym floor.

    TIC's have largely eliminated the need to perform this type of search, but in the event of a lack of the camera of failure of the camera we'd have to resort to this style of search.
    Last edited by Fire304; 12-19-2004 at 03:26 PM.
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  11. #11
    dazed and confused Resq14's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Fire304
    TIC's have largely eliminated the need to perform this type of search, but in the event of a lack of the camera of failure of the camera we'd have to resort to this style of search.
    I've never been in a large structure fire (like a supermarket) that has true zero visibility, so I don't have any experience to base my thoughts on here. My thoughts are based on training, input from people on here, and reading. I agree with Kobersteen.

    I wasn't able to attend this specific drill. But my thoughts: we would have 3 TIC's on scene on an initial alarm. Mutual aid companies would bring in at least 2-4 additional cameras. So my only concern would be the TIC failing in the building and the crew getting lost. It would be important to go in with a tagline (or follow a hoseline) so the exit could be located.

    I don't think it would be very efficient or a good use of personnel to resort to a search-rope based method. This would translate into a lower rate of survival for anyone trapped inside. I'm gonna guess it would be better to have another TIC brought in, or haul ***** out and get another one that works. A couple of search teams with TIC's could cover a supermarket pretty fast, assuming conditions are safe enough to be in there.

    I'm not saying we'd never do this... but in the name of practicing like we'd play, I don't see it happening in the field given the abundance of TIC's -- even if half of the TIC's failed on scene.

    http://fe.pennnet.com/Articles/Artic...RD=supermarket
    "During this timeframe, the department had a very limited number of thermal imaging cameras (TICs). We now have a TIC on every engine and in most ladder companies. "

    Remember that the Phoenix LODD (FF Tarver) was located within 9 minutes from time of RIC activation... there were extenuating circumstances as far as removal from the building. Many of the points made in the article have been taught for years as far as being proactive with safety on the fireground -- i.e. safety engine concepts, etc.

    Here's the LODD report on FF Tarver.
    http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/face200113.html

    A good article from "the other" site.
    http://fe.pennnet.com/Articles/Artic...RD=supermarket
    Last edited by Resq14; 12-20-2004 at 02:32 AM.
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    MembersZone Subscriber ullrichk's Avatar
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    Phoenix did quite a bit of RIT training/research after losing Firefighter Tarver. They concluded that search lines are not a good idea. Nick Brunacini wrote about it in Fire Rescue Magazine this summer.
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    First an outstanding overview of the drill.

    I wanted to add a couple of comments. I agree with Kobersteen about at least discussing when would we be performing this type of evolution. I also participated in the same training session he did and it was a good experience. My answer to question though is this, large area tag line searches would be used to find lost firefighters. I agree it is not realistic to think that we would be able to effectively search for civillians in a large area using this method.

    I also agree that the answer to this is TICs. Although I have a tremendous amount of concern about relying on TICs in place of knowledge of the basics and the ability to operate in zero visability. I am very fortunate, we carry two TICs on our apparatus. The jurisdiction that surrounds us has at least one all of its apparatus. BUT there have been numerous times that I have come to work and the TIC is almost dead, we have serious issues with mantaining a charge on them. I hope that the RIT team that comes looking for me has the ability to operate without TIC if neccessary.

    The comment about Pheonix not using tag lines is mostly correct. They do not use a standard tag line, they use a hoseline instead. The result is the close to the same, they have guide to exit the building.

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    dazed and confused Resq14's Avatar
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    Default re: "Rapid Intervention Isn't Rapid"

    Originally posted by ullrichk
    Phoenix did quite a bit of RIT training/research after losing Firefighter Tarver. They concluded that search lines are not a good idea. Nick Brunacini wrote about it in Fire Rescue Magazine this summer.
    And I've tried to read as much as I could get my hands on about this incident.

    One thing I don't understand... their RIC did an amazing job locating FF Tarver in 8 minutes or so. To me, that IS rapid and that shows that it does work ("Rapid Intervention Isn't Rapid"). If their RIC was able to locate him and give him air, I think that is very successful in a structure that size -- especially if they didn't have the benefit of using TIC's.

