Chapter 25: We Save Lives
Perhaps no greater reward in our line of work than that of saving a life from the ravages of fire. While it is the number one aspect of our job "to save lives and property" it doesn't always get the training time it perhaps deserves. An average of 2,000 lives lost in residential building fires each year.
“How are your firefighters taught to search from their indoctrination into the fire department? Searching in fire and smoke conditions are not natural actions. On the training ground we spend hours and hours throwing ladders and pulling hoselines. We rack and re-rack thousands of feet of hose, show forcible entry techniques, and practice saw work on roof props, but how much time is dedicated to learning about the search? If life safety is supposed to be our number one priority, why isn’t there greater focus on search in most training academies? If fireground decisions on where, when, and how to search are so difficult, why do we not address them in greater detail here?
Like fine wine, individual search techniques get better with time. They evolve over one’s career, as experience and increased comfort tends to aid efficiency. However, can we wait for experience? Should we? Increasing our member’s comfort level in conducting searches can be accelerated through realistic training. Realistic training includes practicing a task as we will perform it on the fireground. Build your rooms as close to a real home as you can. Request donations for used furniture as training props. We owe it to the young firefighter to make it as real as possible. Searching empty rooms with four concrete walls isn’t the best way we can accomplish search training.” (pg 301.)
We must make search a top priority on the fireground and in our training! We often see two extremes when it comes to search. One version has drills conducted in the empty, sterile concrete 12x12 rooms of the academy. The other involves members climbing up and down through rat like, nearly ‘confined space’ claustrophobic mazes. While there are reasons for both types (introduce concepts, build confidence, etc.), neither replicate the residential setting, where we do most of our searches and find most of our victims.
The balance for realistic training lies in our ability to replicate the residential setting. If at all possible, we must replicate residential rooms like bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms etc. This will best allow our members to be best prepared for what is in our homes and where our victims are likely to be found.
We swore and oath to protect life and property. Our civilians are counting on us to do our job and find them. All our training culminates on gameday for us to perform.
Life may hang in the balance… act accordingly.