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Let's Talk Fire: Search Safety Guidelines

Updated on September 10, 2012


 There are many concerns a firefighter must look at when performing a search and rescue operation. Of course personal safety is at the top of that list. Safety for those in need of rescue also stands out. In this installment of let's Talk Fire we will be exploring some vital guidelines that should be utilized by all personnel operating inside a burning building.

Search and Rescue training is a vital part of the job!
Search and Rescue training is a vital part of the job!

The Rules

  • Never enter a burning building in which the fire has developed to the point were no living victims are going to be found. This is difficult for us to do but sometimes we have to accept that we can not help. If the structure is more than 75% involved and has been burning for an elongated period of time you know that the chances for survival in those conditions is to slim to risk more life. No one ever said being a firefighter would be easy.
  • If you witness signs that a backdraft is possible never enter before proper ventilation is performed. Remember to wait a little while after ventilation, backdrafts are not always instant!
  • Always maintain radio contact with firefighters inside and outside the structure. be ready to mayday if needed and always let them know the conditions you are viewing and they should do the same for you.
  • Always monitor conditions inside the fire. Keep track of how hot or smokey the room is getting. Look for indicators of flash or roll over.
  • Maintain a system of accountability. If you enter a new room radio in and let the incident comander know. Try to give them an idea of where you are inside the structure.
  • Never, and I stress never freelance. Freelancing can cause nothing but problems and put even more life at risk. I have worked with enough freelancers to know anytime they are on scene you have to watch the fire and them to stay safe.Stick to the plan, man!
  • Always wear full protective equipment. PPE is there for a reason and should be utilized.
  • Remember two in two out. You learned the buddy system in kindergarten and it should be a vital part of your firefighting experience.
  • stay low, avoid smoke. this is a basic day one lesson that if you have not learned you should not even be in a burning building to begin with.
  • Always monitor structural integrity. A collapse is not something easily forgotten and trust me it isn't something that you can get out of to easy.
  • Check doors for heat before opening them. Once again this is a day one thing and should always be a part of your routine.
  • Never enter without a tool. Tools are our keys to get out of situations as well as a means to extend our reach during a search and rescue operation.
  • Use search and rescue marking techniques. Mark the doors of the rooms you have searched. This is a very key factor in lowering the chances of incoming firefighters searching the same room.
  • Always maintain contact with a tag line, the wall, or a charged hose.
  • Speaking of charged hose, never enter a burning building without one. Fire is not intimidated and without water at your disposal you will be in a heap of trouble.
  • Coordinate with vent crews before you ever attempt to cool a room by opening a window. There may be backdraft conditions in the structure that you are unaware of.
  • If a room cannot be searched for any reason alert the incident commander and let it be known.
  • As soon as you complete your search radio in and let the crew know. Rehab yourself and get back in the game for reassignment.


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