This week’s CERT training gave me some experience in the fundamentals of Search-And-Rescue or SAR. In learning the fundamentals of searching for the victims of a disastrous or catastrophic event, the principle of personal safety first must be exercised!
Personal safety is an on-going process, not a static event. Such considerations must be implemented before, during, and after responding. I have often thought of personal safety in terms of arriving on-scene and deciding if I can respond, given what’s happened or not happened. Now, I understand more fully that a responder should never “feel at home” on-scene and must stay aware for his own and partner’s safety: situational awareness.
From the CERT Field Operating Guide (FOG) No. 573 (pg. 24):
Priorities of CERT Search and Rescue:
- The safety of CERT members
- Life safety for victims and others
- Protection of the environment
- Protection of property
Goals of CERT Search and Rescue:
- Rescue the greatest number in the shortest amount of time
- Rescue lightly trapped victims first
Effective Search and Rescue:
- Effective Size-up (see Size-up Checklist)
- Rescuer safety
- Victim safety
The FOG then goes on to make this point:
Safety Considerations: Regardless of the severity of structural damage, rescuer safety must be the primary concern. The two most frequent causes of rescuer deaths are disorientation and secondary collapse.
Here are some more points that I learned, along with a little expansion on the topic:
Primary Concern is Rescuer Safety
If you’re a prepper, then hopefully you have learned to appreciate redundancy. Redundancy allows us to master the fundamental principles of life. As complex as the world is, all of that complexity is based on basics. It is the repetitiveness of a particular message, such as safety, that will remind us to never attempt a rescue near a downed electrical line. It is that same redundancy that reminds us to activate EMS when we’ve observed someone grab his chest and fall unconscious to the ground, or in shouting “CLEAR” while visually confirming that no one is touching a victim who is receiving the effects of an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED). Remember, don’t become part of the problem by becoming another victim!
The buddy system is an excellent way to maximize the presence of human resources. Having a buddy, or two, ensures an extra set of eyes, ears, and able-bodied effort to assess the scene and provide feedback beyond the inherent limitations of an individual. It will be crucial that both “buddies” actively follow the principles of rescuer safety in order to maximize the benefit of collaboration.
Beware of Hazards
Many hazards do not present themselves in a clear and obvious way. Electrical conduits such as power lines, lethal vapors or gases such as carbon monoxide, pyrotechnic devices such as airbag inflators, and similar hazards do not shout out, “I’m a danger, watch out!” unless responders have educated themselves to the latent threats inherent in each one. It is beneficial for all consumers to learn more about the basic threats posed by the items which make our lives more convenient, as long as they are working properly!
It never ceases to amaze me how something so simple as wearing goggles, gloves, or helmets, can seem such a burden to folks who should be wearing such equipment because of the nature of their activity. It is easy for individuals to develop “superman” or “superwoman” syndrome after having repeated an activity hundreds of times without incident. Need I remind us all that all it takes is just-one-time? Safety equipment is designed to protect us/reduce risk from that 0.0001% of circumstances when things go wrong.
If you’ve ever watched an active response to a wildland fire, or a serious structure fire, then you’ve no doubt seen support teams staged somewhere on-scene assisting exhausted responders, providing them with water, food, and medical treatment. CERT members often form part of those support teams, helping refresh other responders and offer support in many ways.
With the previous points in mind, an appropriate Scene Size-Up becomes the object of study and practice.
- Gather Facts
- Assess and Communicate the Damage
- Consider Probabilities
- Assess Your Own Situation
- Establish Priorities
- Make Decisions
- Develop a Plan of Action
- Take Action
- Evaluate Progress
Part 2/3, Search and Rescue: Physical Search, will discuss the Size-up Checklist more fully and cover the physical search process of SAR.