By Ray McCormack
“Firefighter down; I’m running out of air; we can’t find the door. Children trapped!” These are some of the emotionally charged lines you may hear en route to the scene, or on scene. Some of these lines will be communicated to you for informational purposes and others will be a cry for help. When you hear these lines you must adjust accordingly.
Upon hearing “firefighter down,” you must listen for more detailed information - especially location. Are you nearby? Are you able to assist if the location is close? Will your assistance create a hardship or unsafe event to occur? If the event takes place out in front of the building your assistance may not even be required. Even if you feel your assistance is needed, just because the words were spoken, does not always pan out. If you wish to get involved, first make sure there is a need for your help. Make an inquiry and create a backup plan for the task your stopping and get permission.
“I am running out of air,” can occur from getting entangled, to losing your way. This personal distress call is time-sensitive. Our first question should be, “how much air do you have left?” An assistance plan will take in many components, the urgency is always there, but the urgency and plan of attack to resolve this announcement may involve more firefighters, and tactical changes depending upon the amount of reserve air available. While a firefighter rescue team may be standing by, and be used to remove this firefighter, additional reserve units may also assist, and a greater alarm struck to help resolve this issue as quickly as possible.
“We can’t find the door.” This tells us that we have multiple firefighters in trouble. This trouble is compounded when we are dealing with buildings that afford a limited amount of entry/escape openings. What has taken place here? The conditions have probably gotten worse, and what was thought to be memorable trail, is no longer true. We should always consider that things will get worse prior to improving. Sometimes the equipment needed is taken with the firefighters, but not used, because it did not appear necessary at the time.
“Children trapped.” This is given to you via dispatch and always cranks up the troops. Here again you must stay focused and take this information with a grain of salt. It may well be that children are trapped and it may just be someone’s way of trying to get us there quicker. Someone must ask a few questions such as the ages of the trapped and where they were located a few minutes ago. The age tells you if they are mobile, and the location may help speed up recovery.
We should always strive for focus. These and other emotionally charged lines can snap our focus. Listen up, know that you will hear many things like this on the fireground, keep your focus sharp, only then can we provide tactical safety for all.
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