Fire and emergency management/Rescue victims of a building collapse/Moving in an unknown environment

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Template:Rescue Victims of a Building Collapse

Moving In An Unknown Environment[edit | edit source]

Safety Where Fire Is A Potential[edit | edit source]

When in strange surroundings and unable to see, the safest course of action is to work by touch. The need for caution is obvious and accidents can be avoided by remembering a few simple points:

The procedure for opening an outward opening door when there may be fire on the other side. Use the back of the hand to check for heat
The procedure for opening an inward opening when there may be fire on the other side.
While entering or leaving a smoke-filled room, crawl on your hands and knees. In this position you are below dangerous heated gases and the bulk of the smoke. You will also be above toxic, heavier-than-air gases that may have been generated by burning plastics and natural materials.

Moving along a smoke-filled passageway in this manner avoids lighter-than-smoke and heavier-than-air gases.

If you suspect fire is behind the door into a room, check the temperature of the door with the back of your hand. If it is hot to touch, do not open the door, as the temperature inside is excessive.

Shuffle, don’t walk. The weight of the body should be kept poised on the rear foot until the advancing foot has tested that it is safe to move forward; do not lift the feet from the ground – they should slide forward as this will help detect obstructions and dangers.

As you move forward raise your free hand in front of your face, lightly clenched, with the back uppermost, to feel for obstructions. If the back of your hand touches a live electric wire, shock will throw it clear. Your hand will not grasp the wire as it would if it were open.

When ascending or descending stairs, keep close to the wall, since the treads will usually bear weight at this point even though their centres may be weakened. If there is any doubt as to their strength, allow only one person on each flight at any one time. The balustrade should be used with caution; it may have been weakened and may collapse if any weight is applied to it. If a stairway has been seriously damaged, use sections of extension ladders to improvise a stairway.

Searching a Darkened Room[edit | edit source]

  • Make a complete circuit of the room, keeping close to the wall.
  • Feel under, and on, objects (beds, etc).
  • Open and feel inside
  • cupboards, wardrobes, divans, and below other pieces of furniture.
  • If a complete circuit is made in this way, in an average sized room, there should be little danger of a victim being missed.
  • As a final precaution, the room should be crossed diagonally to make sure that no-one is lying in the centre.
  • In a larger open-plan area (office, etc.), adopt this method with diagonals to the centre of the room from each corner. Partitions and furniture will also hamper movement.

Vehicle Safety[edit | edit source]

Emergency vehicles must be driven by an authorised driver in accordance with the Road Transport Act (for New Zealand, check local legislation), particularly with regard to the use of warning lights and sirens. Vehicles and trailers must be maintained in first class condition, and regular checks and inspections should be routine.

Upon arrival at an accident scene, the rescue vehicle must be positioned with due regard to the site hazards, and warning devices must be used to protect the team and the vehicle.

The aim of a rescue team is to assist the public in time of need, and this should always be kept in mind when the team is travelling to an emergency. Little can be done for original casualties if the rescue team is involved in an accident en-route.

Equipment Safety[edit | edit source]

All equipment should be used in close compliance with the manufacturers’ operating instructions, and the following basic safety rules for rescue tools and equipment should be followed:

  • Safety goggles and gloves must be worn when using power tools or hammering pickets.
  • Many items of equipment have been specifically designed for particular tasks. Careful safety consideration must be given before any modification of equipment, or method of use, is attempted.
  • Only blades, fuel, oil, hydraulic fluid, and parts that are recommended by the manufacturer should be used.
  • Petrol driven motors must never be refuelled while they are hot, and they must be kept apart from fuel supplies and casualties.
  • All specific safety procedures for rescue equipment must be adhered to, and regular and careful safety checks must be carried out both before and after use.

Public Utility Hazards[edit | edit source]

General Any emergency, from a vehicle accident to a disaster, can result in the rupture of gas and water services, or the bringing down of electrical power lines.

All utility services must be treated with the utmost care, and where possible, either the casualty removed from the source of danger, or the danger removed from the proximity of the casualty.

In a disaster, rescuers must consider their own safety as more important than any single casualty. The loss of a single rescuer could well affect the capability of the team to conduct an effective rescue and save a large number of lives. This must be weighed against the dangers involved in tackling a hazardous situation.

