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Lack of co-ordinated search plan (transport)

Hazard Knowledge

A search may be required for either a missing person or an absent person.

If a co-ordinated search plan is not carried out in a timely and structured way, the casualty may not be located and their condition could potentially deteriorate.

On arrival at incidents, the exact location of casualties or numbers involved may not be apparent, even after carrying out a scene assessment including an inner and outer survey (see below).

Surveying the scene

Once the incident commander has assessed the scene and determined the nature of any hazards present, they can decide to task others to carry out a more intensive survey of the scene. This can be achieved by initiating inner and outer surveys.

Performing a scene survey gives a full picture of the incident and can save valuable time by allowing the rescuers to develop an adequate plan of action.

Inner survey

An inner survey allows closer examination of the vehicles or crafts. One or two rescuers walk adjacent to the vehicles, checking the immediate area for casualties and any hazards. During this assessment a look around and under the vehicles can help identify:

  • That there are no further casualties underneath
  • Any weak areas of the vehicle due to accident damage that will require additional stabilisation
  • The presence of any fuel or oil from the accident
  • The presence of supplementary restraint systems (SRS)
  • Any other situation requiring attention, e.g. the position of catalytic converters

Outer survey

One or two rescuers walk completely around the vehicle. They look in towards the vehicle or craft and out to the perimeter of the scene, checking for casualties, obstructions, and any potential problems, while remaining a safe distance from the vehicle. All information gathered should be shared with personnel in attendance.

Incident commanders should consider any areas of vehicles that may have not been thoroughly checked because they lack obvious signs of any casualties.

With larger forms of transport - aircraft and trains that have crashed or derailed, for example - the interior will be unfamiliar. As a result of the damage, disorientation may lead to confusion for the search personnel.

For example, the interior of an aircraft may be unfamiliar to fire and rescue service personnel. It is therefore vital to personnel working inside the aircraft that firefighting, search and rescue operations are methodical. In these situations, fire and rescue services should use the knowledge and expertise of the rescue and firefighting service personnel (from an airport) if in attendance.

Fire and rescue service personnel should be aware of the benefits of a structured and co-ordinated approach to search operations. Six elements should be considered; they will help in performing a well-controlled rescue from various forms of transport. These elements are:

  • Scene assessment and safety
  • Stabilisation and initial access
  • Glass management
  • Space creation
  • Full access
  • Immobilisation and casualty extrication techniques

The involvement of other emergency services, such as specialist USAR teams, or appropriate resources and casualty care should be considered.