Level 3 Field Operations Guide (fog) or Handbook

Structure Triage, Assessment, and Marking System


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Structure Triage, Assessment, and Marking System


  • The Structure Triage, Assessment, and Marking System is designed to help identify, select, and prioritize the building(s) with the highest probability of success with respect to finding and rescuing live victims.

  • As such, this may not be the building(s) with the largest number of potential victims or the building in the best structural condition.

  • It is important that information related to building identification, conditions and hazards, and victim status be posted in a standardized fashion.

Initial Size-Up
Many factors must be dealt with when a TF arrives at an incident and attempts to size-up the situation and begin operations. In general, it is anticipated that a TF may need to perform the following activities prior to beginning US&R operations:

  • Identify buildings individually (i.e., by address, physical location, unique design, etc.);

  • General area triage (i.e., to identify separate buildings, from many in a given area, that offer the highest potential for viable rescue opportunities);

  • Hazard assessment and marking of any building prior to search and rescue operations; and

  • At least two possibilities exist when TFs arrive at their assigned location within an affected jurisdiction.

  • First, local emergency response personnel may have identified viable search/rescue opportunities for the TF:

    • The location and/or identification of separate buildings may be clearly identified.

    • This information greatly reduces the number of considerations that the TFL must address.
    • Essentially, many of the general size-up issues may have been conducted (by the local personnel) and the TF managers would base their action plan and assignment of resources on this information.

    • Information provided by local sources must be reviewed for validity.

  • Second, there may be little or no reconnaissance information when the TF arrives:

    • The TF may be faced with a geographic area (several buildings/part of a block/several block area) with no tangible info as to where to concentrate their efforts.

    • In this case, the decision-making process and sizing-up of the situation becomes much more complex.

The following rationale may be used by a TFL during the first hours of arrival at an assigned location, if faced with the second situation of little or no information:

Structure Triage

  • One or two TF Structure Triage Teams may be deployed into the area in question. A team should include:

  • One Structures Specialist

  • One Hazardous Materials Specialist.

  • Each team will conduct a short triage (approximately one hour or less in duration) of the buildings in the area. The identification of structure location should be established during the triage process.

  • This assignment could be conducted simultaneously at the inception of the mission, while the TFL deploys personnel to assess possible sites for locating the BoO.


  • At the conclusion of the rapid structural triage, one or two TF Reconnaissance Team(s) should be deployed to evaluate each building deemed viable as a result of the rapid triage for continued search and/or rescue operations.

  • A Reconnaissance Team is composed of nine TF personnel.

  • Structure and search markings should be performed during this phase and prior to the initiation of rescue operations.

Structure Triage Assumptions

The following assumptions relate to the structure triage performed at the TF level:

  • If a large area or many buildings are involved, triage would probably be performed by two Structure Triage Teams:

  • It would be imperative that the teams compare assessment criteria before and after triage.

  • This ensures that uniform evaluations are obtained.

  • There will be some buildings that will have significant hazards so that operations cannot proceed until the hazards are mitigated:

  • These would be given "NO GO" assessments (i.e., structure on fire/collapse hazard/HAZMAT spill).

  • Follow-up marking of the structure must occur during the reconnaissance phase.

  • Triage assessments will be made based on value judgments that are based on rapidly obtained information:

  • These should always be subject to a common sense review.

  • Adjustments may need to be made by the TF management personnel.

  • Triage criteria should be re-evaluated after the initial search, in light of live victim locations.

  • It is not anticipated that structure marking would occur during the initial triage phase.

Structure Identification within a Geographic Area

  • An important duty of a Structure Triage Team is to clearly differentiate buildings in groupings such as by block(s) or jurisdictional areas/sectors.

  • This geographic (area/sector) identification of buildings would be consolidated at the Command Post and used to:

  • Deploy search and rescue personnel; and

  • Track the structure and hazard evaluation and search assessment information.
  • It is imperative that each structure within a geographic area is clearly identified. This identification will assist both in the specific ongoing search and rescue effort and, in the long term, post-disaster identification of the site.

  • This identification is important from a technical documentation perspective regarding specific events at a given site.

  • The system builds upon the normal pre-disaster street name, hundred block and building number. As TF personnel establish a need to identify a structure within a given block, they will identify each structure by existing street name and building number:

  • If some previously existing numbers have been obliterated, an attempt should be made to reestablish the numbering system based upon one or more structures that still display an existing number.

  • The damaged building(s) would be assigned numbers to separately identify them as indicated. The front of the structure(s) in question should be clearly marked using International Orange spray paint with the new number being assigned.

