She was in that room of fire. If not for VES, she would be DEAD! The Fort Walton Beach FD, Saved her LIFE with VES Tactics. Was it worth it?
What does the term VES mean? Can you properly perform the tasks required to VENT, ENTER, and SEARCH? Does your department utilize this practice? Training, Strong SOPs, and the Proper Mindset will allow for the best utilization of this aggressive search and rescue tactic. While VES may not be performed at every fire, when used properly, it gives us a greater chance making a rescue or completing our primary search in a timely manner.
For instance, in a two story dwelling with fire on the first floor, extending upstairs, there is the possibility of occupants being trapped on the second floor (bedrooms) due to fire extension having cutting off their only exit, the unenclosed stairwell. As a member of the four person truck company, we can deploy our resources into a two pronged search and rescue attempt. The inside team will force entry and locate the fire with the engine company, and begin the primary search from the interior. The outside team will search areas above and/or adjacent to the fire, utilizing VES tactics. This means they will seek alternative entry points (windows on the backside or second floor), create a vent, make entry, and search a single room.
There are several important things to take into account to successfully carry out VES tactics. You must have all of the necessary tools, you must perform a proper size up, and you must direct your efforts to the most endangered areas that are most likely occupied (usually bedrooms above or on the backside of the fire). Once you have picked your target entry point, there can be no hesitation. Speed and efficiency, or the lack thereof, can make or break the VES operation. This is why realistic training, proper technique, and aggressive SOPs are so important.
Interior primary searches are conducted every time we enter a structure to aggressively attack the seat of the fire. However, firefighters searching for life using the tactic of Vent, Enter, and Search (VES) is much less common. The reasons for this include the lack of knowledge, the lack of training, and a lack of fundamentally sound fire ground SOPs or SOGs that support VES. Additionally, many people feel that performing VES is just too dangerous.
Performing an aggressive primary search is both mentally and physically challenging. But, we are taught and train on this technique from early on in our firefighting careers. However, VES techniques are not taught as a primary means of search, and, therefore often get overlooked as a viable search option due to the aforementioned reasons. Done properly, and based on a sound size up, and following departmental SOPs, VES can be a very SUCCESSFUL and SAFE operation performed on the fire ground.
VES is a TACTIC that requires Training and TEAM WORK. Do not just randomly perform. There was fire out multiple windows/door in the front. The first due Engine hit it with a 2.5
Have you properly trained? Do you have VES assignments? Can you and one other perform second floor VES? What tools do you need?
How do you provide LZ support? Do you wet down and man attack line? Do you bunk out with airpack? How many firefighters are committed to LZ support? Does your communication center keep you on the main channel?
Does your driver assist with bottle change and are they ready?
How do you change out and where? How many bottles can you go? How long do they last?
How do you change out and where? How many bottles can you go? How long do they last?
Air Packs and everything that surrounds them. What type of pack do you prefer? What size bottle do you prefer and why? Do you like the quick connect bottles? Do you like the buddy breathing attachment? There is so much available these days and we should question what makes sense and what does not.
Do you mask up every morning when getting on-duty? Do you check your heads up display? How low before you top off? When is it worth it to top off? Do you pre-connect mask?
Do you still think it's cool? Have you trained on it lately?
While there is no substitute for real world experience, realistic training is the next best thing. After conducting search training using acquired structures and “live smoke”, there were several lessons learned and reinforced as it relates to entering a fire building and conducting a search while using a Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC). The most obvious of these, is that the majority of firefighters have had little to no formal training in the use of a TIC, and therefore, lack a true understanding of its potential, but more importantly, of its limitations.
There is no doubt that thermal imaging has been one of the single biggest advances in fire service technology in the last 15 years. However, we must remember that it is just another tool in the toolbox, and must be used with caution. While conducting searches, we have always learned to stay low in heat and smoke, with most of us being taught “if you can’t see your feet…get down.” We should not abandon fundamental and sound search tactics while being lulled into a false sense of security by a TIC.
Here are some questions and points to ponder. When searching as a crew or team, which member will carry the TIC? Do you use the TIC to scan the entire room or area? What pattern or method do you use? Do you depend on your TIC to guide you in and out? Are you still maintaining your orientation and exit path strategy using “conventional means”? What happens if your TIC suddenly “dies”, can you find your way out? Are you staying low and using all of your tools to your advantage? What type and size imager do you have, and how do you carry it?
Do you utilize or just carry it? What calls do you use it on?How do you carry? Do you always have it? Do you carry an extra battery on you?How do you carry? Do you always have it?
