By Samuel Hittle
As mentioned in Part 1 of this search drill, it is difficult to conduct realistic search training in fully furnished buildings. Separating our search drills into macro and micro functions may be the answer. The macro search drill focused on the overall strategy to clear the footprint. In part 2, We will look at how to drill on the micro search functions, which concentrates on the smaller individual components of the macro such as how to efficiently clear a living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, and so on.
Video: Search with the Water Can
Search an empty room. We search with negative results more often than not; having the searcher mentally map and then draw the room in detail after the search will help build confidence that the entire real estate is covered.
Position victims realistically. Wrap the victim tightly in blankets, stage them in a recliner, sleeping on a couch, entangled in oxygen tubing attached to an empty tank, and so on.
Use multiple victims. Too often, once a victim is found and removed, the remaining real estate gets ignored on the primary. Place a baby in a victim’s arms or near them on a bed. The larger victim will typically get all the attention, leaving the immediate area unswept for small children.
Search with a thermal imaging camera (TIC). With two searches, practice working as a team. The firefighter with the TIC should be able to clear the majority of the room with the camera while directing the hands-on firefighter to areas that require direct inspection (i.e., under covers, behind blind spots, closets, and so on).
Add stress. Play loud music, or download this fireground audio. It is a compilation of smoke detectors, chain saws, yelling, low-air alarms, sirens, horns, nozzle work, and so on.
Let them see what they couldn’t. If someone has a helmet camera, allow them to search with it, and later watch their performance. This is valuable.
Create a sense of urgency. One thing we have found to be very effective is timing the searcher, then allow them to visualize, using this video of a flashover, for example, occurring to determine where they would have been in the search. Did they get the victim(s) out in time, or did it flashover on them? This is a very effective tool for imprinting potential fire growth from extension in relation to time.
Establish a finish line. The drill shouldn’t end until the victim has been removed from the building, not just dragged outside the search room, and certainly not just located. Believe it or not, this is where a lot of firefighters fail.
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Samuel Hittle is a lieutenant with the Wichita (KS) Fire Department and an instructor with Traditions Training, LLC.