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.