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Structural Collapse Rescue Operations. Awareness Level. NFPA 1670 – Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents. 6.2 Awareness Level

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NFPA 1670 – Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents

6.2 Awareness Level

6.2.2 Organizations operating at the awareness level for structural collapse incidents shall implement procedures for the following:

(1) Recognizing the need for structural collapse search and rescue

(2) Identifying the resources necessary to conduct structural collapse search and rescue operations

(3) Initiating the emergency response system for structural collapse incidents

(4) Initiating site control and scene management

(5) Recognizing the general hazards associated with structural collapse incidents, including the recognition of applicable construction types and categories and the expected behaviors of components and materials in a structural collapse

(6) Identifying the five types of collapse patterns and potential victim locations

(7) Recognizing the potential for secondary collapse

(8) Conducting visual and verbal searches at structural collapse incidents, while using approved methods for the specific type of collapse

(9) Recognizing and implementing a search and rescue/search assessment marking system, building marking system (structure/hazard evaluation), victim location marking system, and structure marking system (structure identification within a geographic area), such as the ones used by the FEMA USAR

(10) Removing readily accessible victims from structural collapse incidents

(11) Identifying and establishing a collapse safety zone

(12) Conducting reconnaissance (recon) of the structure(s) and surrounding area.


NFPA 1670 – Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents

6.2 Structural Collapse Search and Rescue – Awareness Level

6.2.1 – Organizations operating at the awareness level for structural collapse incidents shall meet the requirements specified in section 7.2 (awareness level for confined space search and rescue)

7.2.3 Organizations at the awareness level shall be responsible for performing certain nonentry rescue (retrieval) operations

7.2.4 Organizations operating at the awareness level for confined space search and rescue incidents shall implement procedures for the following:

(1) Recognizing the need for confined space search and rescue

(2) Initiating contact and establishing communications with victims where possible

(3) Recognizing and identifying the hazards associated with nonentry confined space emergencies

(4) Recognizing confined spaces

(5) Performing a nonentry retrieval

(6) Implementing the emergency response system for confined space emergencies

(7) Implementing site control and scene management


WAC 296-305

  • 296-305-05113 Technical Rescue Operational Specialties
  • (5) Trench Rescue
  • (a) Organizations choosing to operate a the awareness, operations or technician level for trench and excavation rescue incidents must meet the requirements of this section and nonconflicting portions of chapter 11 of the 2009 edition of NFPA 1670, Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Rescue Incidents.
  • (b) Employees that directly engage in trench rescue operations shall be under the direct supervision of person(s) with adequate training in trench and excavation hazard recognition, equipment use and operational techniques.
  • (c) Each employee in an excavation shall be protected from cave-ins by an adequate protective system except when:
  • (i) Excavations are made entirely in stable rock; or
  • (ii) Excavations are less than four feet (1.22 meters) in depth and examination of the ground by a competent person provides no indication of a potential cave-in.


  • Awareness LevelActions taken by the responders at the Awareness Level are defensive in nature and should pose no risk, or a low level of risk to the responder. This level represents the minimum capability of organizations that provide response to technical rescue incidents.
  • Operational LevelActions taken at the Operational Level are of limited offensive nature and generally at a low or moderate risk to the responder. This level represents the capability of organizations to respond to technical rescue incidents and to identify hazards, use equipment, and apply limited techniques to support and participate in technical rescue incidents.
  • Technical LevelActions taken by the responders are offensive in nature and may pose a high level of risk. This level represents the capability of organizations to respond to technical rescue incidents, to identify hazards, use equipment, and apply advanced techniques specified to coordinate, perform, and supervise technical rescue incidents.
what is it
What is it?

Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) is a term applied to rescue and recovery operations at the scene of a large and complex structural collapse. This may include multiple structures.

USAR knowledge and skills can be applied to the scene of a “less complex” structural collapse. This usually involves only one structure and can be handle by our resources.

how can we apply our usar knowledge and skills
How can we apply our USAR knowledge and Skills?
  • At the “high frequency” events:
    • Structure fires.
    • Vehicles into structures.
    • Entrapments & Industrial accidents.
    • When completing pre-fire plans and during a tactical walk-through.
  • At the “low frequency” events:
    • Structural collapses
    • RIT operations
    • Disasters
    • Terrorism & WMD

Survival Times

Survival vs Time for Extrication

building construction
Building Construction
  • Awareness Level = Knowledge of:
      • Collapse characteristics.
      • Warning signs of secondary collapse.
  • Recognize how type of construction relates to resources needed for rescue operation.
building construction1
Building Construction

