Which way is out?

How often do you add an exit strategy to your training evolutions? As interior structural firefighters we need to stay focused on one skill every time we set out to practice our skills, how to get out!  From rope slides to ladder bailouts it seems like every day a new drill comes out for us to learn from a tragic event.   One part of all these evolutions is the need to find your way to the window or exit.  Let’s take a quick look at some strategies that can help us find our way if we are disoriented inside a fire.  Jumpseat riding firefighters are the ones on the end of the hose line or conducting the search, it’s our job to be able to get out when things go bad.

Finding your way out may save your life!

Finding your way out may save your life!


Engine Company Firefighter

It seems like the most logical place to have a constant exit strategy is on the end of a hoseline.  How often to you practice getting separated and finding either a secondary means of exit or finding the hoseline and reading couplings to find your way out?  Can we ever really be good enough at this skill?

Keeping your head up during hose advancement is a challenge to this jumpseat rider.  Zero visibility and a keen focus on the fire can allow you to not notice things such as points of refuse, windows, or other means of exit if something went wrong.  Just because we are not the officer in charge of the hoseline does not excuse us from keeping or wits in case a fast exit is necessary.   Counting doorways passed, observing windows when approaching the buildings, and remembering windows are all way we can stay oriented inside while advancing a hoseline.

Truck Company Firefighter

Entering a burning building without the protection of a handline can be the most dangerous task on the fireground.  That is why staying oriented to location is so important.  Using search ropes, tools, and thermal imaging cameras are all great tools that should be used.  While using each of various tools we also should practice for the what if’s.  What if the search rope melts, what if the fire gets away from us, and what if we lose our tool are just a few of the possibilities.

Keeping yourself when preforming truck company ops requires a focus on your location at all times.   From determining points of entry to location of the fire we should use teamwork  to focus on orientation.  Marco………Polo…..  Comes to mind in these situations as voice contact will allow you to know where all crew members are.  It can also be used if a quick escape is need.  Splitting the crew into small groups to search for secondary means of egress should be done with caution and always remain in voice contact but also allows for more area to be covered.


Final Thoughts

Whether you are a firefighter or a truckie, sorry had too, we all need to be focused on a good exit stategey.  Not all the bailouts in the world will help you until you find the window to bailout of.  Take the time in your next drill session to add some variables of disorientation to allow your crews to practice exiting the building in emergency conditions!  Its everyone on the interior crew to stay focused on the tasks while identifying a way of getting out!


Bunker up, Buckle in, it’s where we ALL begin!

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