Vent Enter Search “VES”

They did it and saved a life!

VES   Vent Enter Search

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" attack line while the Second Due Engine performed VES through the rear. They worked as a team to knock down heavy fire and locate trapped occupant via rear window. It does work when performed properly!!!

Have you properly trained?    Do you have VES assignments?                                                                Can you and one other perform second floor VES?               What tools do you need?

26 thoughts on “Vent Enter Search “VES”

  1. Pingback: Vent Enter Search “VES” | Welcome

  2. VES is a skill that we must be proficient at. With the new data and research coming out of UL and our knowledge of current fire behavior patterns and their effect on today’s buildings our ability to perform vertical vent is diminishing. The fires are and will continue to be bigger on arrival with high heat and fire exposing structural members that will fail early and/or not allow us to enter for search through traditional measures. If you are peforming VES remember you must control the door first and for most and then search the room.

  3. VES is a tactic that reenforces some sound firefighting basics. Clearing a window, climbing a ladder, placing the ladder properly for entry and exit, getting low and crawling, and thinking. You must be engaged to do this, you must focus on a step by step approach to this task. Find the door you should have a good idea which wall it could be located on, close the door so that the room vents safely. Do your search quickly, check the hallway and then decide on your next move.

  4. VES is essential to every fire department regardless of size or staffing! VES is a life saving tool that can be used by any size crew. However most fail to see this and think it is only a big city tactic that can be used if you have a dedicated truck company that conducting VES on the 2nd floor above the fire while fire attack is being done by engine crew. Yes that is one successful way of using VES! However VES is not only limited to 2nd story JOBs.
    In modern construction we need to start considering alternate entry points/VES. Here why!!

    Why is 1st floor VES an Important consideration in today’s modern construction?
    In recent years there have been several firefighters LODD and injuries due to firefighters falling through floors made of lightweight engineered products. After studying the data from these LODD almost everyone one of them fell through the floor in the front door area of the home. There are a couple of reason this is the specific area firefighters are falling through the floor.
    1. Construction materials & loading:
    Floors of modern homes are made out of lightweight engineered materials which take away the mass of the material making them collapse at a much faster time than legacy dimensional lumber. Now add all the stuff people have in their homes today compared to what was in a home 20 years ago and you have a floor that has a significant added dead load. Another factor to consider is that the front or back door area of modern homes has tiles area for people to remove their shoes before carpet. These tiles will be the area on the floor joist that has the largest amount of load on it.
    2. Tactics: Ask any seasoned firefighter that been on a few jobs and they will tell you that they will 9 out of 10 times make entry at the front door. This is not a bad answer considering this is the area where a lot of victims are found and it a good orientation point to began all interior operations. However in light of the loading and modern construction we just spoke of. We are saying maybe in modern construction that if conditions are favorable the search crew should consider 1st floor VES in light of entering the front door area with the engine crew and overloading the most loaded area of this lightweight joist?

    Now small town or suburban tactics: Yes it would be nice to have the truck conducting VES while fire attack is being conducted however even a small department that only has 2 people showing up initially can use VES successful given, that they know a victim is in that room and they get in via VES. Controlling the door is essential if they want to make the rescue! This is what it is all about saving lives. Sorry for long answer but i say if a department isn’t training on VES and have VES as an option then they are failing the people they serve!!!

  5. Of course…you train all soldiers how to use a gun…you train all soldiers on how to fight the enemy…you train all soldiers on how to enter a structure and find the enemy…allbeit some soldiers are specialized…we cannot afford to be “specialized” in the fire service…

  6. We are a small town combination department and just graduated a class of eight recruit firefighters that were taught VES as part of their core curriculum. They were taught both theory and practice, with an emphasis on conducting a proper size-up, controlling the door early, making sure the first line is protecting the stairs and a host of other considerations. Perhaps one of them will get to use it to save a life some day.

  7. Training on and keeping in mind the sound tactics Lt.McCormack mentioned above, a “Combat Ready” duo or trio of quick moving operators can VES very efficiently and effectively. Firefighter Turtle and myself from Engine 3 were ordered by Battalion Chief Isakson to VES a second floor of an apartment on Frontera Circle. While Ladder 12 was in the process of stretching a line to engage a working kitchen fire on the ground floor Turtle and I used a 24 foot extension ladder to bust out the bedroom window (nevermind all the “proper” academy steps) climbed, entered, searched with very limited visibility the A side bedroom as the window we just opened now became the chimney. We proceeded to search the D side bedroom across the hallway and bathroom with nothing found. Engine 3 met us at the top of the stairs. The fire was extinguished and a primary search was completed in just minutes. As I have stated before, these tactics can only be used with properly trained, confident, and proficient crews of firefighters that know how to work together. Coordination and communication are key factors as well as the physical ability to work at 100 percent tempo for several minutes. Take note: Ladder 12 was doing Engine work and Engine 3 was doing truck work. Just like the members of a Naval submarine crew, there is duality in job functions. In Escambia, You have to be ready to do the job that needs to be done when you arrive, not necessarily determined by what type of apparatus you rode in on.

