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Date: May 26, 2015 Author: Brandon Winters

Searching Smarter: Building Elements That Impact Search-and-Rescue Missions

Performing search-and-rescue missions is an inevitable part of fighting fires in occupied buildings. However, not all search-and-rescue missions are performed the same way or in the same amount of time. In many cases, the search-and-rescue effort is impacted by a variety of building elements that can make it easier or harder to accomplish the objectives.

Building Construction

The exterior and interior construction elements of a building have a significant impact on search-and-rescue missions. Firefighters recognize five basic types of building construction, which differ from each other based on the combustible and noncombustible features of a building.

Elements of building construction that can shape a search and rescue mission include: roof construction, wall construction, and finishing materials such as wood trim and wood paneling. Information in the firefighting textbook Searching Smarter helps firefighters conduct search-and-rescue missions in relation to building construction.

Burn Patterns

The pattern in which a fire burns can affect how firefighters enter a building. For example, if the first floor of the structure is consumed by flames, it may be more sensible to perform ladder rescues instead of extinguishing the fire before commencing the search and rescue mission.

Several elements can determine the burn pattern of building fires, including: wall construction, the presence of combustibles, and the burn rate of combustibles, among others. Having a firm understanding of burn patterns is essential for protecting the safety of building occupants and firefighters during the evacuation process.

Occupancy Patterns

The occupancy pattern of a building also impacts search and rescue. Many residential structures are occupied on all floors, but commercial buildings -- especially ones that rent office space and ones that contain work environments that include few workers -- often have floors, or areas of floors, that building occupants do not inhabit.

Firefighters must focus the rescue effort on floors that are occupied, and perform it as expeditiously as possible to prevent casualties from fire and smoke inhalation. Understanding the occupancy pattern of a building helps search and rescue workers to do this.

Photoluminescent Safety Markings

Many states and municipalities require buildings that are occupied above 75 feet from the lowest level of fire department vehicle access to contain luminescent markings in accordance with NFPA 101 (a.k.a. Life Safety Code).

Because photoluminescent signage and egress markings glow brightly in darkness and can remain visible through smoke, they help firefighters reach building occupants faster, and assist building occupants with moving through emergency egress paths faster.

Need Help Searching Smarter?

Whether you are a firefighting veteran who needs to refresh your search-and-rescue skills, or a firefighting student who must learn about search and rescue to pass exams, Searching Smarter is the educational resource that you need.

The text defines the most common types of search, and then applies them to different building occupancy types. After reading the book, you will understand how to perform search-and-rescue missions based on building occupancy types. You will also have a full understanding of the types of search that are currently used.

Order your copy of this in-depth educational resource from Firebooks today.

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