In the last month of 2017 the "Firefighting" magazine continued to publish a series of my articles on primary search. This time we tackled the topic of large area search. As the topic itself is as large as the areas we need to search, and so it would not fit into one magazine article, I intend to span the material across several magazine issues well into the spring of 2018. So December article serves as a part 1 of the sub-series on searching the large layouts.
As the article is in Russian, I will translate its most important points for my English-speaking readers.
- Large area search is the most difficult and dangerous type of primary search you can conduct. This is the case because of the size and complexity of the structures that need to be dealt with during this type of search. Because of this reason I deliberately took more than a year to discuss other types of search in reasonable detail. Attempting to learn large area search before mastering small area search and other types of searches, as well as learning how to coordinate your team work can lead to very tragic outcomes.
- Large area search is defined as a type of primary search in which the compartments in the layout are too large for the search team to reach the middle of the compartment without separating all of its members from the wall.
- So how can we address the problem of not being able to reach all the spots in the compartment when it is sufficiently large? There are different ways:
- Separate from the wall and hope for the best. This is unacceptable option because unaided separation from the wall ends in severe disorientation in poor visibility no matter how proficient you think you are. And disorientation happens much faster than you think. Multiple NIOSH LODD reports confirm how easy it is to become disoriented after separating from the wall.
- Ignore the center and just keep following the walls, essentially conducting small area search on large area layout. This might seem like a sheepish attitude, but if your team is neither equipped nor trained for a large area search, your best bet is to do just that - conduct a small area search instead of giving up entirely. This way you will still search some portion of the building while remaining in contact with the wall. Remember, the goal of the primary search is not to search everywhere; the goal is to maximize the areas covered while minimizing the time spent. So by following the walls you still give civilian victims a chance to be found and rescued. Of course, you should deploy a search line behind you in a passive manner as you advance along the wall, just like I was teaching to do in any small area search.
- If your team is still not ready for a full-blown large area search, you can try to increase your depth of coverage while conducting a small area search along the walls. The simplest way to do it is to utilize a 10-20 ft rope and send your partner towards the center of the compartment as soon as you discover that the compartment is large. The team leader and the partner should remain connected to each other with that rope during such excursions. While searching towards the center of the room, the partner can employ a "pendulum" technique similar to those used by the rescue divers. You can repeat the same excursion as many times as needed in the compartment. It does not guarantee full coverage, but it will increase the depth. By the way, there are other rope-based techniques besides the "pendulum" that you can employ while still following the wall in order to increase the depth.
- Finally, you can learn which true large area search techniques work faster and safer. By "true" I mean that you will use a search line, this time actively, not passively, and that your team will separate from the wall and will search the large compartment in more systematic and complete manner. But this is a topic for the next article.
By the way, there will be no article in January issue as the editor has caught me in Kaluga while we were teaching a primary search class there and sat down with be for an interview. So, January issue will come of with that interview printed, and we will continue with the articles in February.
If you do understand Russian, you can either download and save a copy of the article in PDF format or you can view it right here on this page.