Fire and emergency management/Rescue victims of a building collapse/Foreword

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Foreword[edit | edit source]

The purpose of this manual is to provide a basic reference for rescue training, and operations. It covers basic and general equipment, systems, and techniques, rather than any specialised skill, and should be used in planning, training, and operations. Rescue, by its very nature, is a high-risk activity.

As situations change, and improved techniques are developed, this manual will be updated and amended. The use of trade or brand names in this manual is not intended to be restrictive, preferential, or promotional. Rather, trade names are used where descriptive clarity is required.

Explanation of warning notes Warning notes are included to bring your attention to specific safety and other serious issues. Completion of the activities in this manual must not be taken as having the necessary skills to teach, instruct, or advise on its contents.


Reading this manual alone cannot be considered adequate training. Practical experience and strict adherence to safety standards and procedures must be adhered to.

Some of the techniques described in this manual are of an improvised nature and involve the use of items of equipment, such as ladders, in other than their normal operation.

These improvised techniques are included, as it is likely that they will have a wide application in rescue operations during a disaster.

The Aim of Rescue[edit | edit source]

To save the greatest number of lives in the shortest possible time and to minimise further injury to people and damage to property.

Functions[edit | edit source]

Common rescue functions include:

  • Access to, and the support and removal of, trapped people in the course of rescue operations.
  • Assistance with the recovery of the dead.
  • Provision of support on request to other services, authorities or specialist teams.

In order to achieve the aim of rescue, all rescuers must be trained in basic life sustaining first aid to recognised standards.

The Psychology of Rescue[edit | edit source]

A moments reflection is all that is needed to realise that any situation requiring a rescue operation, by definition is one which contains either dangerous or potentially dangerous elements.

People tend to react differently to danger, but the most general responses are anxiety and fear, perhaps the most powerful of all emotions. It must be remembered that is not just the victim who faces the danger; in order to rescue the victim the rescuer must first enter the site of the dangerous situation and face the same danger. Even if the main danger has struck and passed, additional dangers are still often present. The difference between the victim and the rescuer is that the rescuer is better able to cope with, or handle, the situation. This is because the rescuer has the knowledge and the resources to minimise risk and remedy the situation.

It is normal to be anxious and feel fear in the face of danger. These are emotional reactions common to both victim and rescuer. Many other emotional responses may become manifest during a rescue situation—pity, disgust, contempt, pride, concern, and many more. These are often exaggerated beyond all reason by the urgency and pressures of the situation, thus lowering the efficiency of the overall operation.

The rescuer must be aware of the psychological needs of the victims, not just their physical needs, and be prepared to meet these psychological needs.

Rescue Workers[edit | edit source]

An event requiring rescue operations will usually create three categories of rescue workers:

Group 1 – Survivors The immediate reaction of survivors in a major incident, once they have discovered that they are not injured, is to help their neighbours and families. They often do not know what to do, but obviously it is a serious situation and thus they feel they must do something.

These good intentions could aggravate the conditions of those being "helped" to the point where the loss of life may be greater than it should be. They could also get in the way and interrupt the functioning of trained rescue teams. However, uninjured and slightly injured survivors could well be the only hope of survival for many victims (e.g. if toxic gases, dangerous chemicals, fire, or danger of fire exist at the site of the emergency). The first group to commence rescue work at a site consists of those survivors still physically capable of doing so. The potential for good is enormous but the danger inherent in rescue work by untrained personnel is also enormous.

Group 2 – Untrained Personnel The second ‘wave’ of rescue workers is drawn from people either witnessing the event from the immediate vicinity, or are drawn to the site by curiosity and a desire to assist the victims. Although not quite as emotionally involved as the survivors, the danger inherent in utilising untrained personnel is still a factor which must be considered. On the positive side, they often bring necessary resources with them and can be effective if brought under control and properly supervised.

Unfortunately, a large number of the ‘curious’ are just that. They have no desire to help, but just look. They get in the way, shout advice, and generally add to the excitement of the site – the very thing that is least needed, especially from the standpoint of victims.

Group 3 – Trained Personnel The last group to arrive at the scene is the trained rescuers: Police, Fire, Civil Defence, etc. It takes some time for various emergency services to mobilise and arrive at the scene. The quicker they can arrive, the less time there will have been for the first two groups to aggravate the situation and create more dangers to surviving victims and themselves. The well-trained team will know what to do, and how to utilise the available resources and untrained personnel in efficiently carrying out the necessary tasks in a manner that will not further endanger anyone.

