In April the "Firefighting" magazine continued to publish my series of articles on primary search. This time we are wrapping up the sub-series on large-area search with a fourth article. In the previous issues we have covered looked at two different approaches to searching large areas: simply defaulting to small-areas techniques and using full-blown methods of large area search. For the latter we have studied different trajectories that your team can follow and then we started learning how you can search the area in the vicinity of the your path. In March issue we were able to answer that question for "Zigzag" route, and in April it is time to discuss the rest of the trajectories.
As the article is in Russian, I will translate its most important points for my English-speaking readers.
- In this article we are covering how your team should search the surroundings of the search path if you are using "Pendulum" and "Ruler" routes. We will also look at the "Tree" route that is rather popular in Germany and other European countries.
- For the "Pendulum" method your team should arrange itself into echelon formation with the team leader on the inside arc and attached to the radial search line, and one or two partners attached to the team leader with an arms-length leash in chain-like manner following him/her on the outside. Echelon formation requires that partners follow diagonally, just behind and on the side of the leader. This is the same formation you should use in small area searches. It allows for the best controllability and coordination of the team.
- When your team reaches the wall in "Pendulum" method, the team leader should push pay out arms length of the rope times the number of people in the team out of the search rope, make a knot on the bight on the rope, attach the bight to the bag and then advance along the wall until the rope becomes taut, while directing his/her partners to also advance along the wall ahead of him/her until their leashes become taut as well.
- If using the "Ruler" route, the best way to arrange your team is again using the echelon formation, but this time the team leader must be on the outside because you need your innermost partner to hold the search line deployed during the previous pass.
- There is another search pattern called "The tree" which is pretty popular in Germany. It is good for those layouts that have regular row structure (churches, movie theaters, supermarkets). In this pattern the team leader follows the main aisle while allowing his/her partners to sequentially search the rows using long leashes. While it can be quite effective if your team is well-coordinated, it has two drawbacks: you need to know the type of layout upfront (which is not always the case) and you need to employ the leashes of significant length (which can endanger your team members).
- For the layouts where you would typically use the "Tree" method, I prefer to use two two-person teams implementing a small-area search attack. This is because regular-row layouts tend to be dense enough to be searched row-to-row without separating from the wall or the row despite spanning large expanses overall. Remember that small-area search methods are always faster than large-area methods. Of course, search teams must passively lay the search line behind them because in such layouts finding way back will not be trivial in zero visibility.
- Lastly, I am reminding that searching large structures comes with increased risk of both team disorientation and structural compromise. Because of that a thorough and continuous evaluation and re-evaluation of the building both from outside and inside is a survival tool for all involved on the fireground. This is where one TIC and gas detector per team and one portable radio per team member becomes an absolute safety must and not a luxury.
This concludes a brief overview of the article. It is only an overview and does not include all the details you need to know about how to conduct large area searches. If you are curious, your department can contact me for details.
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.