SEARCH AND RESCUE
Search and Rescue groups may also be activated by the Sheriff in
response to urban emergencies both large and small. This could include
fires, earthquakes, flooding, large hazardous chemical spills, train
accidents, urban plane crashes, civil unrest and a host of other
disaster related occurrences. The common element in these cases is that
the SAR team will be operating mainly in an urban setting using the well
trained alpine skills that they use for back country operation. Many of
the systems for technical evacuation and roped litter work are exactly
the same as alpine or back country operations. Of course some systems
will be adapted to a more practical setting based on the environment. It
will be more probable that direct operation with fire units that have
been trained to the California Fire Martial's Heavy Rescue course will
is important that the Urban disaster responder (team member) be aware of
the various extra and hidden dangers that may exist in the urban setting
that would not be common in the back country. Of course it is not
practical for the team member to become well versed in every aspect of
possible urban rescue but the member needs to be aware of hazards and
limitations. With the skills listed in this chapter the team member
should be able to provide a high degree of usefulness if the need
arises. In addition to the basic training and preparedness offered by
the team training, Heavy Rescue I, which is a State Fire Marshall
Approved training course, is periodically offered by the county to team
chapter attempts to provide an overview on how the SAR member can best
apply his skills in an urban environment. The SAR member is referred to
outside sources for additional details regarding operating in the urban
environment. SAR stresses that the USAR environment presents may hazards
that one would not expect in the Alpine environment. In actual
operations always seek advise of those that are better educated or work
in the environment on a regular basis. Above all, maintain a safe
attitude toward executing any rescue.
Line — This is
equivalent to the tyrolean in alpine rescue. This is often documented as
a single line system. In a drastic situation a single line system may be
justified, however in all but the worst possible cases, two lines should
be utilized for safety reasons.
Line — Equivalent to a tag line in rescue systems.
Ladder — Typically a 12 to 18 foot ladder that meets NFPA
standards for fire service.
Spar — The two major side of a ladder.
— The steps of the ladder that connect the spars.
— A vertical assembly supported at the top with guy wires used for
raising or lowering rescue systems.
Sling — Is a procedure for wrapping the spars of a ladder with
a webbing runner to provide an anchor attachment point.
— Is a rope wrapping and frapping technique used to secure two or more
support members. (This is literally taken from the Boy Scout Manuals.)
Types — Different nail types are useful in the USAR application
6d, 8d, double head nails are most common in 2" through 4 inches.
— This is a specific stacking of lumber, typically 2x4's or 4/4's
designed to temporarily support weight or operate as a fulcrum for a
Pullers — A device similar to a crowbar used specifically to
Saws — Are power tools in which a table is provided to guide
the lumber being cut by a fixed blade saw.
Hammer — Any hammer having a claw used to extract nails.
Hammer — A specific claw hammer having a corrugated waffle head
(striking area) to help maintain contact with the nail head surface
during rough framing (only thing applicable to USAR).
— A heavy mallet (usually 4 lbs or heavier) typically with two
striking heads. This may be long or short handled. Useful in breaking
brick wall and driving stakes.
Saw — Is a hand power tool used to cut lumber. Typically
electric but gas powered saws are available.
Bars — These are steel bars available from 24 inches to 8 feet.
Their use is basically a lifting tool by which heavy objects may be
— A short pry bar often used to extract large nails.
Jig — Is any device created to help produce shoring or ribbing
material of standard or selected sizes.
Jacks — Are standard jacks typically used to raise vehicles.
Typically rating is 1 to 3 tons.
Jacks — Are high gain jacks based around concentric screw
assemblies. Units in this category have ratings of up to 25 tons.
Response and Pre-Plan
detailed disaster plan exists for the team's response to a local
earthquake or other disasters that may eliminate or tax normal existing
lines of communication. The plan is periodically updated by the team
management. After a significant event, such as a local major earthquake,
the team has pre-authorization to self-activate.
early as possible a team leader will contact dispatch and assign himself
as the team contact. The team will then attempt to create a
communication path amongst its members using any available and practical
means. This will first verify that each team member's household is
intact or will help in rendering aid if needed. Depending on local
damage and personal availability, members will then muster at selected
meeting spots around the county. If a member's local damage is minimal,
he is available, and transport is available, the meeting spot will be
the Sheriff station #10. If local damage is high, the team member will
attempt to organize and develop an assistance plan in his neighborhood.