  • If no number is identifiable in a given block then TF personnel will identify the street name and the hundred block for the area in question based on other structures in proximity to the site in question.

  • In this case, structures will be assigned the appropriate numbers to designate and differentiate them. The front of the structure(s) in question should be clearly marked using International Orange spray paint with the new number being assigned.

  • It is important to identify locations within a single structure.

  • The address side of the structure shall be defined as SIDE A. Other sides of the structure shall be defined in a clockwise manner from SIDE A.

  • The interior of the structure will be divided into QUADRANTS. They are identified ALPHABETICALLY, clockwise, starting where the SIDE A/SIDE B perimeters meet.

  • The center core, where all four quadrants meet will be identified as Quadrant E (i.e., central core lobby, etc.).

  • Multi-story building floors should be numbered as referenced from the exterior, if necessary.

  • The grade-level floor is designated floor #1 and, moving upward, the 2nd floor would be floor #2, etc.

  • Conversely, the first floor below grade level would be b-1, the second b-2, etc.

Structure Triage

  • When a TF arrives at their assigned location, it may be necessary to deploy a Structure Triage Team to assess the affected area. A TF Structures Specialist and Hazardous Materials Specialist should be assigned to this team.

  • The triage consists of a three-step process:

  • The concise identification and location of buildings for reference;

  • A rapid assessment of the affected area; and

  • The identification of potential building(s) that require a more detailed assessment.

  • When evaluating an area encompassing several to many buildings, it is necessary to perform a rapid visual assessment of each building. This assessment should determine:

  • General structural condition;

  • Probable occupancy (i.e., office, commercial, retail, residential, etc.); and

  • Whether or not obvious access to the interior exists for each building.

  • During this assessment the Structure Triage Team will prepare a rough sketch of the general area and identify each building.

  • Once a general sweep and rapid assessment of the assigned area has been completed, the team should consult with the TF management personnel to identify a priority scheme for a more detailed analysis of opportune buildings.

  • The following factors should be considered in the determination of the priorities for search and rescue operations:

  • Occupancy  refers to building use, not the number of occupants.

  • Collapse Mechanism  how the building failed will provide an indication of the potential for voids wherein a victim(s) could survive.

  • Time of Day  refers to the time of the event which caused the collapse:

    • This is a critical factor when combined with the occupancy type.

    • For example, if an earthquake occurs at 2100 hours and collapses an office building and an apartment building, the apartment building would normally represent the higher potential for a successful rescue than would the office building.

    • If the event occurred at 1000 hours, the opposite would be true.
  • Prior Intelligence  information from the general public relating to known trapped victims.

  • Search and Rescue Resources Available  does the particular building require resources beyond what is readily available to the TF (is heavy equipment required to gain access).

  • Structural Condition of the Building  in general, can search and rescue operations proceed with a minimum of stabilization effort?

Triage Scoring

  • The triage scoring process assesses various factors to obtain a numerical score for each structure assessed. The intent of the score is to calculate a figure, where a higher number represents a better risk/benefit ratio.

  • A Structure Triage Evaluation Form has been developed for use during the triage phase. (See Appendix D).

  • The following categories will be scored:

  • Total number of potentially trapped victims

  • Condition of voids

  • Time required to access victims

  • Chance of additional collapse

  • Special occupancy information

  • "No Go" conditions.

Triage Analysis

  • The triage information must be consolidated, summarized, and presented to the TF management personnel for planning and tasking purposes.

  • The TFL and appropriate specialists will then analyze the information and begin to:

  • Develop an action plan for strategy and tactics;

  • Prioritize the work sites;

  • Assign resources (Reconnaissance Teams);

  • Commence rescue operations, if appropriate; and

  • Make a final determination on the location of the TF BoO.

  • At the conclusion of the rapid structure triage, TF Reconnaissance Teams should be deployed to evaluate each building deemed viable (as a result of the rapid triage) for continued search and/or rescue operations.

  • Structure and search marking should be performed during this phase and prior to the initiation of rescue operations.

Task Force Marking Systems

  • Information derived from a coordinated building triage and/or search and reconnaissance activities must be consolidated by the TF supervisory personnel.

  • This is used to identify operational priorities and also must be forwarded to the local ICP (or other officials in charge) to assist with their overall assessment of the event.

  • Information gathered by TF personnel must be represented in a standardized fashion to ensure uniformity and clarity. The TF Marking System is identified and divided into two sections:

  • The marking procedures are designed to identify specific information pertinent to each affected building.

  • Each component can be completed independent of the other, although normally the Structure and Hazards Evaluation would be completed first.