Light Frame Building Collapse

  • Usually residential homes and apartments
  • Highly susceptible to fires
  • Complete Collapses occur frequently

Look for badly cracked walls, leaning walls, offset of structure from foundation, or leaning first story.

building construction2
Building Construction

Heavy Wall (URM) Building Collapse

  • Usually one to six stories high, residential, commercial, industrial, or institutional
  • Principle weakness in lateral strength
  • Partial collapse is most common

Look for loose/broken parapet walls, connections between walls and floor, unsupported and partially collapsed floors

building construction3
Building Construction

Heavy Floor Building Collapse

  • Residential, commercial, industrial
  • Concrete frames up to 12 stories
  • Includes concrete highway bridges
  • Weakness is poor column reinforcement, and connection between floor and column
  • May fail partially or completely, and potential laterally
building construction4
Building Construction

Heavy Wall/Tilt-Up/Reinforced Masonry Building Collapse

  • Usually one to five stories
  • Industrial/Commercial
  • Weakness is between walls and floors or roofs. Walls fall away from floor/roof.

Look for connection of walls and roofs/floors, and connection between beams and columns


Structural Collapse

Size - Up

6 Sided Approach

Four Sides



structural collapse rescue size up
Structural Collapse Rescue Size-up
  • Treat Walking Wounded, DO NOT allow them to re-enter the building
  • Check immediate area for victims trapped by surface debris
  • Interview occupants for last know location of victims
  • DO NOT park in the Secondary Collapse Zone!!

What is considered a safe distance from the structure?


Stages of Collapse Rescue Operations

Stage I Size Up and Recon

  • Depending on the event can last a few minutes to several hours
      • Find out how big the problem really is
  • Organized Survey of the damaged area
  • What resources are available
  • What can we do about the problem

Stages of Collapse Rescue Operations

Stage I Size Up and Recon

Prioritize the Problems

The first priority is YOUR safety

The second priority is the safety of your crew

The third priority is other people

The fourth priority is property conservation


Stages of Collapse Rescue Operations

Stage I Size Up and Recon

Establish Incident Command

  • Designate a command post.
    • Ensure that the CP is located outside of the secondary collapse zone
  • Remain available by staying in the command post

Stages of Collapse Rescue Operations

Stage I Size Up and Recon

Rescue and Remove Surface Victims

  • 50% of all survivors are surface victims – injured but not trapped – Deal with them first
  • Remove them from the hazards
  • Keep people from entering structures, allow structures time to settle
  • Organize spontaneous rescue teams and direct them where they will do the most good

Stages of Collapse Rescue Operations

Stage II

  • Begins when rescue teams arrive and ICS has been established
  • Use the information gathered to search the likely survival places
  • Use location methods, searching outside by voice, listening devices, dogs, TICS, and fiber optics

Stages of Collapse Rescue Operations

Stage II

  • Search the voids as a last resort
  • Enter those voids that have the highest likelihood of survivors
  • Shore as you go
  • Monitor for hazards
  • 30% of all survivors in Structural Collapse are involved in non-structural entrapment


  • Fire Suppression
  • Additional Collapse Potential
  • Structure Type and Condition
  • Trapped Victim Rescue
  • Void Types & Location
  • Occupancy Type & Hazards
  • Immediate Utility Shutdown
  • Day or Night
  • Situation – Cause of Collapse

Stages of Collapse

Rescue Operations

  • Stage III
  • Stage IV

Stages of Collapse Rescue Operations

Stage III

  • Begins after all surface victims are removed and cared for and those in voids can be removed without major debris removal
  • Selective debris removal using heavy equipment, trained rescue teams working with private contractors
  • Removal of entombed victims

Stages of Collapse Rescue Operations

Stage IV

  • Usually begins 5-6 days after the event
  • Probability of further survivors is minimal, and private contractors will usually finish clean up

Types of Search




locating survivors and victims
Locating Survivors and Victims

Hailing procedures.

Search and Listen!

Thermal Imaging

Search Camera

Confined Space Equipment

Search Dogs

search team tools and equipment
Search Team Tools and Equipment
  • Tools for
  • Search Team
  • Lineman’s Pliers.
  • Tin Snips
  • Utility Knife.
  • Marking Chalk and Lumber Crayons.
  • Spray Paint.
  • Flashlight and Chemical Light sticks.

Search Marking

Completed Search

Secondary Search


Entrance Marking









Structural Triage Marking






Work with Special Operations

(Technical Rescue &

Hazardous Materials)

Team Leaders.

