Level 3 Field Operations Guide (fog) or Handbook



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Rescue Operations



Rescue Site Management and Coordination


  • Each rescue work site must have one person designated in charge to maintain unity of command, usually designated as the Rescue Squad Officer. He/she has authority over all TF personnel, including those from other disciplines, involved in the operation at that rescue site.

  • Larger or more complex rescue operations may require the commitment of two or more rescue squads to a single operation. When two or more rescue squads are assigned to operate together, the Rescue Team Manager may assume command or assign one of the Rescue Squad Officers to be in charge of the site (this must be clearly communicated to all personnel involved). A Safety Officer should be assigned to larger or more complex operations.


Non-Task Force Resource Requests/Liaison


  • It may sometimes be necessary to request assistance from personnel or organizations outside the TF. This could include assistance from military personnel, utility contractors, heavy equipment operators, etc. The Rescue Team Managers should relay these requests through the TFL.

  • Management and supervision of non-TF resources is of critical importance to the overall safety and effectiveness of the rescue operations.

  • Personnel used in this fashion should be somehow identified (i.e., Fire Line tape or surveyor's tape used as an arm band).

  • Basic safety gear (goggles/hard hat) should be provided.

  • Close supervision is required for personnel with little or no rescue training.

  • Basic safety and hazards assessment briefing should be provided for them.


Rescue Site Engagement/Disengagement

  • A standardized method of engaging and exiting (disengaging) a rescue site should be followed.


  • Rescue personnel must adhere to a consistent, formalized site management procedure to ensure the safe, effective operation of the rescue squad(s).

  • At the same time, the Rescue Specialists should begin to take firm control of the immediate site, including:

  • Hazard assessment and mitigation;

  • Shut down of all utilities;

  • Collapse hazard zone (hot zone) established;

  • Rescue work zone should be clearly defined;

  • All bystanders removed; and

  • Equipment assembly area/cutting work station organized

  • Once the size-up is completed and the plan of action developed, a short team briefing should be conducted. The TF Operations Report has been developed and can be used for this purpose.



Evaluating Rescue Opportunities


  • There are generally five phases of rescue operations at collapse incidents:

  • Phase One: Assessment of the collapse area.

    • Area searched for possible victims (surface/buried);

    • Evaluation of the structure's stability; and

    • Utilities evaluated and shut down for safety.

  • Phase Two: Remove surface victims as quickly and safely as possible.

  • Phase Three: All voids and accessible spaces searched and explored for viable victims.

    • An audible call out system can be used during this phase.

    • Only trained canine or specially-trained personnel should be used in voids/accessible space searches.
  • Phase Four: Selected debris removal (using special tools/techniques) may be necessary after locating a victim.


  • Phase Five: General debris removal is usually conducted after all known victims have been removed.

  • The most perplexing strategic decisions will probably involve choices between multiple rescue opportunities that surpass the rescue resources of a TF. In this situation, TF management personnel must prioritize rescue opportunities. Factors include:

  • Victim(s)’ viability and longevity;

  • Degree of difficulty and duration of each rescue;

  • Possible end results of rescue efforts (i.e., a single rescue operation yielding the extrication of two or more victims, etc.); and

  • Safety considerations for rescue personnel.


Operations Site Set-up


  • Control of the area immediately surrounding the selected work site must be established before rescue operations commence.

  • An Operational Work Area is established to control access to the rescue work site except for assigned TF members and other local rescue personnel involved in an operation, and to provide safe and secure work areas for the personnel supporting the rescue operations.

  • The Operational Work Area is identified by a single, horizontal cordon of flagging or rope as depicted below:





  • A Collapse/Hazard Zone is established to control access to the immediate area that could be affected or impacted by further building collapse, falling debris, or other hazardous situations (i.e., aftershocks). The only individuals that will be allowed within this area are the primary TF personnel directly involved in search for or extrication of victims. All other TF personnel must be located outside the hot zone until assigned or rotated.


  • T


    he Collapse/Hazard Zone will be identified by an X-type cordon of flagging as depicted below:


Operations Site Set-up


  • When establishing the perimeter of the operational work area, the needs of the following support activities must be provided for and properly identified:

  • Access/Entry Routes (Personnel Accountability Location) – a clearly defined avenue(s) should be planned and identified for access to and from the rescue work site. Personnel, tools, equipment, and other logistics needs would be safely channeled through this route. In addition, controlled egress would be required to quickly evacuate a victim or injured TF member.

  • Emergency Assembly Area – location(s) where TF personnel assemble following an emergency evacuation.

  • Medical Treatment Area – location where the TF medical team can set-up operations and provide treatment to TF members and extricated victims.

  • Personnel Staging Area – where unassigned TF members can rest, eat, and be immediately available in case the assigned rescue workers become trapped.

  • Equipment Staging Area – where assigned tools and equipment can be safely stored, maintained, and issued as needed to support the operation.

  • Cut Station – where building materials/lumber can be stored and processed as needed to support the on site search and rescue operations.



Inter-Discipline Coordination

  • Structures Specialists must be involved in ongoing rescue extrication operations.


  • Hazardous Materials Specialists should assist with initial site analysis prior to US&R operations. This includes identification of any hazardous products, evaluation of the general atmosphere around/within the structure, and periodic reviews.

  • Medical Specialists provide medical assessment, intervention, and stabilization which are essential to the eventual survival of the entrapped victim. Rescue personnel should ensure that Medical Team personnel have access to the victim as soon as possible. This may require temporary cessation of rescue operations.

  • Heavy Equipment and Rigging Specialists may provide recommendations during rescue operations requiring the integration of cranes, large scale lifting operations, heavy equipment movement, etc. In addition, they must act as liaison between the rescue squad(s) conducting the rescue and non-TF equipment operators who may not fully understand the tactics and subtleties involved.

  • Technical Information Specialists will document significant aspects of a rescue.

  • Rescue Squad Officers may have to integrate other non-TF personnel into ongoing operations, including utilities, law enforcement, military, and volunteer personnel.



Site/Personnel Safety

Emergency signaling and evacuation procedures must be understood and immediately recognized. Alerting devices shall be used to sound the appropriate signals as follows:



  • Cease Operation/All Quiet 1 long signal (3 seconds)

  • Evacuate the Area 3 short signals (1 second each), followed by pause, repeated until all members are accounted for


  • Resume Operations 1 long and 1 short signal.






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