Get it out and TRAIN ON IT!! TEST YOUR BATTERIES!!!
How do you carry? Do you always have it? Do you carry an extra battery on you? See how the RIT OFFICER has it Hanging, Ready to go.
Notice how many times the question came up about how and do????
What are the pros and cons of portable monitors? Do you preconnect or leave in compartment? Do you have mounted on the exterior and where? What have you found works best? What type of tip do you leave on it? What is the longest you can stretch and still flow? Do you use 2.5" or 3" hose?
Could you get this done with only two firefighters? Photo by: Steve Clark
Why is this ok? Why is this not ok? How do you determine when to work off roof ladders and aerials? When do you not? When do you wear your hood, chin strap, and have your mask on when operating on a roof? Do you use your aerial on one story buildings? How many ladders and what sides of the building? READ!!! Mike Ciampo's advice/post at bottom. I requested his thoughts/opinion.
What is the aerial and roof ladders providing?
How can an Aerial assist you more than a ground ladder on a one story?How about the Haligan and Ladder? Good Stuff.
First off as always it is good to see many different ideas and information presented from around the country and from various departments. I’ll add a little “2 cents” to this discussion on roof ladders from past experiences, training with them, from others experiences and what they’ve past onto me and from obstacles encountered.
Do we always need them? That word “always” has a bad habit of popping up in some peculiar places on the fireground. Like many of you stated if the roof is “walk-able” we’re prone not to use them because they become more of a nuisance; tripping hazard and obstacle to cut around if we’re doing specific types of cuts (i.e. louver). I agree but we also have to remember to size up our conditions first. Like in the top photo (my brother not me), the snow and ice played a big part on putting them up in addition to the steep pitch. Did anyone notice the snow melted on a certain section of the roof, is this from extension into the attic and possible compromise to the roof joist or from the heat trapped in the attic; we need to keep that in mind. Due to this house set off the road, the aerial and tower ladder didn’t reach and could have made cutting operation much easier in the snow. Although there are times you may decide to drive on the lawn to gain access, remember size it up first, is there septic tanks below or uncertain hazards below?
If you prefer not to use them because your making a quick cut and getting off or its walk-able make sure you have checked the stability of the roof often and make quick inspection holes with the saw (kerf cut) or poke holes with the point of the halligan. Just because someone may be operating on another section of the roof doesn’t mean your section is stable! In addition, two ladders should be placed to the roof for a primary and secondary means of escape. I agree with many of the comments made but would like to add one thing here on the do we need them section; we may not need them BUT maybe we should train on bringing them to the structure while we’re carrying our other tools, we can always lean them up to the building (and even open the hooks up if you like) and if needed we can quickly pull them up or put them into position for our safety.
Do they really help with safety? Yes they do, it goes back to the intention of what the ladder was made for, to support a firefighter’s weight while operating on the pitch roof. The hooks were made to “bite” through the shingles, sheathing and into the ridge pole and the butt end of the ladder is suppose to rest over the bearing wall to offer support at both ends of the ladder. Speaking of roof ladders the Buffalo, NY FD uses a roof ladder that has hooks at both ends! This way if they need to pull it up and over to the other side they can straddle the ridge and perform the maneuver, an in genius tactic! Also, there are departments that are equipped with lifebelts that have short cable leads on them so firefighters can stand with one foot off the ladder, on the rung or in between the rungs and then place their lower foot onto the halligan and cut the roof. One thing to mention about safety, stepping in between the rungs of the ladder could put you in harm’s way if the sheathing is compromised, so always check it first! If you don’t have a halligan with you to use to support your back foot, drive an axe into the roof as the footstep (the wider side feels better on the arch or toe of the boot then stepping on the narrow section). There should be one up there in case the saw fails or won’t run because of the smoke conditions on the roof! Speaking of your ladders hooks; are they ready for firefighting duty? If the ladder is lying on the ground and you can’t bang them with your boot to open them, you better lubricate them!
What does it not do? Well if we leave them on the rig and never get them to the building they won’t do anything for us!