  8. I tried to keep the previous comments short, but I still have additional considerations for VES. In the above scenario, you should be asking yourself, as I have done, what is the plan if we find a victim? What is going to be the best way to get this person OUT. Depending on where you find the victim in relation to your entry point, can you quickly get this person to the window, or is this a large adult in the D bedroom. Dont forget additional means of egress to include the D side window. CLOSE the door to the room, and COMMUNICATE: Call an URGENT URGENT URGENT to get clear traffic and begin to get resources to your location. A proactive Batt Chief will have people throwing ladders to windows around back for this scenario. Remember the Denver Drill for a ground floor window removal/rescue. A RIT crew may have to engage if the resources allow for an extended rescue (remember the big people we run med calls on are also potential entrapment victims as well). Getting some air into the victim as soon as possible via a RIT pack will increase chances of survivability until the victim can be removed. Getting this victim out of this environment and into the hands of medical personnel is the most imperative function of a search team. Feeling good about proficiently deploying tactics to VES after the fire is out is a good feeling, but nothing can beat the feeling of actually using VES tactics and finding and removing a victim from a fire scene. Remember why we are here…

  9. Love this topic … because my department does not teach VES. I know we are not the only department that does not teach VES, and I know the reason we do not teach has nothing to do with the tactic, but rather ignorance. I’m not bashing my department, because education and training does not rest on anyone department, but rather the individual(s).
    My Battalion (3rd Battalion) between the months of October and November in an 8 week period had 9 grabs (5 vics from second story jobs, 4 vics from the 1st floor), all are alive because we are trained in VES. Our Battalion has that “Aggressive” monicker (a term often used by the “untrained” firemen to identify the “well” trained firemen in the hopes of making them sound and look like cowboys). We learned VES from various well informed and disciplined instructors. We train knowing the call WILL come, and we MUST be prepared … I responded to this article not to reenforce the obvious (which has been eloquently explained above by some men I am honored to call brother) but to bring to light that responsibility starts and ends with “us”, not “them”. If your mentality is one that thinks it’s your “Departments” responsibility to train you, your wrong, which can easily turn to a “your dead wrong”, we train, we seek it out, we learn it, we practice it till you can’t get it wrong, and when accused of being “Aggressive” respond with a wink, and say “giddy up motherfuckers”. Stay low and stay strong brothers, RFB

    • Ric…love it man…great motivation, so much so I sent it out to all my guys on my shift. Summed up the philisophy of training….or waht it should be, perfect!!
      Keep up the “Rants!”

  10. Operations are the function of knowledge and tools. Start off small and build from there, keeping the fundamentals consistent. Some people would view Vent Enter Search as an advanced drill. I believe it is the best place to begin your initial search training because it is perfect for forging the fundamentals. 1. VES stresses the importance of searching from the greatest threat out by sending firefighters first to control the door. 2. VES drives home the importance of knowing your egress. 3. VES challenges our minds to consider room layout from the outside so we can anticipate from our entry point (the window) which wall has the door I want to control. 4. Due to the limited area a VES search is typically performed by a single member. This helps with initial skill and technique development because each member is relying on themselves for orientation and quality of search 5. Finally, due to the small area being searched repetitions will be high which accelerates technique devlopment and skill confidence.

  11. Like everyone has stated above, VES is a great tactic to enhance the potential to save lives. A big portion of it is the mindset. The tactic is learned maneuvers, practiced. Like tying your shoe-after repetition, it’s done without thinking. This allows the concentration to focus on the fire conditions, sounds made from the victim, room layout, radio traffic, fireground sounds (engine pumping adequately, ventilation occuring, water being applied to the fire, etc.). Bringing this all together makes us good firefighters. It doesn’t happen overnight and certainly not from just attending FFI and II (good points Surf Dog!). A part of the mindset is reading the fireground and recognizing what windows your looking to enter. Typically, VES occurs on the backside rooms, since Interior guys will cover the “front”side rooms. Reading the fire and knowing how the interior crews will/should operate (you should also notice the effect they are having and where) will help you make your decisions.
    Another consideration that needs to be noted is PPV. It’s a common tactic used by many departments, however VES and PPV DO NOT MIX !. If your department routinely uses a fan for ventilation do not expect to utilize VES. The conditions will chase you out, if you can even enter. However, if you have a coordinated fireground, both can be used (if PPV must…we can discuss pros and cons of PPV another time) but not at the same time.
    A final point, some fires will require a supported VES operation- where most of the residence is involved and one or two rooms are not. The hoseline might best serve being directed above the window-entering members to protect them and push back fire, allowing whatever search is possible for the uninvolved areas.
    VES can and does work. I am blessed to work within a department that advocates its use, expects it to be done and has saved lives doing it. As an Engine guy, I know those jobs are being done, allowing me to concentrate on our task. If your company is the only one doing it, work within your deparment to show it’s value and get everyone to understand the concept.

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