Gas (CNG and LPG) Escaping gas creates the danger of explosion and the following safety precautions must be observed:

  • When entering a building, if you smell gas, turn off the supply and allow time for the area to clear. Ventilation will greatly assist this.
  • Never look for a leak with a match. Use soapy water, and if you find a leak, turn off the supply immediately.
  • Be extremely careful of leaking liquid propane or butane. Serious frostbite burns will occur on contact with the liquid.
  • If a cylinder is leaking liquid while lying on it’s side, stand the cylinder upright before turning the cylinder off.
  • If a line is broken and the supply cannot be turned off, the line can be crimped with a pair of pliers.
  • A leak that cannot be turned off can often be stopped by binding the area with a wet cloth. This will freeze over and temporarily prevent any further leak. Use thick gloves when attempting this.
  • If it is not possible to stop the cylinder leaking, remove it to a safe place outdoors, keeping people and ignition sources at least 20 metres away.
  • If fire is present around a cylinder, keep the cylinder cool by hosing it with a water spray.
  • If a cylinder valve cannot be closed and the gas is burning, keep the cylinder cool by hosing, but do not attempt to extinguish the flame as the build-up of burned gases may explode if re-ignited.
  • Never attempt to ignite a gas leak.
  • Only intrinsically safe equipment should be used where gas is suspected.
  • Never use power tools or oxy-acetylene torches in a confined area where gas is suspected.

Water Water from broken mains and other sources (e.g. rain, fire fighting water, etc.) may enter areas where casualties could be trapped, especially in basement or other underground areas. The appropriate precautions must be observed.

Sewers Broken sewers may create problems of flooding and escaping gas. Sewer gases can be explosive as well as toxic. The following basic precautions must be observed:

  • Gas monitoring is essential for the safe handling of sewer gases.
  • Take appropriate action prior to entering any area containing sewage.
  • Never use an open flame.
  • Endeavour to divert the flow away from the rescue area by building a dam or other obstruction, or by pumping.
  • Personal hygiene and public health issues must be addressed in the appropriate manner.

Electricity Live wires present a serious hazard to trapped casualties and rescue personnel, therefore the following safety precautions should be observed at all times:

  • Assume all electric wires are ‘live’. The fact that wires do not sputter or spark is no indication that they are dead.
  • Avoid pools of water close to live wires as they may be just as dangerous as live wires.
  • DO NOT attempt to cut any electrical wires.
  • The supply to a damaged building should be switched off at the main switch, normally located in the meter box. The fuses should be removed and secured. Be aware; in some cases there may be more than one supply line to an individual building.

Even when meter box switches are off and fuses are pulled, the building will still be ‘live’ from the street supply to the meter box(es). Expert assistance must be sought.

  • Keep vehicles and personnel well clear of areas where wires are torn.
  • Be particularly cautious at night when it is difficult to see wires. The technique of holding the back of the hand out in front of your face is advised.

Correct Lifting Techniques[edit | edit source]

At all levels of rescue and training operations, rescuers will be required to lift, haul or push loads, and must be trained to handle these tasks properly and safely where mechanical aids are not available or useable.

*Loads should be lowered in a reversal of the lifting techniques. There is a serious risk of spinal or abdominal muscle injury due to incorrect lifting, and the following points detail correct lifting techniques.
  • As the leg and thigh muscles are stronger than those of the arms, back, or abdomen, it follows that these are the muscles which should be used for safe lifting.
  • During a lifting operation, the rescuer should crouch down with knees bent, back straight, and feet properly placed to bear the load.
  • Gripping the load correctly, the rescuer should start the lift by the thrust of the legs and continue this thrust until the legs are straight, keeping the load close to the body and keeping the back straight. In this way, the strain involved is placed on the leg muscles, and the possibility of back or abdominal injury is greatly reduced.

Team Lifting[edit | edit source]

Team lifting is carried out using the same individual techniques already described, but with team discipline and control.

  • When the team is in position with respect to the load, the leader gives the preparatory order: PREPARE TO LIFT.
  • Any rescuer not ready to lift must quickly call: STOP, and the Team Leader must wait until all is in order. In the absence of any such dissent, the Team Leader will give the executive order: LIFT.
  • On this command, all rescuers lift their portion of the load by the technique already described, slowly, and in unison.
  • As with the individual technique, lowering a load is the reversal of the procedure with the Team Leader using the commands: PREPARE TO LOWER and


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