Personal Traits of the Rescuer[edit | edit source]

Not like Jordan *lower shield of shame* Rescue work is not an easy task, nor is it necessarily a ‘glamorous’ one. Certainly, not all people are suited to such work. Physical fitness, personality, and emotional stability are all factors in determining one’s suitability.

Ideally, the rescuer will have the following qualities:

  • Interest A genuine interest in rescue work, not just because of peer pressure, trying to impress, etc.
  • Training The will to continually undergo training to maintain a professional standard.
  • Cooperation Rescue work is usually a team effort, hence cooperation with others is vital.
  • Dependability The lives of victims, and team members rely on you.
  • Initiative The nature of rescue operations is such that it is often impossible to closely supervise each team member. Each must be able to see what needs doing, set priorities, and do the tasks at hand.
  • Versatility Each situation is unique. An individual must be able to apply a wide range of skills and knowledge to new situations.
  • Physical Fitness Rescue work of any kind is physically demanding and often continues for long periods. Any physical limitations must be recognised and taken into consideration.
  • Leadership Qualities Required by all rescuers at various times and to varying degrees. Through the capable leadership of trained rescuers, many more untrained personnel may be utilised.
  • Control over Fears and Phobias It is important that rescuers know what they can and cannot do. Part of this knowledge consists of being aware of any phobias. It is also vital that the leader of a rescue team knows of any phobias in team members. Some phobias that could seriously affect a rescuer and which may be identified in training are:
    • The sight of blood (Hemophobia)
    • The fear of heights (Acrophobia)
    • The fear confined spaces (Claustrophobia)
    • The fear of water (Hydrophobia)
  • Good Dress and Bearing Appearance should instil confidence in others.

Personal behavior[edit | edit source]

The conduct of individuals says a lot about their psychological makeup and personality. The nature of rescue work is such that it is particularly important that personal conduct does not aggravate matters, but rather assists in creating a feeling that the situation is in competent hands, and everything possible is being done to rescue and care for the victims. A few of the more important general areas of conduct or behaviours follow:

  • Attitude A serious, professional attitude must be maintained to gain confidence and support. Arrogance and superiority create instant antagonism. Loud talking, joking, and horseplay reduce credibility; they create a feeling of resentment and disgust and add to the confusion, thus hindering the work and adding to the state of anxiety of the victims. Rescuers cannot consider themselves ‘professional’ if they add to the confusion by loud shouting or frantic gestures.
  • Emotions Emotions are hard to control in the best of circumstances. In a disaster the control of emotions is a very difficult task but every effort must be made to prevent emotions from influencing good judgement and competence. Regardless of the excitement and the severity of the incident the rescuer must be able to remain calm, and be sympathetic without becoming emotionally involved.
  • Courtesy Courtesy, tact, and good judgement are vital if the rescue task is to be completed quickly and effectively. Courtesy must be given to all concerned.
  • Confidentiality During rescue activities and training there may be times when you will see and hear things which will be deemed confidential. It is essential that you appreciate this and be ‘professional’ and do not discuss these matters inappropriately.

Team Composition[edit | edit source]

Team composition will be determined by the various organisations within each area on the basis of safe accomplishment of set tasks. Regardless of the team composition, a team leader must be appointed. A team of 6 – 8 members is required for effective general rescue teamwork.

Activation[edit | edit source]

Each team should have a callout system established, and have determined the time necessary to ensure a full team response. This system should include such details as:

  • Who calls out the team
  • Who will be responsible for them
  • Where to report
  • What functions the team will perform
  • What equipment to take
  • Likely duration of task or event.

Where possible, rescue team members should not be members of like organisations or Emergency Services. If there is likely to be a conflict of interest between organisations, rescue team members need to determine their priorities and ensure that the Civil Defence Emergency Management Organisation is aware of this.

Deployment[edit | edit source]

  • On call-out, teams should state clearly to the organisation requesting their support, details of accommodation and any feeding assistance that may be required. Teams responding to an international disaster should co-ordinate through OSOCC rather than unilateral co-ordination with national organisations and governments. Where OSOCC does not exist a key priority is to set up an OSOCC for the international co-ordination of the incident. The Virtual OSOCC can be used to assist in co-ordination with an appropriate login.
  • A key principal of a search and rescue in a disaster environment is that the rescuers do not significantly impose on the affected population whilst the affected population is trying to recover. The team must not deploy if they are likely to impose on the resident population. For this reason even the smallest team deploying to the smallest incident should be self sufficient for a short period of time. Self sufficiency can include the need for shelter, food, water, fuel, power and communications. For more major disasters the team may need to be self sufficient for the entire duration of deployment of the team.

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