Tagline/Searchline Essentials

By Scott Kraut

When our search requires a tagline/searchline, there are a few areas of concern that are critical to ensure a successful operation. Deploying a tagline/searchline is typically the result of a complex or large area needing search or necessitated because of a crew already missing. Regardless of the reason for deployment, if not trained with the line, it will be more of a hindrance than it will be an aid. As with all equipment, routine maintenance and an overall proficiency is paramount for a successful outcome.

Taglines/searchlines should include on their anchor end a designator to discourage removal of the line and to indicate the crew performing the search. This becomes especially important if multiple crews are using their lines from different entry points because of the size of the building. One person from the search crew must maintain the tagline/searchline and keep it taut throughout the operation to avoid confusion for the crew, as a guideline for others attempting to enter on the line, and to keep from becoming tangled with other objects encountered throughout the occupancy.

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As we change direction, tie off the rope to indicate that we have made a left or right or ascended or descended a set of stairs. This will also prevent the line from becoming slack; it would drift across the floor leaving no indication of our intended directional change. Finally, the bag housing the line should include a quick release if a victim is found or the search must be abandoned because of low air or equipment/personnel issues. We don’t want to retreat with the bag; it marks our stopping point for the next crew and will hinder our egress if carried out. Ensure that the quick release is positioned in the front of the apparatus or bag carrying the rope.



The photos and descriptions included with this drill illustrate tips or best practices for the given task. As with all our operations and the tasks that we perform, be a steward of the fire service by continuing to learn from others and share your knowledge with the rest of us.


Scott Kraut is a lieutenant for Fairfax County (VA) Fire and Rescue and a senior instructor with Traditions Training, LLC.

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