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By john miTTendorf O


ccupants can be a good source of in- formation for trapped victims and their potential location. Remember to differ-


entiate between humans and pets, as pets are often referred to with common names such as Mike, Louie, My Baby, and so on. When conducting search operations


in structures, it is generally agreed that victims should be discovered within about 15-minutes after arrival of suppression companies. Obvi- ously, the larger the structure, the more time it will take to conduct a search with a reduced level of effectiveness (particularly when ap- plied to commercial structures). Before entering a structure for a


search, quickly determine if the structure would be classified as a tight structure or an open structure as the focus of these terms is your ability to quickly exit a building if neces- sary. As an example, the church in Figure 1 has an entrance in the front and somewhere in the rear only, no side windows, more square footage than the typical residential struc- ture, and will not be easy to exit in a timely manner when the interior visibil- ity is non-existent. Conversely, although the commercial building in Figure 2 also has more square footage than the typi- cal residential structure, it has numerous windows and multiple doors that can be used for exit points and will be signifi- cantly easier to exit in a timely manner as opposed to the structure in Figure 1. Victims are most likely to be


found close to the point of origin (the area of greatest danger). As victims clos- est to the seat of a fire are in the most danger, a search should begin as close to the seat of a fire as possible. However, the closer to the point of origin (fire, heat, smoke), the more danger search person- nel will be subjected to. Statistics indicate that victims


above a fire can be in the greatest danger. Therefore, when a multi-story building is encountered and fire conditions dictate victims above the fire are in danger, a search should begin above the seat of a fire.


Without specific information


and extenuating circumstances, start a search in the living areas of a residential structure during daytime hours. Con- versely, start a search in the sleeping ar- eas during nighttime hours.


When initiating a search, attempt to


search the high target areas or areas of greatest danger in a priority manner as follows: • Behind doors. • Bedrooms. • Bathrooms. • Exit pathways.


Depending on the type of search, ar-


eas out of the normal path of travel in a struc- ture may need to be searched. These areas in- clude but are not limited to closets, under/in beds (a low bed is likely a bunk-bed), bathtubs/ showers, corners, and behind doors. When furniture is encountered, do


not move the furniture as this can block your exit path and possibly fall on an undiscovered victim. Instead, leave the furniture in-place and search around and behind the furniture. When personnel are conducting


search operations, consider the following ad-


vantages of breaking windows if it will not be a detriment to suppression operations: Provide more light to the interior of an area be- ing searched. • Improve visibility. • Temperatures should be reduced. • Exterior personnel will know where search personnel are searching. • Provide a mental uplift for search


personnel. Remember that an opening can be-


come a source of fresh air that can enhance a fire and/or draw a fire to its location. Therefore, try to begin with the most exposed windows and work to the least exposed windows. Addi- tionally, if a primary search is being conducted, the focus is to quickly search an appropriate area or structure, not spend precious time on a stubborn window or horizontal ventilation op- erations. When windows are not easily opened, consider breaking a window(s). Lights can be turned on to enhance


visibility. As you enter a room, slide your hand up the wall without the door hinges until you feel the light switch. When opening or forcing doors, be aware of the following considerations: • A warm or hot door is an indicator


of the conditions on the other side of the door. • Open doors slowly. First, as the door


is just opened, evaluate any escaping heat or smoke. Secondly, a victim could be on the floor behind an inward opening door. Do not cause additional injury to a poten- tial victim by rapidly and forcibly open- ing a door. • If a door is nailed shut, difficult to


open, or storage is encountered, that is an indicator the door is not normally used for access, or is a closet. • Doors that open inward are normally bedroom or bathroom doors. Doors that open outward are an indicator of exit doors, closets, basements, etc. • When searching a room, leaving the


door open can enhance ventilation and a rapid retreat from the room. Conversely, closing a door while searching a room can keep a fire (outside the room) from worsening conditions within a room and provide a search team additional time to complete a search.


June 2012 • 37


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