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Standard Operating Guideline - Large Area Searches 
S.O.G. 500-09-02
Date of Issue:  10/14/2009      
Effective Date: 0/14/2009                                                                                                    Issued by Authority of: Ronald W. Richards, Fire Chief 
Ronald W. Richards

Large Area Searches 
S.O.G. 500-09-2 

To provide a standard operating guideline for the response to large or complex structures where large area search procedures are warranted. 

All fire department personnel. 

Officers are responsible to insure that large area search procedures are initiated in large and complex structures. Firefighters assigned to a company are required to follow the procedures outline below. 

Operations in large or complex structures present challenges for fire department due to the size of the structure. These structures will require a strong command presence, additional personnel and apparatus in comparison to a residential fire response. Firefighter safety cannot be compromised. 

1. Responses to fire or fire alarms in large/complex structures, whether multi-story or large square footage properties will require large area search guidelines are followed. This system gives the search team a greater bearing on the distance traveled, whether entering or exiting the questioned area.

2. There are three different types of searches used. They are:
Quick deployment searches: Used in medium size square footage occupancy which generally do not require air monitoring.

Team search rope Level 1 operations: A level 1 search is used in occupancies that pose a larger square footage where a more organized approach is required due to air consumption concerns.

Team search rope Level 2 operations: A level 2 search is used in occupancies that pose extremely large square footage area whose floor layout may be unusual, undivided or confined. This level of search requires the utilization of an anchor position

3. The search team leader secures the rope to a fixed, stationary object at the entry point to the IDLH atmosphere. The primary equipment for a large area search includes the large area search rope bag. The bag contains a minimum of 200 feet of rope, knotted every 25 feet. 

Every 25 feet an additional knot is added (ex. 50 feet two knots, 75 feet three knots, etc.). Search ropes a minimum of 15 feet in length are provided to each firefighter are used to connect to the large area search rope as it is deployed.  A directional knot is located before the distance knot(s) on the way in and after the distance knots on the way out. The engine company and ladder company have large area search rope bags on each piece of apparatus. 

Tactical worksheets (attachment 1) on clipboards have a stop watch and grease pencil attached. They are stored in the cab of each respective piece of apparatus.

4.  All members involved should be on separate radio frequency for this operation. The search team leader will identify the frequency to be used after consulting with the incident commander.

5. A floodlight, flash light, or strobe light will be in place at the entrance opening when utilizing team search rope.

6.  All members bring appropriate equipment to complete the search including forcible entry tools, hand lights, door chocks and radios.

7. The search team leader monitors the number of firefighters entering, records their names. On level 1and  2 searches, he documents and monitors entry/on-air times. For a 30 minute cylinder (2216 psi) the submerge time is 10 minutes, 10 minutes to exit with a 10 minute safety factor.

8. The search team officer will radio each knot distance traveled in all Level 1 and 2 searches.

9. The Search Team Leader documents the radioed information and advises the Search Team how long they are in the IDLH atmosphere.

10. In Level 2 searches, establish an ANCHOR position.
Proceed down the rope first
Stop at each 25 ft. interval
Allow members to search off his position and then return
Radio to the Search Team Leader each knot interval
Controls and coordinates interior

11. With any change in direction, the rope must be secured to an anchor point. Changes in direction are reported to the Search Team Leader. (See diagram A)

12. Prior to recall time, the rope and bag must be secured.

13. The search team leader must insure relief /rescue teams are available in all level 1 and 2 searches. 

14. If the search rope is completely deployed and the search is not complete, a second team with a rope bag will enter the IDLH atmosphere, remaining in contact with the first rope to the furthest point deployed. The search will continue from that point.

15. If any quarter life air alarm activates during the search, ALL members of the team will discontinue the large area search proceed to the entry point.

This guideline supersedes the guideline, 500-97-5, issued in 1997 on similar subject matter.

Attachment 1
Search Rope Team Tactical Worksheet
Cyl.  capacity    
Time in 
Return Time
Time out

Progress Reports                                                   Diagram
Distance Team Time

1 knot @ 25 
2 knots @ 50 
3 knots @ 75 
4 knots @ 100 
5 knots @ 125 
6 knots @ 150 
7 knots @ 175 
8 knots @ 200 
9 knots @ 225 
8 knots @ 250 

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