He should use the team contact line (SARNET, MRA Simplex, etc.) to help
acquire further aid and assistance. Details and further assignments will
then be made by the team Operation Leaders as the situation unfolds.
overall goal is to protect and care for the team members, and to then
provide the fastest and simplest form to dispatch the team and to advise
dispatch of the team's available resources.
it is impossible to know what communication resources will be available,
the member must use whatever is working. The earthquake pre-plan lists
some strategic radio locations which will help with simplex
communication between the team members on the MRA frequency. SARNET
provides excellent coverage over the county providing it survives. Phone
traffic may be spotty but one can leave a message on the voice mail
(don't expect the message to indicate that a local disaster has
and Personal Precautions
is the case with all true emergencies, one never knows where or at what
time the emergency will occur. The rescuer stays prepared for disasters
such as earthquakes and floods by practice of basic skills and recurring
training in "What if" conditions. The rescuer must contemplate
what preparation is needed if the rescue response requires that he be
gone from home for an extended period of time (say a week); or what
preparation is needed if the disaster occurs at home.
the disaster is away from home, and the team is assigned to help, a fair
time commitment will normally be expected covering from 72 hours to 1
week. Family and employers must be aware of this time commitment,and
plans must be made accordingly. Not everyone can afford this impact to
their daily schedule and that is understood. Basic personal preparedness
at work to take an extended emergency leave
A family member or friend that can help with kids
cash money or funds available
business not left to the last minute
machine or place a message can be left
for family to contact proper S/O department
phone list to contact other team members
personal gear in a state of readiness
general the idea is to be normally available and prepared. Work
commitments and personal finances do not always lend themselves in favor
of a volunteer rescue team. Having spare money at home could allow the
family to order pizza or dine out during the activation. Phone traffic
at disaster sites is often difficult and overloaded even with cellular
phones so the ability to tie up business deals or other personal
business may be impossible from the disaster site. Families should know
the proper way to contact the station or the in town coordinator to get
a message to a member in the field. Also since it is impossible to
predict times and availability while in the field, a message machine at
home or a place to leave a message will help greatly. The team will
often send a message to an in town coordinator who will relay the
message to each active member's household as major events unfold.
Families should consider offering assistance to other families that may
need some help.
major concern is preparedness for a disaster that occurs in one's own
area. Much literature is circulated throughout the community for
earthquake preparedness. Having one's SAR gear all collected and in a
vehicle presents a good start to being prepared. In the event of a local
disaster, the team member's primary responsibility is to his family.
Once a member's family is settled, then he can evaluate his ability to
help others in his community. The following preparations should be made
by the member:
of food, water, clothing, money, and first aid gear should be stored in
protective containers in several places (car, garage, mobile home,
closet) to increase the odds that some of it will not be destroyed.
Include necessary prescription medication that may be needed. Consider
the inclusion of cooking and eating gear, water filtration devices,
toilet paper, plastic bags, blankets, rain gear, sleeping bags, shoes,
AM/FM radio, flashlight with extra fresh batteries.
member should be familiar enough with his residence and have sufficient
tools to shut off water, natural gas, and
electricity at his residence. A wrench should be permanently
connected to the gas main so one will always be available if the main is
family preplan should be instituted so that family members will know
where to go if they are shopping, at schools, or wherever. Neighbors
should consider checking with each other after the event. The pre-plan
should include first aid training for children as soon as is practical.
should always be at least one quarter full. (Helps keep the fuel pump
from clogging anyway.) This
will allow some mobility if the vehicle is drivable. Storing gasoline at
a residence is not considered a safe provision unless proper storage
accommodations are met.
an out-of-area contact that can be used as a message center or place
where one's family can be taken until the situation can be rectified
would be very helpful. The member should consider how a message can be
sent to other team members to indicate their status. (The team preplan
attempts to form a communication link between the members as soon as
possible after a local disaster.) One
might consider obtaining a ham license and acquiring a VHF HAM radio to
increase the odds of successful communication.
supply of tools that may be helpful (hammer, wrenches, nails, crowbar,
dikes, etc) in providing hasty repairs, shoring, or even extrication
should be kept handy. Large pry bars or garage jacks may also be useful
if one normally owns these elements. Plywood boards and 2x4's will also
team member should make sure that a current S/O disaster information
sheet is filed with the team secretary and the sheriff's personal
department. After any major local disaster it is important to attempt
communication with the team as the team will be exerting effort to
contact each member's household. Even if one cannot respond,
communication must be made with the team to prevent wasting resources.
should evaluate "If I am given thirty seconds to abandon my
home" and his family is safe, "what would I take with
team member may be assigned to search collapsed structures or enter
structures destroyed by water, fire, or mud. Although a complete course
could exist covering the many facets and dangers of building
construction, a short overview is given in this manual. In these
assignments heavy reliance is given to local building and safety
officials, fire responders specially trained in building design, and
team members who are building contractors or have civil or mechanical
Story Wood structures comprise a majority of homes in the
area. Typically these are placed on a concrete slab but a sub-earthen
foundation and basement may exist. In this type structure, the weight of
the roof and top of the home is supported by the bearing walls of the
home. The framing structure of the home and any internal load bearing
walls are created using wooden beams, 4x4s and 2x4s. This construction
will typically shift during failure rather than directly collapse. The
distributed support will tend to create plenty of voids within the
single story wood structure. The cohesive force and the tolerance of
wood to compression will tend to keep the home in major sections.
