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Control measure

Primary search: All searches

Control measure knowledge

Prioritisation may be given to searching high-risk areas first, to eliminate them from the search efforts and to avoid an increased level of search resources in the latter stages of an incident. This may also be beneficial if weather conditions could worsen or visibility will reduce.

Searching large or complex areas may mean personnel are separated by large distances or physical barriers. Effective communication and clear lines of reporting are important to ensure safe working. A safe system of work suitable for each area of search should be confirmed and regularly updated; this information should be communicated and confirmed by all search teams and updated in written plans or risk assessments.

Incidents that require search activity can be dynamic, with a need to react to information as it is presented. Credible information may change a search plan and the actions of the fire and rescue service. Information may be received from the initial caller, witnesses, or relayed by the fire control room or other agencies.

The impact of planned or unplanned evacuation on searching should be considered. Appropriate resources and co-ordination should be considered to ensure searching is effective at incidents where simultaneous evacuation could take place.

If fire and rescue services have identified that there is potential for their involvement in co-ordinating a search or being involved in a co-ordinated search, consideration should be given to providing appropriate:

  • Search equipment
  • Communication methods for information and data sharing with other emergency responder agencies

Gather information from people leaving the incident

It is important to gather information from, and assess the condition of, people leaving the incident; there may need to be a cordon established around the location or building to support this.

The information gathered should include:

  • Their name
  • A description of them, including what they are wearing
  • The location they have left
  • The conditions in their original location and the egress route taken
  • Whether they are aware of any people who cannot or will not evacuate, and their location
  • Whether they have spoken to any emergency services control room

This information should be passed to whoever is co-ordinating the search to ensure resources are not used to search for people who have been found and to inform the ongoing search for people who are missing.

In addition to gathering information from people leaving the incident, an initial assessment of them should be carried out, including:

  • Physiological condition
  • Psychological condition
  • Requirements for medical attention or shelter

This assessment may be carried out by any of the emergency responder agencies, with the information recorded and shared appropriately in the best interests for the welfare of the individual.

Multi-agency search response planning

As many searches involve a multi-agency response, the JESIP Joint Doctrine should be applied. As with all multi-agency activity, joint training and exercises help to establish roles and responsibilities for searches at incidents. Establishing memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with relevant agencies for search capabilities should be considered.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Consider providing communication equipment suitable for wide-area searches

  • Consider providing communication methods for information and data sharing with other emergency responder agencies

  • Consider establishing memoranda of understanding with other agencies for search assistance

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Liaise with other agencies to prioritise  search areas

  • Consider the impacts of evacuation on search efforts, and put in place appropriate controls

  • Gather information from people leaving the incident to update search co-ordination

  • Assess the condition of people leaving the incident and consider their medical and welfare needs