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Imagine you are dispatched to a motor vehicle collision and when you arrive you see a driver unconscious with trauma to the neck and upper extremities bleeding profusely.  Without quick action he is sure to die.  But there are power lines on the car.  What comes first?  Deal with the power lines or go for the victim?


Many of us around the country are arriving on the scene of fires short staffed.  We don’t have the luxury of an engine stretching and a truck company starting to search simultaneously.  Search and ultimately rescue of civilians is our first priority.  I think how we go about this with the short-staffed company requires further discussion and explanation.


Normally when things are prioritized you simply go down the list and do the most important first, next most important second and so on. The problem here lies if we do search or rescue first and ignore the fire it can have grave consequences for additional victims or crews.


Consider the time it takes crews to complete a search.  When we drill our benchmark on an average size dwelling is to have the search complete in 5-6 minutes.  This does not take into account victim removal and additional victims.


Now match that up to fire behavior studies over the last 5 years.  We know that we should expect rapid-fire progression within 90 seconds (on a one story) or 180 seconds (2 story) from the time we open the front door.  Can your crews complete a search and removal in this time?


Ultimately we need to make it safer for THEM until we can find THEM and in doing so we make it safer for US.  Putting the fire out makes everything better and if we can only do one thing-then fire attack should come first. 


If we fail to have this discussion with our Chiefs, Line Officers and Crews we should not be surprised if the “R” in RECEO gets assigned first.  A good resources for crews to look at is the LODD report from Keokuk, Iowa (December 22, 1999)


Remember Our Fallen Brothers from Keokuk FD

Assistant Chief Dave McNally, Firefighter Jason Bitting and Firefighter Nate Tuck

(Photo Credit: Indianapolis Fire Department)

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