Roundtable: Vent-Enter-Search on the Fireground

By John "Skip" Coleman

Like most firefighters, I have an opinion about the job, as well as specific aspects of firefighting. Fire Engineering has contributed to the discussion, at least since I began reading in the late 1970s, by publishing articles that represent both sides of questions of interest to the fire community. It is one of the things that make this publication great.  

I recall several discussions of the recent past: The "smooth-bore" vs. combination nozzle dilemma; positive pressure attack; where the incident commander (IC) should be located (I can't believe that there are still departments and chiefs that believe the IC should be in his or her "isolation booth" in the seat of the car as opposed to out in front of the building). More recently there's been debate on what actually certifies a person to "command" an incident. As I understand it, most of the biggest cities in the country are not "certified" to command a major incident if it occurred in their community. The word is that if a large-scale incident were to occur, the local chiefs would be replaced by outside "command teams." Now that's an interesting concept.

Anyway, this article concerns what a once-controversial tactic that has been modified to a much safer operation: vent-enter-search (VES). VES was "invented" in a large East Coast city that realized that more than 80 percent of the single family dwellings in their city were two-story homes with a front porch. Of those, more than 80 percent of those front porches offered direct access to second floor bedrooms. The tactic allowed for one firefighter (in this instance, the pumper driver after the pumps were set) to ladder the front porch roof with a roofing ladder and then, from the roof, break the bedroom window (vent), enter the bedroom (enter), and then search (search) the bedroom after first locating and closing the bedroom door to the hallway. All in all, a dangerous and standards-violating evolution.

My friends in Florida have taken this VES evolution and married it with oriented search techniques. This "Oriented VES" uses the same fundamental evolution with the addition of an oriented man who remains on the porch roof or at the window of a one-story home, thereby increasing the safety for the searcher. This is an evolution that I can certainly live with.

That brings me to this month's question. Does your department teach, train on, and perform VES? If so, is it performed with one or two firefighters? Register and log in to the Fire Engineering Web site and leave your comments below.

Skip Coleman: Firefighting RoundtableJohn "Skip" Coleman retired as assistant chief from the Toledo (OH) Department of Fire and Rescue. He is a technical editor of Fire Engineering; a member of the FDIC Educational Advisory Board; and author of Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer (Fire Engineering, 1997), Managing Major Fires (Fire Engineering, 2000), Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer, Second Edition (Fire Engineering, 2008) and Searching Smarter (Fire Engineering 2011) and 2011 recipient of the FDIC Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award.

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