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I am interested to see what others are using for wide area searching. What type of equipment and tactics are being used? Does every company carry a search bag? Or just truck companies? Any special considerations while using search rope for wiide area searches?

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We are also in the process of researching large area search equipment. We would specifically like information on retractable search lines.

What types of systems are you using? What search technique or pattern do you use (T-search, full moon, half moon)?
As far as retractable, we have tried the retractable style dog leashes. They are inexpensive, and pretty durable.
Guys,
Think about it! How long will it take you to search a school gym or a large restaurant or a small convention center or even a grocery store in IDLH (zero visibility) conditions? With a rope or not?
The answer is TOO LONG!
Think aggressive ventilation. I was tought to go into an IDLH atmosphere and locate (by feeling) and remove the victim. Wouldn't it be faster to remove the IDLH from the victom and then go in and "look" for victims as opposed to blindly feeling for them. Imagers are not the answer until everyone has an imager. With one imager per crew, as soon as a victim is located, the entire crew must leave with the victom and imager.
Positive Pressure ventilation will improve conditions to where visibility acceptable in 2 to 5 minutes in a large area.
Just think about it!
We did a good deal of research (both talking with other departments and going to classes to see what equipment and techniques are being used. After great deliberations and passionate discussions we finally came to a consesus.

We will do Large Area Rescues but not Large Area Searches. It may seem like just changing some words, but we decided that if we have a circumstance where a civilian is possibly in a large building and we need some sort of rope infrastructure to conduct the search, we could not support that operation while maintaining a fire attack, ventilation etc.

If we have a known rescue we will conduct some recon (talking to witnesses, looking at preplans). Based on what we find out, we will then deploy a team using a 200 ft. rope bag. We will send in 4 members. The Officer (responsible for the plan, communating escapte routes, Portable Radio and TIC and has a retractable attached to the left hip), the Extrication Person (handles the Irons and has a retractable tag line attached to the right hip), The Air Person (carries the RIT pack even if it not a RIT activation and has a retractable tag line attached to the left hip), The Rope Person (the 200 ft. rope bag, possibly a second TIC).

We will tie off outside the structure, once inside all members take up a wall on the non hinge side of the door. The Officer conducts a TIC scan (starting from his/her far left where the walls meet the roofline and scans to the right slowly enough to make sure the TIC does not skip any areas. Once that scan ocurs the TIC is dropped down to eye leve and a scan occurs from right to left in a effort to identify, doors, windows, etc. The final scan is where the walls meet the floor, this finalizes Heat scans and orientation) The team heads to a location nearest an anchor (tie off point) along the way anything not easily read with a tic is searched by the members on retractables. At each change of direction the line is kept tight and waist level then tied off. Keeping in mind of the mission-air management is key. Once you exhaust you time, the large bag is dropped and members exit (they will meet up with their replacements (officers only do a quick tie in) New team takes over progress continuing.

Once a victim is found the Officer make a note of where he is at in the structure and how far he is from the initial entry point (this is based on rings and knots being tied in the 200ft rope every 20 ft). He/She can do a TIC scan for exterior doors and send a member on a retractable to investigate. A closer exit is usually more realistic.

This rope system is like conveyor belt for multiple operations because it is tight and waist high it is fast and easy to follow in and out.

Some logistical info:
-Rit Rescue Systems is the company that we purchased the equipment from- Dave Mooney has been great to our Region.
-You must train on it (not overload) just train initially and make it part of your operations.
-You must have riding positions. This is not an assign on the fly operation.
-Retractable Tips: They are not for bailouts, they are not designed for it. If you get to the end of the retractable and want to reach out, take a loop on your hand, do not put pressure on the retracting mechanism, again it is equipment and used improperly it can break.
-We carry the large rope bag and three retractables on our engines. We decided it was the cost of doing business. We considered just having it on one specialy unit but what if they are on another alarm.
-All of our members carry small rope drop bags on their scba's the retractables should not replace that option.

