After the Knockdown: Remember SVEN

By Jim Nagle

You roll up to the house and flames are pouring out a window. It’s another “bread and butter” room-and-contents fire. The adrenaline surges, but things go smoothly. Before you know it, you and your crew are in position. You give the order and your nozzleman pulls back on the bail, applying water with careful precision. Within seconds, the room goes black. The fire is out.

It’s the moment all firefighters revel in–coming face to face with the enemy, battling, and winning. What a glorious, climactic moment. But now what?

We all know there’s still a lot of work to do, and there are some very important things that need to be done immediately. But at a time when adrenaline and exhaustion may begin to affect our ability to think clearly, a good mnemonic device comes in handy. Allow me to suggest the acronym SVEN, or as I think of him, Uncle SVEN.

S – Search. Our very first priority is life. This is never truer than just after knockdown. Have your crew members do a rapid search of the fire room before spreading out into the more remote areas of the structure.

V -Ventilate. Another important life-preserving action that needs to be done as soon as possible after knockdown. The sooner you can remove some heat and smoke from the structure, the better for any victims and for you and your crew. For a hose team in the room of origin, hydraulic ventilation is by far the quickest and most effective method, and there’s a good chance it can be accomplished without having to move from the spot where you hit the fire. If this isn’t practical, at least open some windows and call for ventilation.

E – Extension. Next, you must determine whether the fight is actually over, or if you’ve got some chasing to do. With the room clearing from ventilation efforts, the ceiling should soon become visible. Does the membrane appear to have held the fire inside the box? Look for breaches in the envelope and consider opening up around covered openings such as light fixtures.

N – Notify. As soon as it’s safe to do so, radio the incident commander and let him know what you’re doing and what you need. If you were first in and are still in command, let dispatch know your status so that incoming crews know what to expect on arrival.

Uncle SVEN. Think of him for a more systematic flow of post-knockdown operations.

Jim Nagle is a captain and haz-mat technician with the Everett (WA) Fire Department, with which he has served 12 years.

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