What Is Search And Rescue?
The search and rescue function is really two separate
Search. To look through (a place, an area, etc.)
carefully in order to find something missing or lost.
Rescue. To free or deliver from confinement.
The objectives of search and rescue are to:
Acknowledge that the most important person in a rescue
attempt is the rescuer.
Rescue the greatest number of people in the shortest amount
Rescue lightly trapped victims first.
As a volunteer worker, you will confine your efforts to light
search and rescue; that is, the relatively uncomplicated extrication of
victims from situations that pose minimal risk to the rescuer.
The Need For Planning
Experience has shown that immediately after almost every
major disaster, the first response to trapped and injured victims is by
spontaneous, untrained, and well-intentioned persons paying little or no regard
to personal safety. In some cases, further loss of life is avoided. More often
than not, however, spontaneous rescue efforts result in serious injuries and
To avoid the problems associated with spontaneous actions,
rescue efforts should be planned and practiced in advance. The decision to
attempt a rescue should be based on two factors:
The risks involved.
The overall goal of doing the greatest good for the greatest
number of people.
This chapter will initially focus on the planning issues
surrounding search and rescue operations, then address:
You will have the opportunity to practice some of the rescue
techniques in this unit during class. Your instructor may present additional
information that is not included in this Participant Handbook. Be sure to take
Search And Rescue Resources
As shown in the figure search and rescue operations require
Rescuers include trained personnel and
Tools depend on their availability and the needs
of the situation. For example, storm or earthquake damage may require tools for
lifting debris whereas flood damage may require boats, ropes, and life
may be very limited for some victims. The
first 24 hours after a disaster has been called the "Golden Day" that
period during which injured or trapped victims have an 80 percent chance of
survival if rescued.
In the aftermath of a disaster, each of these components may
be very limited. CERT search and rescue teams can make their efforts more
effective in the time available through:
Planning (developing rescue action plans based on probable
search and rescue situations), and practicing implementing those plans.
Realistic size-up of the situation.
Careful attention to rescuer safety.
The remainder of this chapter will focus on these factors.
Planning involves assessing probable needs, risks, and
resources before disaster strikes and developing an action plan that takes these
factors into account. Action plans should be implemented under simulated
disaster conditions to identify their strengths and weaknesses and ways to
improve their implementation.
Assessing Needs And Risks
Needs and risks are determined to some extent by the types of
occupancies in the local area. Type of occupancies in this case does not just
refer to houses. It also refers to any place where people might be during a
◦ Apartments, condominiums, and mobile homes.
◦ Industrial, commercial, or office space.
◦ Places of worship.
◦ Hospitals and nursing homes.
Dont be part of the problem
.Be part of the solution.
Part of search and rescue planning involves identifying the
different types of occupancies in the local area and asking:
What does this mean in terms of population density?
What does it mean for the kinds of rescue efforts that may be
What are the implications for rescuer safety?
Careful examination of the types of occupancies that may be
involved in a disaster will provide valuable information about the human and
physical resources that may be required and the amount of time that may be
available for search and rescue operations.
The very first step in search and rescue operations is to
identify local resources before a disaster even occurs. Search and rescue
resources may include personnel, equipment, and tools. CERT planners should use
the questions in the table below to guide their resource planning efforts.
■ Who lives and/or works in the area?
During which hours are these people most likely
What skills or hobbies do they have that might
useful in search and rescue operations?
What might be the most effective means of
What equipment is available locally that might be
useful for search and rescue?
Where is it located?
How can it be accessed?
On which structures (or types of structures)
be most effective?
What tools are available that might be useful for
lifting, moving, or cutting disaster debris?
Considering each of these questions will greatly facilitate
search and rescue operations under disaster conditions.
Search and Rescue Size-Up
What Is Search And Rescue Size-Up?
As described in earlier chapters, size-up is a continuous analysis of
facts that forms the basis for decision making and planning. Rescues must be
planned and carefully executed to ensure the success of the rescue and the
safety of the rescuer. Like size-up for other disaster operations, search and
rescue size-up continues throughout the disaster response. It includes seven
Step 1: Gather facts.
Step 2: Assess damage to the building.
Step 3: Identify your resources.
Step 4: Establish the rescue priorities.
Step 5: Develop a rescue plan.
Step 6: Conduct the rescue.
Step 7: Evaluate your progress.
Each of the size-up steps will provide information that may
be critical to search and rescue efforts.
Step 1: Gather Facts
Let the facts of the situation guide your search and rescue efforts.