    So, locating him the first time didn't seem to be the problem. The problems seemed to begin AFTER he was located, such as being uncooperative/disoriented due to CO poisoning, becoming separated from the RIC, difficult removal once re-located due to obstacles, etc.

    Removal in these circumstances is obviously going to be very difficult, and not as rapid as we'd like it to be. But I think the initial RIC did one heck of a job given the circumstances.

    Given how Phoenix is considered by many to be on the cutting edge of the fire service, it surprises me when I read something like this:
    "It is the author's opinion, that these intercom devices [in scba masks] will make a more significant enhancement toward safer and more effective firefighting operations than thermal imaging cameras)." I'd take TIC's over the voice amplifiers any day, if push came to shove.

    If the RIC/RIT can get in and stabilize the FF's air supply and provide a defensive stronghold in the building, that's solving most of the problem (barring an immediately life threatening injury). The problem was in the capture and removal of FF Tarver. That's how I understood it, at least. The time-stamped benchmarks seem to support this as well.

    Also in the article, there were conclusions drawn about not having enough air in standard SCBA's to perform a RIT evolution in a commercial building. A TIC would buy a SIGNIFICANT amount of this time back by eliminating wasted movement, which translates into less exertion and ultimately a conservation of air.
    Last edited by Resq14; 12-19-2004 at 08:00 PM.
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    Large area search or rope assistaed searches are needed.
    The other night while working we had been dispatched to a reported fire in a department store, it turns out that some how a clothing rack decided to catch on fire, the automatic sprinkler system kicks in and puts the fire out but makes a good smoke condition in parts of the store reducing visibility to zero in those areas. The store was occupied at the time of the fire and nobody could confirm if everyone made it out. Even if they did report that everyone was out a search still would have been made! Companies did use ropes to conduct the search.
    We must make every effort to conduct the primary search (customer service)of every occupancy, that's our job. Conditions will dictate how and when we do them.
    The search proved negitive on the primary & secondary and we used four companies to do it. The half circle method was not used because of all the clothing racks, the main line was used (still a large area search) to get into areas.
    LAS is practical and can be nothing more than searching with a rope to a full blown rope system and search patterns.

    Stay safe,

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    dazed and confused Resq14's Avatar
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    Do you have the option to use a TIC?
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    Cameras were used with the search

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    mis-read a post. deleted reply
    Last edited by Resq14; 12-20-2004 at 02:27 AM.
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    Originally posted by Resq14
    But my thoughts: we would have 3 TIC's on scene on an initial alarm.
    E-1's TIC has no back up battery and the battery in the unit last about 15 minutes before reading "discharged" on the meter (not sure how long until totally dead). That truck is our RIT wagon. The camera on E-2 is marginally better. T-1's works the best but even that needs new batteries, maybe 30 minutes of use. IMHO most of us (FD's) don't know squat about rechargable batteries or how to maintain them so I'd be willing to bet most other TICs will be in simular shape. Since RIT activations tend to occur 10-15 minutes into an incident most other cameras would be committed to other jobs, some may already have dead batteries in them. Even if we find another TIC that did work it would be one we are not familiar with and I would hesitate to rely on any equipment I don't know.

    I am by no means advocating a line search as the first choice of methods. There are so many limitations and hazards that it would be way at the bottom of my little bag of tricks. But I do believe in keeping it in that bag, and I can envision scenerios where it may be necissary.
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    dazed and confused Resq14's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Fire304


    E-1's TIC has no back up battery and the battery in the unit last about 15 minutes before reading "discharged" on the meter (not sure how long until totally dead). That truck is our RIT wagon. The camera on E-2 is marginally better. T-1's works the best but even that needs new batteries, maybe 30 minutes of use.
    It's been whined about for months, trust me. Dunno what the hold up has been.

    I'm just saying, to maximize survivability, TIC's offer the best chance, not SCBA amplifiers, "300 minute" SCBA bottles, or search lines. Obviously we need to have plans B, C, D, E, F, etc because TIC's can and will fail. I'd hope plans B, C, and at least D would be to use more TIC's/batteries on scene though.

    New batteries are a must when performance is affected. And not having backup batteries is stupid... no doubt about it.
    Last edited by Resq14; 12-24-2004 at 06:53 AM.
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