Obtain Safety Briefings before working

  • Barricade Tape use
  • Collapse Zone
  • Monitor Structure
  • Know Warning signals
  • Know your Personal Limitations
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Rehydration & Rehab
  • CISD


Structural Instability

  • Weakened Floors, walls, roofs, beams and columns
  • Free standing walls
  • Spalling of Concrete structure, masonry
  • Shifting of debris from aftershocks, vibrations or secondary collapse
  • Attached buildings can be an exposure, or weakened by collapse


Overhead Hazards

  • Loosened debris and unstable building structures overhead
  • Low Hanging power lines
  • Building contents that are unstable and displaced
  • Failing slings or cables while lifting materials

Sharp Debris

  • Broken Glass
  • Jagged Metal
  • Nails
  • Wood Splinters
  • Rough Masonry

Slip, Trip, Fall

  • Fluids
  • Water, Ice, Snow
  • Sewage
  • Unsure Footing
  • Improper Footwear
  • Sink holes/ground depression by earth movement
  • Downed Power lines
  • Open Manhole covers

Below - Grade

  • Atmospheric changes due to ruptured fuel, gas lines or presence of hazardous chemicals
  • Floods
    • May have caused collapse
    • From ruptures water/sewage lines
    • From ground water
  • Elevation differences can cause difficult access and egress


  • Electrical
  • Fuel/Gas
  • Water
  • Steam
  • Sewage

Hazardous Materials

  • Commercial Establishments
  • Hazardous Household Chemicals
    • Ammonia
    • Bleach
    • Household Cleaners
    • Solvents
    • Etc.
  • Garage

Fire, Smoke, Explosion

  • Heavy Vibrations
  • Inhalation Hazards
  • Power Tools
  • Noise
  • Scene Control

Safety Considerations

Scene Approach

  • Be Aware of Secondary Explosive Devices
  • Be Aware of Collapse area and Secondary collapse area
  • Establish Safe Zones
  • Be Aware of probable Hazardous Materials
  • Utilities
  • Fire Danger

Establish safe areas and hazard zones

  • Monitor building movement
  • Before searching voids:
    • Survey
    • Stabilize
    • Search
  • Awareness for Stress Factors
    • Personnel
    • Scene
  • Rehab
  • Enforce Safety


Personal Protective Equipment

  • Full PPE including:
    • Eye Protection
    • Knee Pads
    • Radio
    • Lights
      • Hand Light
      • Helmet Light
      • Chemical Light


Respiratory Protection

  • Level will depend on atmospheric hazards
    • Cartridge Filter
    • SCBA
    • Supplied Air


Maintain voice contact with rescuers

Communicate needs to team leaders

ALL rescuers should have a portable radio

Have pre-determined hand signals

on site emergency signaling procedures
On-Site Emergency Signaling Procedures
  • Emergency Signaling is used to alert on scene response personnel of:
    • Structural Instability
    • Secondary Devices/Explosions
    • Possible victim location
    • Hazardous Material Leaks
    • Other hazards that require immediate action (withdrawal, abandonment and evacuation, etc.)
  • Radio Announcement & portable Air Horn or Bull Horn Alert Systems are most common. Vehicle mounted air horns can also be used, if they can be heard inside of collapsed structure and around work area.
  • Accountability Systems will be used (Passports, PAR, and Roll-Calls).
structural collapse ems concerns
Structural Collapse EMS Concerns
  • Majority of victims will have injuries from falling debris
  • Most visible surface victims will have minimal entrapment.
  • Victims may have vision and breathing difficulties from dust exposure and impaction.
  • Blast injuries may be present (hearing!).
  • Entrapped victims will need Technical Rescue (USAR) Teams.

1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake Cars crushed by collapsing brick facade near Fifth and Townsend Streets. At this locality, five people were killed while leaving from work. [C.E. Meyer, U.S. Geological Survey]

extended operations
Extended Operations

Night Ops

Rotating Shifts

Environmental Exposure

collapses and crime scene operations
Collapses and Crime Scene Operations

Coordination with Local Law Enforcement (PPD, FCSO, WSP), Federal agencies (ATF, FBI, etc), and Medical Examiner (Coroner).



technical rescue team
Technical Rescue Team
  • When at the scene of a Structural Collapse:
  • Notify FCCC and the Battalion Chief and request a “Technical Rescue Team”. Provide the radio frequency and cell phone number that you can be reached at.
  • -A Technical Rescue Team Leader will contact you and provide:
        • Assistance with initial actions
        • Safety considerations.
        • Technical Rescue Team Response.