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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.
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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"