How does construction affect it uses? In roof construction with joist, we don’t have ridgepoles and many of us say what good are the ladders then? I would still throw them or have them there; they still bite into the ridge on the opposite side of the roof and can still distribute our weight over a wider area. Personally, I prefer cutting out of the tower ladder or off an aerial on these structures but know that doesn’t or can’t be achieved at every structure. While teaching at FDIC one year we ran into a difficulty on some of the acquired structures. The ridge vent was an ornamental tin cap that kept the roof ladders off the roof and the tips didn’t get a good bite into the roof. We attempted to pull the tin off with the ladder’s tips, so the ladder would sit more flush to the roof and bite into the opposite side. It worked but took some extra effort and time. Our best tactic was to climb up quickly and tear the cap off with a hand tool, plus we drove the point of the halligan into the roof on the opposite side, now we placed the roof hook into the hole and we had a better bite. If you encounter roofs with slate and you have to work on them, a roof ladder is a primary safety tool if no tower ladder or aerial ladder is available! If you’re dealing with high pitch roofs as your primary structures, I suggest you look at departments like Buffalo and Milwaukee (throw 2 roof ladders a few feet apart from each other and cut in between) for guidance.
Do we need two ladders to the roof? Yes, again as reasons stated before, our secondary means of escape for our own safety. In our department’s “books” we’re taught that the two ladders in the front will also show the “boundary” of the fire. This is prevalent at a taxpayer fire, where there may be two separate buildings abutting each other and the ladder can tell you where the separation is. Also in this situation, throwing ladders to the adjoining roof is a good idea for access to another area of refuge. Remember, a ladder to each side of the structure only benefits us and you can always throw a portable much quicker than an aerial or tower ladder!
I appreciate the chance to respond to this post and to read the posts that are already here. Stay safe while operating on any roof. This post by: Mike Ciampo
The Fire Ground is so dynamic and the functions that must be completed to save lives and property, make it a serious challenge on when to assign certain task, based on available firefighters/companies. The two-in-two out is not reliable when a real world event happens. Could those two firefighters possibly be more efficient doing some other fire ground functions to prevent a mishap? Do you know what IRIT stands for and have you really read up on what two out really is? The two out is a temporary CHECK in the BOX and Check in the BOX it is. But, so many Chiefs’ are more concerned with checking the box, that THEY fail to understand if the check is really efficient and has been fire ground tested. Like the whole changing channels during a MAYDAY. Hey Brother, standby, while we have all your other brothers that are close by, change to a different channel. We have got to stop coming up with Tactical Theories and start talking with experienced veterans “ones that respond and actually have been there” on what will really work and not what sounds good in a conference room on Monday morning.
When should we assign RIT during the initial attack? How many should be assigned? Where should they stage? WHAT TOOLS SHOULD THEY HAVE? What should they be allowed to do while standing by? Can they be put to work? What channel should they operate on? When do we terminate the RIT assignment? What type of training should they have? Does YOUR department only assign firefighters/companies to RIT that have been properly trained? Does your department just assign for the check in the box? What’s more important the first line and getting the building ventilated properly or having a RIT before any other tactics are performed?
Does your FD always assign FOUR? What is the most important thing the RIT does for a down firefighter inside?
Vacant or Occupied? Offensive or Deffensive? You tell me.
Knock Down achieved in under two minutes. Yes small house, but they too require us to extinguish.
Working fire with a total of 12 Firefighters. What do you do? How long will the stretch be? Will your pre-connects reach or do you need to add a roll/section?
The door is locked and the house is VACANT. Should we force our way in and attack?
What's happening? Where is the Fire? Without the other photos, would you have said ATTIC?
How important is a 360 on Private Dwellings/House FIres? What do you see?
Can you see the second floor window? Could you see this from the front?
Did this require an exterior stream while crews were inside?
Was it worth it? Did the FD save this house? Could they have done from the outside?
What is a vacant house?
Is it one that no one is home or is the vacant looking house?
What is vacant looking?
When do we determine, that we the firefighters, should occupy the house with our FULL PPE on and do what were trained to do?
I have responded to a lot of fires over the years and it has really never been hard to determine what we should occupy or not occupy. Look at the photos at the top and tell me was it vacant and could we occupy the rear during early operations? Well we did! The First Due Engine HIT IT HARD and FAST. The Second Due Engine and Truck made Entry through the rear. Even in small house a DOOR can separate fire from LIFE. I determine entry based on conditions: “building, fire, weather, and Firefighters condition”…we must continue to be who we say we are.
Boarded up in Florida could mean they’re to lazy to take their shutters off after a storm. We have houses that now keep their hurricane shutters up year round! SO, we have to train on removing them with the proper tools to get the job done. I will leave the rest for you BLOG HELPERS. As always, thanks for taking the time. Thanks for visiting and please sign up for email notifications if you want the very latest from COUNTY FIRE TACTICS!
I would say this garage is occupied. Do you have these? Is this more common? Who usually occupies the garage?