Friday, February 5, 2010

To go or not to go? That is the question

I recently facilitated presentation on fireground situation awareness and decision making where we were discussing under what conditions firefighters engage via interior operations versus staying outside the structure. It may be an easier discussion to have when there is not a victim inside though there are many firefighters getting injured and killed inside structures that have no victims.

In this particular discussion, I set up a scenario where there was a victim inside. Then I explained that every fire affords a “window of opportunity” where the victim is savable. Once that window is closed, firefighter efforts may result in a body removal, but not a victim rescue. As much as there is a window of opportunity for victims, there is also be a window of survivability for the would-be rescuers.

If you had a victim inside, under what conditions would attempt a rescue? Under what conditions would you not? Share your tips and guidelines for knowing when the “window of opportunity” for a savable victim has closed and the “window of survivability” for the rescuers has closed. To go... or not to go? That is the question.

Fire Chief (ret.) Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO, MICP
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  1. You say firemen don't save lives, but the fact of the matter is that viable victims are rescued by firemen. Lt. Ray McCormack's crew just pulled a viable victim out of an apartment fire. Yes the smoke detector that was sounding aided in the neighbor calling 911 which lessened the response time. But I believe you made a false comment by saying that fireman don't save lives and it is bad press for the general public.

  2. What were the conditions in this building? What were the staffing levels? In todays world pulling viable victims out of buildings are haleys commet events not regular practice.

    The FDNY happens to have the perfect storm for these events to take place. They have the resources, staffing, etc to be highly succesful. Similarly staffed agencies can also make these things happen. The rest of us are usually dealing with one or more factors that make this typically an unsuccesful event.

    Bad press or no, the truth is hard to swallow, to give people false hope that the fire department will be able to rescue them at every incident is irresponsible.

  3. Several factors are taken in to account for a rescue. Location of the fire, heat conditions, smoke conditions, reported location of victim in regards to the fire. In my dept, we always go in to search for a victim, unless the structure is fully involved. If we need to take a ladder and do a vent and search while other crews are coming up the stairs, so be it. Everyone get the benefit of doubt.

  4. I would guess there are SOPs for each department related to the "Window of Survivability" back when I was in the volunteer service we did lots of victim search training and in my 9 years we only retrieved a handful of viable victims that I remember.

    Jason Meredith

  5. As soon as you know the scene is safe

  6. Using Risk vs Gain model, and taking into consideration fire conditions, building construction, resources etc.


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