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BA guidelines

The term ‘guideline’ refers to a special line that is used either as a main guideline, to carry out an initial search and indicate a route between an BA entry control point and the scene of operations, or as a branch guideline, used where is it necessary to traverse or search more than six metres off a main guideline. The same methods and guidance apply to both types of line.

BA guideline containers should be securely fitted to the set of the BA team leader, in a way that allows them to be detached easily in an emergency. When extended penetration into a large or complex structure is required, the team should carry an additional BA guideline.

A BA guideline must be stowed so that the running end pays out first.

A main guideline leading from a BA entry control point should be designated ‘A’ or ‘B’ using the tallies provided for this purpose. Any main guideline tally must be attached securely to the line before the BA team enters the risk area.

Unless the BA guideline is to be used to extend a main guideline or form a branch guideline, it should be secured to an immovable object outside the risk area in safe air, before the BA team enters the risk area.

No more than one guideline may be laid along a search side (i.e. two BA guidelines cannot be laid along the same wall). However, two lines may be laid near to the point of entry to a structure, either side of a route, before they split into defined left/right search patterns.

Guidelines should not cross over each other inside a structure or share tie-off points. Should two guidelines converge, one should be terminated and secured to a tie-off point a minimum of two metres from where the lines would have met.

When the guideline is being extended, the BA team leader must inform the BA entry control operative, who will then inform the sector, operations or incident commander. This will ensure a suitable and sufficient record is maintained.

Securing a BA guideline

The BA guideline must be secured at intervals to suitable objects along the route by members of the BA team (not the team leader). The guideline should be kept as taut as possible using as few tie-off points as necessary. The line should be kept off the floor, preferably between shoulder and waist height, and secured to the side of the search area.


Where no other means of securing the line are available, the following methods may be considered:

Using the doorjamb:

  1. A half-metre loop is created in the line using an overhand knot, then a second knot is tied in the loop
  2. The loop is slid between the door and the jamb with a knot on both sides of the hinge
  3. The door can now be closed and the line held above the hinge

Using a high tie-off point:

  1. A loop is created by tying an overhand knot in the line
  2. The loop is tied off around the high object using a round turn and two half-hitches
  3. The length of the loop will vary with the height involved.

Negotiating a vertical ladder

When a guideline route involves a vertical ladder, a tie-off point must be created at the bottom and the top of the ladder. BA teams should take into account the position of these points when tying off to avoid hindering subsequent BA wearers using the ladder.

Encountering doorways and openings

When laying a guideline, teams should not pass closed doors without first investigating around the doorway. The door sweep procedure may be adopted following an appropriate dynamic risk assessment and in conjunction with normal fire fighting and /or fire-gas suppression techniques for protecting BA teams. The firefighting BA teams supporting the guideline-laying team should undertake these checks and techniques.

As well as establishing landmark features for the BA team and checking for casualties behind doorways, these techniques will:

  • Contribute to maintaining safe access and egress for that team and subsequent BA teams
  • Assist in identifying and dealing with any fire compartments.

Encountering small rooms/compartments

Tying off the guideline unnecessarily consumes a significant amount of time. When searching rooms that are known or discovered to be small, the guideline should therefore be gathered up and taken out of the room. The advantage here is that:

  • The guideline can be used more effectively for extending further into the incident
  • Time will be saved when exiting as only the most direct route will be marked
  • If exiting carrying casualties, there will be fewer tie-off points and doorways to negotiate

Extending a guideline

A BA guideline can be extended by clipping the snap-hook of another line onto the looped end, then unclipping it from the container.

Withdrawing from the risk area

If a BA team laying a guideline needs to withdraw before they reach their target, the BA team leader should first ensure that they are clipped to a secured section (between the last two tie-off points) of the guideline by their personal line before releasing the guideline container. The BA team can then retrace their steps from the risk area by following the guideline. This procedure should also be adopted for emergency withdrawals.

If possible, the guideline container should be secured to a tie-off point before withdrawal. BA teams can either create a new tie-off point or retrace their steps to the last tie-off point, gathering the slack line. Their decision will be based on the distance they have travelled from the last tie-off point and the length of line to be gathered. Any gathered slack line should be attached to the container with a half-hitch, and the container should be secured to the nearest tie-off point so subsequent teams can find it. Where it is not possible to secure the guideline container to a tie-off point before withdrawal, the withdrawing BA team should inform the BA entry control operative.

BA teams meeting on a guideline

BA teams leaving the incident area always take precedence over incoming teams because the exiting team leader will have calculated turn-around pressure to ensure exit before activation of the team’s low pressure warning devices or whistles.

To pass on a BA guideline, incoming teams should kneel as close to the guideline as possible, with the team leader holding their personal line karabiners.  If individual team members are clipped to the line, their karabiners will need to be pushed together. The outgoing team leader can then negotiate the incoming team’s karabiners as they would a tie-off point.

Purpose of a personal line

A personal line is a special line, a maximum of six metres in length, secured to the breathing apparatus set of the wearer. The personal line allows all members of a BA team to either attach themselves individually to a guideline or for team members to attach to each other with the standard 1.25m length of line. A BA team member may attach their personal line to a BA guideline (main or branch) to so they can search up to 1.25 metres off it or up to the extended limit of six metres.

Branch guidelines

Branch guidelines are used where the distance of the search area from the main guideline is greater than the length of one personal line.

Branch guidelines are designated numerically, ‘1’, ’2’, ’3’ or ‘4’, by the BA entry control operative, with the number of holes in the tally representing the branch guideline number. It is essential that once deployed, all references to branch guidelines are related to their tally number, not to their numerical position in relation to the BA entry control point.

One method of attaching the tally is to tie an overhand knot on the bight, approximately one metre from the snap-hook, and attach the branch guideline tally to the loop created by the knot. This should be done before the BA team enters the risk area.

Attaching and laying a branch guideline

A branch guideline must be securely attached to the main guideline, away from any tie-off points.

The branch guideline should be tied off as soon as possible after attaching it to the main guideline. This prevents the main guideline being deflected down the route of the branch guideline.

To avoid potential confusion, branch guidelines are not normally extended. However, an extension may be required in certain circumstances following a risk assessment. The BA team leader should seek permission from the incident commander to extend a branch guideline where this is necessary.

When leaving a main guideline and joining a branch guideline, the BA team leader should inform the BA entry control point to record that this transition has occurred.

When rejoining a main guideline from a branch guideline, the BA team leader should check the first set of tabs encountered to make sure they are travelling in the correct direction and then, for recording purposes, inform the BA entry control point that this transition has occurred.

At all times, the BA team leader must maintain close communication with the BA entry control point.

Traversing a guideline

Method 1: BA team leader attached to guideline only

When laying a BA guideline, it is good practice wherever possible for all BA team members (apart from the team leader, who will be attached to the guideline) to attach to the wearer in front by their 1.25 metre personal lines.

However, this technique may not apply in certain circumstances, such as when negotiating shafts or vertical ladders, etc. Under these circumstances, it is permissible for each member of the team to clip individually to the guideline to traverse the hazard and to resume the original technique once the hazard has been negotiated.

Method 2: Each member of BA team attached to guideline

With this method, each member of the BA team is attached to the BA guideline and remains within physical contact distance of their BA team colleagues, unless traversing a specific hazard such as a vertical ladder.

Searching off guidelines

When searching off a BA guideline, the BA team leader will attach their personal line to the guideline and all other members of the team will attach themselves to the team member immediately in front of them, using their 1.25 metre personal lines. Only the BA team leader should extend their personal line to six metres; all other team members should remain between the team leader and the guideline.