Tornado damage (which is not typical for
county) can splinter homes due to the explosive (or implosive) force of
the pressure differential. Gas lines are easily ruptured when the
structure moves away from the foundation or pipes are ruptured.
Communication should be possible with a responsive trapped subject from
the outside by yelling.
approaching this type of structure, one should evaluate utilities (gas,
electric, water), note any hazards, ascertain from people outside if
persons are trapped inside. If persons are trapped inside, execute an
external hailing search in an attempt to locate the subjects. If it is
possible to help the subjects easily escape (lifting some boards,
directing them to an open window, etc.) do so expediently and move
subjects away from the structure.
story wood structures are similar to the single story counterparts with
the inclusion of more weight being supported by the walls of the
structure. Also electricity and utilities may be present in the space
between floors as well as the attic above the second story. Subsequent
collapses after structural failure may be more prevalent in two story
homes than single story homes due to the weight being supported.
stucco homes are homes that contain a wooden frame covered by a wire
mesh and a concrete type substance (stucco) creating the outer coating
of the building. Structurally this is similar to the wooden homes except
that the weight of the wall themselves is increased. The wire mesh and
stucco material are more difficult to cut than the wooden wall
coverings. Axes or sawsalls are best used when cutting through stucco
walls. The wire mesh creates a hazard for hands and face cuts. The
weight of the stucco complicates building searches. Stucco walls are
more likely to break or crumble into sections connected by wire mesh. If
a wall section must be raised or jacked, shoring must accommodate the
many ways in which the wall may fracture.
dwellings (Duplexes, Condos, Town Homes, small Apartments, and small
motels) may consist mainly of wooden frames with the possibility of
additional steel beams, or extremely large wooden roof beams. The
failure and or state of these extra support members may hold information
concerning the subsequent collapse of the complement of the structure.
walled homes have their supporting structure created from masonry
construction of brick or block and mortar. Masonry walls by themselves
create an extreme danger due to the weight of the building material. As
mortar ages, it looses cohesiveness which weakens the wall. Events such
as earthquakes may attempt to twist or rotate the roof load of the home.
In a wooden home, this rotation may bend, shift, or snap some wall
members. However in a brick or block structure, with walls that are
highly incompressible or in-flexible, the structure is more likely to
catastrophically fail. However a wooden home affected by fire might be
more likely to fail than a brick equivalent structure.
are many different types of brick structures. Construction types over
the years have drastically changed the type of building materials and
the construction techniques. Commercial brick buildings built before the
1980's are often seen with seismic upgrades to their structures. This
upgrading may take many forms.
regulations in 1976 included many provisions for earthquake tolerance in
structural design. Building built prior to 1976 may have much less
tolerance to an earthquake. Buildings constructed prior to the 1940's
may have a rigid clay tile structure that is very intolerant to
earthquakes. Extreme caution must be taken when entering any brick type
structure. Rubble searching under a collapsed wall may be required. In
this case, the wall has completely failed and must be removed in pieces
to gain access to the structure within.
buildings add another dimension of complexity. Some structures are
designed to have internal cranes which carry heavy loads and run from
high voltage exposed metal bars. Walls may be supported by steel beams,
trusses, block, concrete pillars, or even laid up concrete. Entry into
these type of structure typically will require heavy equipment and
experts in their design and dangers.
a disaster such as an earthquake, hurricane, or tornado rescue teams are
called to work in areas where deadly secondary safety hazards exist. The
SAR member must be aware of these potential elements in order to avoid
potential for secondary structure collapse is high in areas where
supporting walls, beams, or members have been stressed. After shocks,
storms, or high winds could cause buildings to collapse. Be aware of
freeway overpasses, high tension wires, flood control dams, and
underground voids that may be suspect or unstable.
areas with hazards or explosive chemicals can be harmful. Chemical
stored for years in family garages could have mixed creating a hazardous
condition. Electricity, natural gas, sewage all present hazards to the
approaching a collapsed structure one must maintain a safe working
distance from suspect structures.