Consider the types of structure and construction, location, and severity of
damage, as well as environmental conditions and hazards, the probable number of
victims, and their conditions. Because the search and rescue situation
continually changes, gather facts about the situation on a continual basis and
revise plans as needed. Some of the questions that CERT search and rescue
personnel must answer during fact-gathering are included in the table below. The
answers to these questions will enable you to complete size-up
Time of Day/Week
■ How does the time of day/week affect numbers
possibly trapped in the area?
Where are the victims likely to be (e.g., home,
in bed, on the road)?
How much daylight is available for search and
efforts or, if none:
◦ How long will it
be until sunrise?
◦ Is artificial
lighting available and practical?
Where are potential victims likely to be in the
How many potential victims are likely?
What types of construction have been affected?
What are the implications for search and rescue?
Is the age of construction significant?
What is the current and forecast weather?
How will the weather affect rescue efforts?
How will it affect victims?
How will it affect rescuers?
What and where are the general hazards in the area
(e.g., utilities, natural hazards, hazardous materials)?
What steps are necessary to mitigate these hazards?
How long will mitigation efforts take?
What effect might the delay have on the victims?
Step 2: Assess Damage to
There are no hard and fast rules for assessing damage.
However, the damage categories in the table below will serve as a reference
point for defining your primary search and rescue mission. In Chapter VI, you
will learn more about formulating rescue strategies based on structural damage
If Structural Damage Is . . .
Then The CERT Mission Is . . .
Superficial or cosmetic damage, broken
windows, fallen plaster; primary damage to contents of structure . . .
To locate, triage, and prioritize removal of victims to
designated treatment areas by the medical operation teams.
Questionable structural stability;
fractures, tilting, foundation movement or displacement . . .
To locate, stabilize, and immediately evacuate victims
to a safe area while minimizing the number of rescuers inside the
Obvious structural instability; partial or
total wall collapse, ceiling failures . . .
To secure the building perimeter and control access
into the structure by untrained but well-intentioned volunteers.
After or in conjunction with the damage assessment, CERT
search and rescue personnel must consider probable amounts of damage and rescue
requirements based on the type and age of construction.
Assess the damage from all sides by "taking a lap"
around the building.
Experienced search and rescue personnel can anticipate
probable amounts of damage following a disaster event based on the severity of
the event and the types of structures involved. The table below presents
examples of the types and degree of damage likely to be found in various types
of structures after an earthquake.
● Wood Frame
● Masonry chimney
s Unique hazards
s Ground failure
● Up-and-down and/or side-
by-side living units
● Soft first floor
● Pre-1933 construction
● Lime or sand mortar
● "King Row" or "Slider Row
(bricks turned on edge
every 5-7 Rows)
● Reinforcing plates
windows and doors
● Walls collapse, then roof
● Steel reinforced
● Broken glass
● Content movement
● Exterior trim/fascia
Step 3: Identify Your
In this step, the rescue team identifies all of the
resources, such as personnel, equipment, and tools, that are available to assist
in rescuing victims.
Step 4: Establish the
Once resources have been identified, the rescuers must
determine what the priorities are for the situation at hand. For example, in a
certain building there may be water rising, with victims trapped inside. In that
case, the priority becomes getting out those victims who can be easily reached
and removed without putting any rescuers at risk.
Step 5: Develop a Rescue
Next, the rescuers decide specifically how they are going to
complete the tasks that they have determined are the highest priorities. In the
example just cited, the plan might be, "Joe, you and Bill do a quick search
of the first floor. John and Sue, gather up all the loose 2 x 4 lumber you can
find and break it into lengths of 3 feet and 6 feet. Sally, you will keep in
voice contact with Joe and Bill when they go inside. Any questions? Great, lets
Step 6: Conduct the Rescue
Once the plan has been developed, the rescue team puts it
into action and begins the rescue.
Step 7: Evaluate your
This is the most important step from a safety standpoint. The
rescuers must continually monitor the situation to prevent any harm to the
rescuers. Also, they determine if their plan is working, and if not, how it can
be changed to make it work.
In assessing your own situation and making decisions about
search and rescue strategies, rescuer safety must be the primary concern. The
two most frequent causes of rescuer deaths are disorientation and secondary
collapse. The following are guidelines for safe search and rescue.
Buddy System. Always work in pairs, with a third
person acting as a runner.
Hazards. Be alert for hazards, such as sharp objects,
dust, hazardous materials, power lines, leaking natural gas, high water, fire
hazards, and unstable structures. If water is present, check the depth before
entering. Never enter rising water.
