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Large Area Search training last night - details and pictures

By Andrew Pollack on 03/24/2006 at 11:54 AM EDT

Last night we had a really great training event put on by some of the guys from nearby Portland, on a new technique for searching large open areas. Now you would not use this at a time when there's a rocking fire going on -- this would be used in the case of a lot of cool smoke or steam from a small fire somewhere else in the building, or maybe one that had been suppressed by a sprinkler system before you got there. If you're dealing with thick heavy smoke and heat in that large an area then its about to be a really big problem and you should not be there.

This kind of situation is like what happened in Massachusetts a few years back. Some firefighters entered a warehouse with light smoke conditions but nothing really looking urgent. They were a good way in looking for the source of the fire when suddenly conditions changed and they were left unable to see and had to try to find a way out on hands and knees. They died, as did teams searching for them. After 8 men didn't come out, a chief had to stand in front of the entrance to prevent more going in, saying "I'm not killing more firefighters tonight." If those men had used a system like this, there is a good chance they'd have gotten out. Its a system for allowing a large open area to be searched while maintaining a reliable means of egress at all times in case conditions change.

The key parts are a 200' heavy rope that plays out from a bag carried by the leader. It is anchored to a safe spot outside. The rope has a ring tied in every 20 feet followed by a series of knots - one knot for each 20 feet. In the dark, all you have to do is find the rope and you can quickly determine the distance and direction to the exit. The two men following have 15' ropes with clips. At each 20 feet they clip to the ring, and each go out 90 degrees from the main line, then swing back in an arc to the line, thus clearing an area more than 30' wide. Once they get back to the rope, they come back to the ring and while they unclip the leader makes the next 20' stretch forward. There's more detail to it, and its kind of hard in the dark, but you see the point.

For practice, wax paper was stuffed in our masks so that we couldn't see -- its cheaper than burning down structures every week or two.


There are  - loading -  comments....

questionBy bob on 03/24/2006 at 09:27 PM EDT
i get the part about the long rope with knots in it. My question is: say I'm
blinded in the big space and need to get out in a hurry. I find my way to the
long rope. How do I know which way to go? Sounds like i have 2 choices, and i
don't know which is the way "out"
Well, if you were one of my guys....By Andrew Pollack on 03/24/2006 at 09:38 PM EDT
You'd have been trained to know that the series of knots is always AFTER (in
terms of distance from the entrace to the building) the ring. So after 20
more feet you get a ring, then knots. At any ring then, you know which way is
further in, and which is toward the door.
Great idea... mind if I borrow...By Alex Wilson on 03/27/2006 at 02:11 PM EDT
We now have a few large open spaces in our first due area such as a new Home
Depot, some warehouses and factory locations. This is a great idea.

Mind if I borrow?

Alex Wilson
EMT/FF, Eureka Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Co.
FF2, EMT-B, HazMat Ops, Vehicle Rescue Tech (Basic)
Of course not -- if you want I can put you in touch with the people who trained us. Remember, live to train, train to live.By Andrew Pollack on 03/27/2006 at 02:23 PM EDT
My own thoughts on this are...By Alex Wilson on 03/27/2006 at 03:52 PM EDT
Please do. We train hard. Big buildings are new to most of us. We are used to
trailers (let them burn), barns (let them burn), houses (try to save them) and
wildland fires (pray for rain!).

Lately, it has been wild land fires.

Thanks for putting us in touch with your trainers. Much appreciated!


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