Skip to main content

Let's Talk Fire: Marking A Room During Search And Rescue Operations


 The search and rescue operation can be regarded as the most important of all fire ground duties. It emphasises rule number 1, to protect and save lives. It needs to be performed with confidence and perfection. A good deal of firefighters are to quick to attempt this task without ever really understanding how to do it. They forget to bring a tool, or some even barge in without a charged hoseline. These are fatal mistakes that can and usually will hinder an operation. One of the most overlooked aspects of search and rescue is that of marking a room. This is vital in the event a firefighter becomes disoriented and needs RIT assisstence.

A firefighter initiates phase one of marking a door.

A firefighter initiates phase one of marking a door.

Marking a room, in basis terms

 In the simplest sense of the term, marking the room means exactly what it says. You mark the door of a room to signify which part of the search is going on. When you enter the room place a line like this / on the door. You than complete the search of that room following protocol and technique until you exit the room. When you exit you want to complete the mark by adding a line like this across the first line. \. For those playing the home game that means you have just marked the door with an X.

That X tells any other firefighters that the room behind the door has been searched and is clear of all victims. This X can make a big difference in the event a firefighter is in need of help from RIT. Those Xes tell other firefighters that the room behind the door is not one that needs to be approached first when looking for firefighters that have radioed in distress calls. Remember after the search to always mark the door and close it.

Neon Duct tape is availlable in numerous bright colors.

Neon Duct tape is availlable in numerous bright colors.

Methods of marking.

Several methods work well for this process. Some fire fighters use duct tape. Duct tape is durable and will stay attached to the door. It is also somewhat visible in smokey conditions. I find duct tape a bit time consuming for the job and in some cases it is not visible enough to keep the following firefighters from assuming the room is unsearched. In a fire time is important so I choose not to use duct tape. That does not mean it is not effective.

If you are going to utilize duct tape use neon colors. This makes it very visable and noticeable which will increase the efficiency of the fire operations. Duct tape is very durable and easy to come by but actually using duct tape while wearing gloves can be a bit much to deal with.

Chalk or Markers

 Another approach to marking doors is to use chalk or markers. This method seems logical but the line will have to be very thick and visible. The problem that arises here is that color in the door could affect how well the chalk or marker stands out. This presents a major issue.

Scroll to Continue

One would have to know the colors of the doors in the home to make the right selection on chalk or markers. One solution to remedy this is to use neon colord chalk that is often used to line playground ball courts. This chalk is vivid in color and will be very visible. It is also a thicker type chalk so the line will be big enough to make visual contact and keep a firefighter from searching a room that is already searched.

A Plastic door marker used to aid in search and rescue.

A Plastic door marker used to aid in search and rescue.

The best approach.

The best approach to this task is to use pre-made tags that are placed over the doorknob. When you enter you loop the tag around the knob. After you exit the room you fold up the bottom of the tag and place it over the knob. A full tag means the search is in progress while a closed tag means it is complete.

These tags come in a variety of colors and can actually be personalized to show which particular firefighter is doing the task of search and rescue. These tags cut time down and make the job a bit easier. The sad part is they do cost a little bit of money so some departments avoid them. I suggest if you are the fellow or lady who performs search and rescue than you should seriously think of buying these for yourself.


Nelda on January 07, 2015:

I had no idea how to approach this beerfo-now I'm locked and loaded.

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on July 12, 2012:

Marking protocols may differ from one place to another. However, the basic X is essential the same in different areas. Additional information usually included in the markings are time of search and number of victims.

Related Articles