  • It is expected that the TF Structures and HAZMAT Specialists on the Reconnaissance Team would address the Structure and Hazards Evaluation marking while the balance of the team would address the Search Assessment marking.

Structure/Hazards Evaluation Marking

  • A 2' X 2' square box is outlined at any entrance accessible for entry into any compromised structure.

  • Aerosol cans of spray paint (International Orange color only) will be used for this marking system.
  • It is important that an effort is made to mark all normal entry points to a building under evaluation to ensure that TF personnel approaching the building can identify that it has been evaluated and discern its condition.

  • Specific markings will be clearly made inside the box to indicate the condition of the structure and any hazards at the time of the assessment.

  • Normally the square box marking would be made immediately adjacent to the entry point identified as safe. An arrow will be placed next to the box indicating the direction of the safe entrance if the Structure and Hazards Evaluation marking must be made somewhat remote from the safe entrance.

  • The TIME, DATE, and SPECIALIST Identification (ID), will also be noted outside the box at the upper right-hand side. This information will be made with pieces of carpenter's chalk or lumber crayon (as noted in the Structure Specialist's Equipment List).

  • All TF personnel must be aware of the possibility of, and look for other Structure and Hazards Evaluation markings made on the interior of the building.

  • As each subsequent assessment is performed throughout the course of the mission, a new TIME, DATE, and SPECIALIST ID entry will be made (with carpenter's chalk) below the previous entry, or a completely new marking box made if the original information is now incorrect.

The depiction of the various markings is as follows:

Structure is accessible and safe for search and rescue operations. Damage is minor with little danger of further collapse.

Structure is significantly damaged. Some areas are relatively safe, but other areas may need shoring, bracing, or removal of falling and collapse hazards. The structure may be completely pancaked.

Structure is not safe for search and rescue operations and may be subject to sudden additional collapse. Remote search operations may proceed at significant risk. If rescue operations are undertaken, safe haven areas and rapid evacuation routes should be created.

Arrow located next to a marking box indicates the direction to the safe entrance to the structure, should the marking box need to be made remote from the indicated entrance.

Indicates that a HAZMAT condition exists in or adjacent to the structure. Personnel may be in jeopardy. Consideration for operations should be made in conjunction with the Hazardous Materials Specialist. Type of hazard may also be noted.

  • The TIME, DATE, and TF ID, are noted outside the box at the upper right-hand side. This info is made with carpenter's chalk or lumber crayon. An optional method is to apply duct tape on the exterior of the structure and write the information with a grease pencil or black marker.

The example indicates that a safe point of entry exists above the marking (possibly a window, upper floor, etc.). The single slash means the structure may require some shoring and bracing. The assessment was made on July 15, 1991, at 1:10 PM. There is an apparent indication of natural gas in the structure. The evaluation was made by TF #1 out of the State of California.

  • All TF personnel must be aware of the possibility of, and look for other Structure and Hazards Evaluation markings made on the interior of the building.

  • As each subsequent assessment is performed throughout the course of the mission:

  • A new TIME, DATE, and TF ID entry will be made below the previous entry; and/or

  • A completely new marking box made if the original information is now incorrect.

  • Marking boxes are also placed in each of the specific areas within the structure (i.e., rooms, hallways, stairwells, etc.) to denote conditions in separate parts of the building.

Search Assessment Marking

  • A separate and distinct marking system is necessary to conspicuously denote information relating the victim location determinations in the areas searched.

  • The Search Assessment marking system is designed to be used in conjunction with the Structure and Hazards Evaluation marking system.

  • An "X" that is 2' X 2' in size will be made with International Orange color spray paint. This X will be constructed in two operations:

1400 hr


Single slash drawn upon entry to a structure or area indicates search operations are currently in progress. The time and TF identifier are posted as indicated.

Crossing slash drawn upon personnel exit from the structure or area.

  • Distinct markings will be made inside the four quadrants of the X to clearly denote the search status and findings at the time of this assessment.

  • The marks will be made with carpenter chalk, lumber crayon, or duct tape and black magic marker.

LEFT QUADRANT - US&R TF identifier

TOP QUADRANT - Time and date that the TF personnel left the structure.

RIGHT QUADRANT - Personal hazards.

BOTTOM QUADRANT - Number of live and dead victims still inside the structure. ["0" = no victims]

  • It is important that markings are made specific to each area of entry or separate part of the building.

  • If no victims are found, it is noted with a "0" below.

  • Situation updates are noted as they are available:

  • Previous search markings are crossed out; and

  • New markings are placed below (or next to) their previous markings with the most recent information.

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