Blue Flower

Now that we have discussed the definition of the primary search itself, let us also define the problem statement for the primary search. Such problem definition is needed so that we know and understand exactly what we are aiming for when developing, analyzing and selecting the primary search methods. It is especially important to have the problem definition if we want to compare the search methods objectively.

Based on the goals of primary search that we have defined earlier (finding and rescuing savable victims and locating the seat of fire) it becomes clear that the main humanitarian mission of those conducting the primary search is saving lives. Ideally we would like to save all the lives that are in danger due to the fires and other incidents, but every person who becomes a firefighter should realize that not all situations will be conducive to such noble intentions. Sooner or later each of us faces an incident in which a life could not be saved despite all the selfless and often heroic efforts.

From this a problem of primary search can be defined in broad sense like this:

Primary search broad problem definition: To minimize the number of people who become killed or injured by the fire.

Indeed, taking into consideration the reality that one cannot save everyone every time, the next best and noble goal should be set – try to reduce the number of people who perish during the fires to a minimum. This can be accomplished by simultaneously pursuing two strategies:

  1. Reducing to a minimum the number of situations in which people become victims and
  2. Maximizing the number of people being rescued during the fires.

You can’t save all and always. But we need to do our best to save as many as possible.

The first strategy of reducing the dangerous situations consists of teaching the principles of fire safety and self-rescue to the civilian population and training our own firefighters in fireground survival discipline.

Let’s not forget that not only a civilians, but also firefighters can become victims during the fires and subsequent firefighting. From this follows that both number of civilian and firefighter lives lost should be minimized. It is important to understand that one civilian life saved at the cost of many firefighter lives lost is a dubious achievement.

You can’t save lives at the cost of many other lives.

Finally, let’s discuss the second approach to solving the problem of saving the maximum number of lives – that is maximizing the number of located and rescued victims during the fires. While the definition of this approach does not yield doubts, nevertheless the question arises – how exactly this can be accomplished? In order to answer this question, let’s restate the primary search problem definition in narrow sense.

The problem of primary search in narrow sense is to minimize the number of lives lost by searching the maximum possible area in shortest possible time.

Indeed, locating the victims during the fire under smoke conditions is only possible by visiting the places where such victims are. Visiting more places means increasing chances of locating more victims. Visiting these places quicker means the victims will have a higher chance of survival while being exposed to toxic products of combustion.

You should understand that not always the firefighters will be able to search the entire area. This can happen because of the locked doors, localized collapses, obstructed passageways, complex layout and reduced or zero visibility. It is always more productive to move on and cover more new area instead of wasting time by forcing your way through the obstacle to cover little area. Exactly because of these reasons we define the goal more realistically (maximizing the area covered) – the more square feet we explore, the more chances that we find more victims that can be saved.

In primary search we are not asked to cover all area, we are asked to cover as much area as we can in shortest time.

Next: Types of primary search