Fire Engineering Training Community

Where firefighters come to talk training

Chris was asking me about starting a forum on VES so, here it goes. VES is definately a great addition to your search strategies. It needs to be performed though by "experienced" members. Too often we get caught up in the "conga" effect. Take the 2 story PD, we follow up the stairway attempting to gain access to the bedroom area to search. What about a 2 prong attack. You do need an inside team making a push with the engine, finding victims near the means of egress but what if fire prevents the access to floor #2? An outside team can use a portable, aerial or bucket (nice for getting the victim down in) to gain access to the bedroom areas. Once inside the bedroom (yes, we checked below the window for victims and holes) our first move should be to get that bedroom door closed.Closing that door buys us time , buys the victim in the room time by holding back fire and smoke and allowing smoke conditions in the room to vent. Where is my partner? How about the tip of the aerial or portable. He checks my status (nothing like another voice to keep you cool headed) , monitors conditions, and aids in my removal of the victim if found. Once the room is done, we move onto another room. Now, I become the guide and my partner does the search. Think of this option, search teams coming from both directions to effect the rescue. One of us has to make it. What do we think...........

Views: 783


Replies to This Discussion

Hi Mark,
one other thing I would mention about V.E.S. is that it is not for everyday, garden variety fire use. It is most appropriate when there is a High or Urgent Rescue Profile; in other words, when there is a very high suspicion or direct knowledge that there indeed is a victim in need of rescue.
I'm a firm believer in V.E.S. techniques, I've performed them and seen them produce amazing results. As you mention, it should be performed by experienced members and only when appropriate based on the specific rescue profile.
I will also add that this tactic requires a strong grounding in techniques of size-up in order to make sound decisions with respect to choosing the best avenues of entry into an occupancy and whether or not conditions will even permit the entry into the occupancy and allow time to achieve the critical door control in the first place. Thanks for taking the time to give a great over-view on the subject, Mark.
Mark, great topic, a trick of the trade for this search. When you enter the end bedroom, move away from the outside corner. 99% of the time this is the quickest path to the door, in a small room it my only save you 3 feet in a large e room it could be as much as 15 feet. This tactic works even if you enter from the side of the house. If things are nasty it could be the difference between having to do the Pete Rosa dive for life or closing the door. If you can't picture it go to any corner bedroom, stand at the window and look for the shortest dist. to the door. Most departments do not have enough staffing to conduct traditional ves. We responded to a PD fire with 24 firefighters we teach to consider Alternate Entry and Search. This is VES used as a starting point, when the room is searched, VES than the firefighters will open the door and check conditions, if things are going right and conditions have improved, we will chock that door open to aid in vent. Move to the next room, shut the door and repeat. By starting on the end it also gives you a reference on your position in the house. As always circumstances will dictate actions.

Be Safe
Hi Mark,

After leaving the initial search room (assuming conditions in the hall allow) how about having one member leave his handlight with the strap run around the bottom hinge of the door- we should all have at least two lights on our person- this can provide somewhat of a beacon to get us back to an area of refuge and our means of egress in case things start to go sour.

Stay safe.
Frank Ricci has a couple of good points to add on. This topic has now become a round table discussion. I have learned more at the kitchen table in the houses I have worked in (and received my fair share of senior man smack-downs there) than anywhere else. Mike, your points are corrrect but, in the FDNY we pretty much consider all structures as occupied until proven otherwise. We will attempt VES to the furthest point that we can before becoming part of the problem. This is where the experience factor comes in. I have had fires where no additional info or signs of a victim are prevalent and bingo, the outside vent man comes up with a grab. One thing I will add, go to your positions on every run. If it is a water leak, go to the rear, size it up. We are creatures of habit. The more we practice a particular move , the better we get. Young FFs, ask the senior men, how they got to their position and why they chose that route. At first they may raise an eye but, when they realize you are feeding off their experience they will gladly oblige.

Your comment on asking the senior firefighter is right on the money. It's the best way for the youngest members on the job to learn the job, and has been the subject of an ongoing discussion in the mentoring group as well.

As you indicate, searching must be conducted at all fires, regardless of reports received that "everybody is out," and the strategy you describe is a solid approach toward achieving that goal on the fireground.

The way we "practice" on the routine runs sets us up for the way we will "play" when it really matters. There is also a certain confidence that is gained by having a solid plan for how we approach incidents. Clearly it makes sense to develop habits that will serve us well across all the incidents we are asked to respond to, today.

Thanks again for the excellent discussion.

