By Samuel Hittle
Rescue is the principal reason we exist. Unfortunately, drilling under realistic search conditions in fully furnished buildings is difficult to procure. Because of this, we may have to separate our drill tactics into macro and micro functions to obtain beneficial results. Macro search functions focus on the overall strategy to clear a footprint. It is officer driven and can be drilled on at just about any structure. Micro search functions concentrate on the smaller individual components of the macro, like how to efficiently clear a living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, and so on.
Size up the footprint. Start in the front yard with a scenario: “It is 3 a.m., fire is on the 1st floor in the Alpha Delta corner.” Now take turns asking questions. What does the exterior tell you about the layout of the home on each level? Is there a basement and type of access (i.e., cellar or interior stairs)? Is this a two- or 2½-story residence? Where are the stairs?
Make a plan. With the footprint mentally mapped, identify how you would conduct the search. Would you call for additional resources, establish a search group, or operate in divisions? Where would you start your primary, and why? What is the egress potential if things go bad? What would you take (i.e., rope, TIC, CAN, handtools)?
Execute your plan. If you said you would follow the left wall to the stairs, ascend to the second floor and search above the Alpha Delta corner working away. See how it goes. Maybe you decided to form a life pack with the line boss first and then go up the stairs. Regardless, enter the home and walk it off. The objective is to navigate the structure under presumed zero visibility conditions in a systematic way that maintains orientation and company accountability while ensuring the entire footprint gets cleared.
Keep asking questions. What would you ask if an occupant was outside on arrival? Did you go thru the rooms you thought you would? How does the direction of the door swing help you identify the room? Where are the windows in respect to the room entrances? What does changes in flooring tell us? What kind of assumptions can we make based on the width of the doorways (i.e., large openings typically lead to larger rooms)? What type of radio traffic would go out (i.e., floor changes, updates, when crews have exited the structure)? What is an acceptable time to achieve and report the primary? How would the secondary be addressed
and under what conditions? Why is it important to isolate rooms as you go?
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Samuel Hittle is a lieutenant with the Wichita (KS) Fire Department.