Safety Equipment. Wear safety equipment and clothing
appropriate to the task. In search and rescue operations, the equipment will
◦ Helmet or hard hat.
◦ Dust mask.
◦ Whistle (e.g., Clog rescue whistle) for signaling other
◦ Leather work gloves.
◦ Clothing appropriate for the weather (e.g., protection from
cold or rain).
◦ Sturdy shoes (preferably steel-toed).
Rotate Teams. Have back-up teams available. Monitor
the length of exposure of active teams.
Be alert to signs of fatigue. Establish
regular search and rescue shifts or rotate personnel (as a team) as needed. Have
teams drink fluids and eat to maintain themselves.
Evacuation is the organized withdrawal from an area for
purposes of protecting the safety of the areas inhabitants. In the event that
evacuation becomes necessary, use the following steps as guidelines to ensure
safety and organization.
1. Determine the need
Determine whether there is a need for total or partial
2. Identify a relocation area
Select an area that is free of hazards and easily
Communicate to everyone involved the need to evacuate
and the locations of shelters.
4. Pre-designate routes
Designate routes from the area to be evacuated to the
area of relocation. Consider alternatives.
5. Report the evacuation
Be sure to inform emergency management personnel about
the evacuation to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort and risk.
The #1 rescuer problem while working in a structural collapse
is from breathing dust.
Always wear a dust mask/safety equipment.
Conducting Search Operations
Once the decision is made to initiate search operations
within a specific structure or area, CERT members must systematically inspect
the area for victims, as assigned by the CERT Area Team Leader. This involves
Locating potential victims.
Employing search techniques appropriate to the operation.
By following these processes, search operations will be more
efficient, thorough, and safe and will facilitate later rescue operations.
Locating Potential Victims
The first step in locating potential victims is to gather any
additional information required for the specific structure or area. This
requires searchers to conduct a "mini-size-up" to gain more precise
damage information and develop priorities and plans. Detailed information about
a structure, together with information about the type of construction, will
provide information about areas of entrapment. Inspecting a structure by taking
a lap around it will also provide useful information.
Areas Of Entrapment
Locating victims in and around a damaged structure generally
means finding the areas of entrapment or voids in which they are
concealed. There are several types of voids to look for.
Pancake Voids. Pancake voids (most common in
pre-1933 buildings) are small voids throughout a structure that are created by
weakening or destruction of load-bearing walls and the resulting collapse of
floors onto each other. Pancake voids are the most difficult and time-consuming
examples of Voids
Individual voids are spaces into which the victim may have crawled for
protection. For example, victims might be found under desks or in bathtubs.
After identifying the possible areas of entrapment, the next
step is to determine the potential number of victims and identify the most
probable areas of entrapment. Some of this information may be known through
preplanning, but some may need to be obtained by other means, such as by talking
with bystanders. When talking with bystanders, get as much information as
possible. (For example, how many people live/work here? Where would they be at
this time? What do you know about the building layout? What have you seen or
heard? Has anyone come out?) Realize that bystanders may be traumatized by the
event, however, and may tend to exaggerate potential numbers or may not remember
events or even building floor plans accurately.
Finally, determine the normal exit routes from the building.
Some victims may have become trapped while trying to escape.
After gathering the additional information, CERT members will
be able to plan search priorities and implement the search.
Search MethodologyAn effective search methodology:
Is systematic and thorough.
Avoids unnecessary duplication of effort.
Provides for documentation of search results.
Experienced search and rescue personnel have found the search
procedures listed below to be effective.
1. Call Out. Begin the search by shouting
something like, "If anyone can hear my voice, come here." If any
victims respond, give them further directions such as "Stay here" or
"Wait outside" (depending on the condition of the building). Be sure
to ask victims for any information they may have about building damage or about
others trapped in the building.
2. Be Systematic. Use a systematic
search pattern to ensure that all areas of the building are covered. For
Bottom-Up/Top-Down. Searching from the bottom
of the building up and/or from the top down is well suited to multi-story
Right Wall/Left Wall. Moving systematically
from one side to the other is well suited to single-floor structures and avoids
repetition. The wall is the rescuers lifeline. (See Figure V-5 on the
following page.) If you or your partner become disoriented, reverse your steps,
staying close to the wall until you get back to the doorway. Throughout your
search, maintain voice contact with your partner so you do not get separated.
3. Listen Carefully. Stop frequently and just
listen for tapping sounds, movement, or voices.
