You Will Search

By: Brian Brush

One of the many hot topics in the fire service today is when we search. Our personal opinions, comforts with conditions and our performance vary with the individual and the fire company we are paired with. Regardless of your stance on a particular picture, video, or report of a “vacant” which was ultimately occupied, the bottom line is; if you are a firefighter at some point you will search.

It is a required skill to become a certified Firefighter 1 and meet NFPA 1001 5.3.9“Conduct a search and rescue in a structure operating as a member of a team, given an assignment, obscured vision conditions, personal protective equipment, a flashlight, forcible entry tools, hose lines, and ladders when necessary, so that ladders are correctly placed when used, all assigned areas are searched, all victims are located and removed, team integrity is maintained, and team members’ safety.

It is the expectation of those we serve that we come and get them when they call for us. “The primary function of the Fire Department is the protection of life. Life is best protected by firefighters who are aware of their responsibilities in regard to search procedures and hoseline operations…A coordinated, concentrated team effort is required of all units conducting searches to ensure a proper, prompt search and removal of all endangered occupants. Refer to the Firefighting Procedure Manuals for specific areas of responsibility.” (FDNY Training Bulletin Search 1: 9/13/2011)


If twenty percent of the time, effort and print dedicated to the debate of search were applied to the education, training and performance of search; I believe we would be saving more lives, reducing our risks and in turn putting an end to the discussion.

To that note, the manner in which we conduct a search is the totality of the operation. If the two sides of the debate on VES are “the risk of the operation” versus the “speed of a single room search execution” the argument is lost in the positions. VES is a targeted search not a random wandering which in turn makes the “risk” to the occupant with a known location lower, and the “risk” to the fire department member lower, by reducing work load, exposure time and disorientation potential. As for speed of a single room search the time saved is not in the “single room search” it is in getting there. A firefighter with “Say Yes to VES” tattooed on his bicep that is not proficient in throwing a ladder to a second floor window or donning his mask on the move will not save anytime over a well-practiced firefighter entering a front door and ascending stairs.

I am not here to say that debate is not productive; it challenges our thinking which either intensifies our passion or gives us pause and reconsideration. My point is that the next rescue will not be made as a result of an exchange of thoughts on what “survivable” is. It will be made by the work/risk/effort/commitment/training/education/heart/drive/sweat/time of an individual or a team.

sweat/time of an individual or a team.

I am not a subject matter expert, I am not a seasoned veteran, I am not on the floor above every shift. I am a hard worker, I understand risk, I put forth the effort to practice my craft, I am committed to being my best when that day comes, I accept this as a profession of training and preparation, I know that I must study. My heart is in this job which I view as my life’s work, I am driven by a sense of pride, I will prove myself in sweat not in rhetoric and I will give as much time as is necessary, knowing full well I may never be done.I will share my resources, thoughts and practices on how I will search so that it may help prepare you for the day that you will search.

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