Thoughts About A Structure Fire Emergency Evacuation

Whether you want to or not at some point in your career you will be ordered out of a dangerous building. If you are an officer you may be the one giving that order. We give out recruits some basic training about this tiopic but should we be saying just a little bit more?

Each agency and jurisdiction has it’s own procedure for how the evacuation is initiated. Often it is an order over the radio followed by a sequence of blasts from airhorns or sirens on apparatus. The notification is important but what happens after that really matters.

After the notification to withdraw has been made the first action is that all companies shall acknowledge receipt of the message. “Engine 2, second floor, received, leaving the building”. (Some of you might be familiar that in The Hackensack Ford Fire, the order to evacuate was given, but never acknowledged.)

What do you tell your people to do? Take the lines? Take your tools? Does everyone leave at exactly the same time? here are my brief thoughts.

I am never a fan of leaving tools. You carried them because you need them, and you may need them when evacuating.

We have all ben taught to follow a hose line out in difficult situations. My initial thought is that you may leave hosel ines in place because it might take too much time to back them out. There could be a delay that is unacceptable. However, if the evacuation is called because of extending fire, there may be a time when you need to take the hose line with you to fight your way out.

Emergency evacuations should be responded to in haste and with purpose but not panic or confusion. There should be some thought given and an awareness of where companies are operating.

If you are a crew on the first floor you may be able to get out quickly and could be the first crew out. My suggestion is get to a doorway, but insure the safety of the crews that might be exiting from upper floors if they are using stairs and not ladders. Do not delay but if you have a hose line you may need it to protect those stairs and get that crew down.

I am not suggesting delay in any way here but I am saying at this most critical time, critical thinking might be in order.

Have this discussion with your crew at the kitchen table or on training night. The time to train and discuss this is now, not when the air horns are sounding.