failure, landslides, and major rock fall can create a hazard even in the
a disaster aftermath, searching is divided into several stages; Stage I,
II, III, IV. Stage I is the earliest form which consists mainly of hasty
search, evaluations, and damage assessment. This is similar to the START
triage step where the walking wounded and the easy to treat or rescue
subjects are removed. Stage I could consist of minor rubble removal,
simple accessible room evacuations. Stage I would also include verbal
attempts and investigative attempts to note the possibility of trapped
subjects in structures. Each structure that is searched is marked even
at the stage I level to
indicate its status. Stage II searching includes detailed external
hailing, and building entry searches where there is a high probability
of locating subjects. This may include lifting or moving heavy objects,
shoring, and other heavy rescue skills. Stage III begins when major
structures such as walls, roofs, and flooring are separated using heavy
equipment or large scale manpower. Stage IV is technical demolition in
which the structure is completely broken down to rubble and the contents
are investigated using skip loaders or other appropriate heavy
equipment. The time line and the transition from stage to stage will
largely be dependent on the type of damage, the likelihood or danger of
subsequent collapse, the probability of live trapped subjects, and the
existence of any health or safety hazards being caused by the structure
or it's contents.
to enter any structure at the stage I scene is based on the Operation
Leader or senior member present. In many cases searchers will instigate
stage 1 searches in their area out of shear necessity. One must always
try to install organization and always weigh the dangers that exist.
"Is it safe for me?" is the standard question. This must be
weighed and answered in the judgement of each person responding. The
training provided in this manual and in team training hopefully will
provide proper criteria to evaluate a scene for safety. In stage II
searches several organized agencies or team members will be organized in
at least ad hoc form. In this case there should exist communication with
a central control point (ie dispatch, command post, sworn deputy, etc).
After giving as assessment of the scene to the controlling authority,
permission should be sought to enter or start Stage II searches. In this
case the logistic section can track assets and begin the organization
that is required. As time progresses and search stages mature, local
building and safety agencies begin to play a higher role in authorizing
access to structures or areas. It is quite typical for building
authorities to "tag" buildings with the type of access that
should be allowed. Stage IV operations are normally relegated to
construction crews that are specifically trained and practiced in large
scale construction. During Stage I searches, the member is called upon
to make a clear and concise decision. It may be necessary to coordinate
volunteers in this effort. As time progresses the chain of command
should take effect. Allow those agencies that are trained in structure
assessment to make decisions. (Often agencies are reluctant to make
expedient decisions considering the liability that is involved). In any
case use the best trained and knowledgeable to assess the situation and
always consider "Is it safe for us to continue?"
to enter a structure are similar to triage considerations. The attempt
is to provide the most amount of good for the maximum number of people.
Overhanging and loose external brick make a collapsed brick building
dangerous on the outside. Torque forces can eject building bricks
hundreds of feet. Typically one should attempt to maintain a safety
distance of twice the building height when not entering the structure.
Obviously in an area with many destroyed or collapsed structures exist,
this will be impossible. Buildings should be entered only if the
possibility of life is considered to be probable. Internal damage
assessment or personal goods should be left for a later date. Entry
should be made only if proper safe shoring and considerations are made
including an evacuation plan and a limited stay time. Building search
patterns should be followed to make the search as short as possible.
personal gear should include:
with extra batteries
mask (extras in a pocket are helpful)
(and latex) gloves
with a belt loop
small flashlight (3rd source of light)
Harness in place
Biners and 2 webbing runners
small fanny pack could also be ready with basic survival and first aid
gear. It may be prudent to add some food stuffs and a gauze roll in a
pocket in the event one is separated from his gear. Alternate personal
gear could also include coveralls and knee pads.
Safety Officer should be established as soon as is possible. The safety
officer would remain outside a structure noting times, or existing
hazards. An agreed upon evacuation signal will be sent if the safety
officer feels there is a need. Typically repeated signals of
"Three" indicate and evacuation order. A safe meeting zone
outside a structure should be decided prior to entrance into the
I Structure Searches
early searches one is trying to evacuate all easily evacuated subjects
and note the presence of anyone known to be trapped within a structure.
An external survey of the structure from all sides should be made prior
to entering any structure. The condition of supporting walls, the roof,
the roof attachment, and any facades must be noted. Hailing teams as is
shown in figure 1 may be used to audibly locate conscious trapped
subjects. The time of the disaster may indicate the location of possible
subjects. Occurrences in the middle of the night may indicate that most
subjects are in bedrooms.
that are specifically trained to find anyone and are familiar with
building searches may be extremely helpful. However these dogs will take
time to be located and transported to the scene.
a building is entered or surveyed it should be marked in accordance with
figure 2. Any existing
warning placards should also be noted. This symbol notes the number of
known people trapped (alive or deceased), any hazards that exist, and
the agency that searched the building, and an indication if searchers
are inside the structure or not. This symbol is very universal but
different agencies may use slightly different symbols. The symbol should
be placed on the entry area of the structure in plain sight. The marking
should be made with paint. The utility vehicle and the USAR trailer each
carry several cans of orange spray paint that may be used for marking.
Chalk or sections of plaster board may be used to draw improvised
symbols. On some surfaces, large "Magic Markers" may be