Since fire duty is down for all of us, the senior men really do have alot of the answers. As you said Chris, habits practiced are habits performed when the real deal is on...
Hey Dave,

While I can appreciate your outside of the box thinking, which we can use more of in the fire service. For years firefighters have been taught to use their personal handlight as a tool on the fire ground, but we must remember the limitations that every tool has. Typically you will perform VES on the 2nd floor or higher, often your entry point is above the fire floor ( often not always), which means you are going to encounter a heavy smoke condition. We need to start moving away from using our handlights as beacons inside the fire structure, they simply will not work if they are used in that fashion. Light smoke conditions ( only to a specific distance ) or no smoke conditions are applications that may be appropriate for using your light as a beacon. In heavily charged areas with banking to the floor your light is completely ineffective, for the simple reason that smoke blocks light.

Last year we conducted a unscientific experiment on the drill ground. With a smoke machine, placing my vulcan light on the floor at the entry point to the room, charging the room to a moderate degree, the beam from my handlight became completely invisible to me in less than 8', and that was moving forward directly in front of the light. If I moved off to one side or the other the beam was not visible in less than 4'.

If you have a TIC, and your personal light produces a heat signature then the beacon theory works, but if there is no heat signature then your TIC will not pick up your light. I have encountered many skeptics, give it a try and see what you think. Stay safe.
Great topic Mark. I just want to reaffirm what I am reading here, and agree with, based on my own opinions. The "experienced" guy may not be so experienced and I think it is critical that everyone of us teach the subtleties of VES. Many FDs refuse to acknowledge this tactic and then when you show up at job where searches have to be made from portables the guys may not know what is a good spot to be in. For me it comes down to constant size up. What is the smoke telling me. Where are the windows and the stairs. It would suck to hop in a window and come walking out the lower floor because you missed the stair location. I agree this is a risky tactic but the benefits are huge. We should be proactively discussing VES, or whatever you want to name it, at the kitchen table and teaching the guys what, when, where, and how. VES just like anything else on the fireground. For me, it is all about taking the time to make the time. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
Great posts boys. I do belive in VES and should be done whenever able. I agree that a senior member need be on the team doing the VES, but what happens when he is on vacation, kelly day, sick, etc... We need to train all members on the job on the use of this tool. We need to know the skill level of the stations, departments around us incase they may be called upon to do this high risk task. They may not do it due to the intense nature of this task. I know some jobs around me would never do this task. For ever, the truck has been doing searchs and venting above the fire without water. We just need to make sure ALL members understand what can happen when we vent a window and don't close the bedroom door first. What does the fire the floor below now have a chance to do? Of course it may come upstairs and greet them with a harty and unwelcome hello. Building construction, personal size-ups and fire behavior need to be revisited by all members to make sure all understand why we are doing VES and what can happen if we do it the wrong way.
Here is how I'm handling the VES vs. PPV delema:

I have told all my guys to announce on the radio when they are doing a VES, this clues in several items.
1. PPV is to be withheld until VES ops are completed. If the VES boys are doing it right, it wont' take them that long.
2. Emphasises to the Attack team to get in between the bedrooms and the fire. (I know they should anyway but I still like the emphasis)
3. Also emphasises to the Vent team, open the roof (I tell my ladder crews, to act as if the roof is going to be opened up unless told otherwise, if in doubt. I want that smoke (Fuel) off of the interior crews and victims ASAP. If it so happens my first ladder crew is needed for VES, then I'll have another crew open the roof if the fire is necesitates it)

If the fire attack is comencing, I prefer that the VES team not open the bedroom door. I would rather they exit and go through another window,the environment gets tricky when the hose lines operate, especially if the hoseline isn't in the right spot; but I also trust their brains, if they open the door and it's passible, then do what you need to do. But even then I want them to have a ladder placed at the subseuquent rooms in case they lose access to the hallway. I don't want them stuck for too long. The No. 2 on the VES team needs to communicate to the searcher to know if they going to the right or left if they choose to leave the original room. Like the other posts have emphasised, good size up will help tremendously in knowing which way the searcher will go.
Mike, I like your comments, especially the part about those members that perform v.e.s. announcing over the radio what actions they have initiated. Communication really is the key to a successful and safe fire ground.
As always, stay safe.


Policy Page


The login above DOES NOT provide access to Fire Engineering magazine archives. Please go here for our archives.


Our contributors' posts are not vetted by the Fire Engineering technical board, and reflect the views and opinions of the individual authors. Anyone is welcome to participate.

For vetted content, please go to

We are excited to have you participate in our discussions and interactive forums. Before you begin posting, please take a moment to read our community policy page.  

Be Alert for Spam
We actively monitor the community for spam, however some does slip through. Please use common sense and caution when clicking links. If you suspect you've been hit by spam, e-mail

FE Podcasts

Check out the most recent episode and schedule of

© 2024   Created by fireeng.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service