Training:
-Firetown Training Specialists conducts a good class on the use of this operation. Ed Hadfield can be a great resource.
-RIT Rescue Systems will also help come out and train your members. He is good at helping you network in your area.

Enjoy, it works well
I have heard that departments are having difficulty dealing with "cold smoke". Smoke that is cooled due to an activiation in a the sprinkler system. Vertical Ventilation is sometimes not as effective.

Regarding Positive Pressure Ventilation. Studies showing the larger mounted systems seem to be positive. If you have a larger building and truly can not see due to smoke conditions, it may be prudent to evaluate the visible smoke conditions before commiting to PPV. It is a great tool, but one of the "do not do list" is place firefighters between the intake and exhaust point.

I am very eager to hear more thoughts on this topic. As we continue to experience the "big box fire" problem.
We recently placed in service our large area search bag onto our truck. It is part of our equipment we take for any RIT assignment or anyother time we need to do a large area search (or whatever use we see fit for it). Basically we have a big rope bag with 200 feet of rope. This rope is knotted every twenty feet. Inside the bag are also four smaller rope bags with 50 feet of rope. These smaller bags have 20 feet of rope ready to be used, but if need be, a carabiner can be detatched and we get an extra 30 feet of rope. The basis of our procedure is as follows:
When a large area search and determined to be needed, the search crew will bring the large area search bag to the entrance we will be using. The end of the main 200' rope is tied off to a sturdy, stationary object. If personel permits, one member will stay at the tie off spot. The officer of the crew is in charge of carrying the large area search bag. He places it at the entrance point in front of him, and distributes the smaller rope bags to his members. Each member clips the bag to his or her waist, and gives another carabiner that is attached to his line to the officer. The officer then clips the caribiner onto the main search line, maintaining control of everyone's caribiner and the main line at the same time. The crew moves together, with the officer pushing the bag in front of him, until they get to the first knot (20' in on the main rope), 2 members of the crew with the smaller rope bags then continue going straight up the main line until their 20' of personal rope is depolyed. They then both move off the line in opposite directions, performing a semi-circle until they get back to the main line, making sure to keep their line taunt by applying tension. Keeping their line relativeley low will cause it to snag on a person or other objects they may encounter. When this occurs, the firefighter gathers their rope as they work their way towards the object, at which point they locate a victim or work around an object. They then work themselves back up to the officer and the group moves on to the 2nd knot, which is 20 more feet in than the first knot, and thus 40' total into the search.
We have found several applications for this. The obvious application is a large open area such as a wharehouse. Another great application that we train and can use it for is large auditoriums. The search group can bring the main line down the middle of an isle, and the search guys with the personal rope bags can work down the rows of seating (one down each side at the same time)

I hope my description is somewhat clear. I actually want to try to make a video of our procedure and will be sure to post it in my profile when i finish it if there's an interest. However, like Skip stated, there is the need to determine and weigh the benefits of doing a "large area search" as opposed to a "large area rescue". One of the main problems we have found is that by the time we get to the second knot, some people are already almost halfway through their bottle; at this point, it is time to get out. We have talked about sending another search crew in and picking up at the "knot" that the last team left off with. When you really think about it, an operation like this means were already 25-40 minutes into the operation. Would we still be "searching" a structure in limited visibility conditions for that long? If we are then the better question is what is the condition of the fire and better yet the integrity of the building?
I couldn't agree more, not we have to sell everyone on this idea.

Skip Coleman said:
Guys,
Think about it! How long will it take you to search a school gym or a large restaurant or a small convention center or even a grocery store in IDLH (zero visibility) conditions? With a rope or not?
The answer is TOO LONG!
Think aggressive ventilation. I was tought to go into an IDLH atmosphere and locate (by feeling) and remove the victim. Wouldn't it be faster to remove the IDLH from the victom and then go in and "look" for victims as opposed to blindly feeling for them. Imagers are not the answer until everyone has an imager. With one imager per crew, as soon as a victim is located, the entire crew must leave with the victom and imager.
Positive Pressure ventilation will improve conditions to where visibility acceptable in 2 to 5 minutes in a large area.
Just think about it!

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