Vent Enter and Search , or as it’s commonly referred to, VES, has been an accepted term for the fire service for the last 8-10 years or so, depending on who you talk to. It’s a common strategy that has been successfully used throughout this country to save lives. I would like to offer some insight as to what this is and when and how it can be applied.
There’s a high likelihood, that if you have been in the fire service for longer than 10 years, you may have performed this already, but thought of it as a typical search. Many think of VES being a coordinated venting tactic to control the fire. Some think of it as part of the primary search. Some aren’t familiar with the term at all.
Let’s set the stage….. You are the officer on an Engine company responding to a fire at 0300. Upon your arrival, you notice heavy black smoke from a 2 story, 2,200 sq. ft. house and fire on the first floor. There are cars in the driveway and neighbors in the street that tell you they think the family is inside. After you ask them some specific questions, you understand there are a husband and wife, with a newborn child that live there.
Given the above scenario, you assign a primary search team to the first and second floors, horizontal ventilation and fire attack. Based on the information and your size up, rescue is likely that could, and should be attempted.
Now, let’s change the scenario slightly and allow me to demonstrate how we can incorporate VES into your incident action plan.
Let’s use the same scenario, but this time as you arrive, a 23 year old woman is standing in the street, very distraught and crying. She meets you at the Engine door before you get out and says that her husband and newborn are still inside the house. You specifically ask her the location, and she points to the bedroom in the A,B corner on the second floor. You now have a Confirmed Rescue, exact location and the building will “allow it”. Meaning, the fire is not in that room, or in close proximity.
You assign 2 firefighters to “VES” that bedroom on the second floor, A, B corner. They carry a 16’ roof ladder, pike pole and Halligan. They use the ladder to hit and “open” (Vent) the window, don their SCBA, hang their tools on the highest rung and 1 (experienced) firefighter ascends (while on air) the ladder while the other stabilizes it. When the firefighter reaches the window and clears the remaining glass, he uses the pike to sweep the area below the window searching for a victim, then sounds the complete area where he feels he will land after entering. He enters with his Halligan, hooks his pike pole on the sill, then stays against the wall, while keeping the pike hooked on the sill and holding it for orientation. He uses his Halligan to sweep the floor while he rapidly moves toward the bedroom door to shut it, knowing that this opening will draw the fire and smoke to that area. After the door is shut, he continues with his search.
While this is happening, the other firefighter who was stabilizing the ladder is now at the top of the ladder on air. He stays on the ladder, with his hand light inside the structure to provide orientation for his partner, and is ready to take the infant from his partner when needed.
Although there are several variables and situations where this can be applied, it’s important to understand VES because to be effective, we must be proficient in ladders, and searching prior to this being attempted. Understand that the firefighter searching goes inside alone to search and exits via the ladder, or maybe the porch roof that the ladder is placed. We do not go room to room. This strategy should be practiced frequently and only be employed when we have confirmation of entrapment and the proper training. This is a very dangerous technique and should not be attempted by less than “seasoned”, properly trained firefighters.
Greg is a Captain with the Franklin Fire Department, and is celebrating his 20'th year in the Amercian Fire Service. Greg is also a proud member of the Middle Tennessee F.O.O.L.S.