4. Triangulate. Triangulation enables rescuers
to view a single location from several perspectives. Three rescuers, guided by
victim sounds, form a triangle around a designated area and direct flashlights
into the area. The light shining from different directions will eliminate
shadows that could otherwise hide victims. Triangulation is illustrated in
Figure V-6 on the next page.
5. Use The Buddy System. Working together, two
rescuers can search a structure more effectively and provide an additional
measure of safety to each other. Buddies should also use a web belt to connect
one another, especially in dark or smoke-filled areas.
6. Mark Searched Areas. Marking searched areas
prevents duplication of efforts and identifies where rescuers are and have been.
Make a single diagonal slash on or next to the door just before entering. Make
an opposite slash (creating an "X") when all occupants have been
removed and the search of that area is finished (as shown on the left side of
Figure V-7 below). As shown on the right side of Figure V-7, the four quadrants
of the "X" can be used to indicate the initials of the searcher (left
quadrant), the time/date of the search (top quadrant), personal hazards (right
quadrant), and number of victims still inside (bottom quadrant). Use a zero if
no victims are found. Put a box around the "X" if it is not safe to
conduct search and rescue efforts in the room or building
7. Document Results. Keep complete records both
of removed victims and of victims who remain trapped or dead, then report this
information to emergency agencies when they reach your CERT (as described in
Conducting Rescue Operations
Rescues involve three primary functions:
- Creating a safe rescue environment.
Creating a safe rescue environment may involve lifting objects out of
the way, using tools to move objects, shoring up walls, and removing debris.
- Triaging or stabilizing victims.
- Victim removal. Search
and rescue teams will remove victims immediately from moderately damaged
buildings to a safe zone. Medical teams will remove victims from lightly
damaged buildings, after head-to-toe assessment and treatment.
This section will focus on creating a safe environment and
◦ Creating A Safe Rescue Environment
◦ The goals of victim rescue operations are to:
◦ Maintain rescuer safety.
◦ Triage in lightly damaged buildings.
◦ Stabilize (airway, bleeding, and shock) and evacuate as
quickly as possible from
moderately damaged buildings, while minimizing
None of these goals can be achieved without first creating as
safe an environment as possible prior to beginning extrication. There are,
therefore, certain precautions that CERT rescuers must take to minimize the risk
involved in rescue efforts.
Know Your Limitations
Many well-intentioned volunteers have been injured or killed
during rescue operations simply because they did not pay attention to their own
physical and mental limitations. As a CERT rescuer, you must know your limits
and monitor your condition. Take time to eat, drink fluids, rest, and recuperate
so you can return with a clear mind and refreshed energy.
leads to injury.
Follow Safety Procedures
Always protect yourself by wearing and/or using the safety
equipment required for the situation and following established procedures,
■ Working in pairs.
■ Never entering an unstable structure.
■ Following recommended procedures for lifting and carrying.
■ Never put your own safety in jeopardy. You can only be
valuable as a
rescuer if you remain healthy and uninjured.
Identifying Tool and Equipment Requirements
Rescue tools may be anything that can be used to find and
reach victims or to move large objects out of the way. Tool and equipment
requirements will vary somewhat depending on the type of disaster and rescue
requirements. Identify probable tool and equipment requirements during planning
so that appropriate tools and equipment will be more readily available when
Leveraging And Cribbing
When a large object such as a collapsed wall or heavy debris
needs to be moved in order to free victims, leverage and cribbing may be used.
Leverage is obtained by wedging a lever (pole or
other long object) under the object that needs to be moved, with a stationary
object underneath it to act as a fulcrum. When the lever is forced down over the
fulcrum, greater force is obtained to lift the object.
A crib is a framework of wooden or metal bars used for
support or strengthening. Box cribbing means arranging pairs of wood
pieces alternately to form a stable rectangle. In a disaster situation, debris
may be available to use for cribbing. (See page V-45 in this book.)
Leveraging and cribbing are used together by alternately
lifting the object a little (using the lever) and placing cribbing materials
underneath the lifted edge to stabilize it. The process should be gradual: "Lift
an inch crib an inch." When leveraging and cribbing one end of an
object, make sure that you are not creating an unstable condition at the other.
You may have to leverage and crib both ends.
When sufficient lift is achieved, remove the victim, reverse
the procedure, and lower the object. Never leave an unsafe
When you must remove debris in order to locate or extricate
victims, a "human chain" may be used. Have volunteers line up so that
they can hand debris from one person to the next, away from the rescue site. The
chain should be located so as not to impede victim removal or restrict any path
of travel. Wear leather gloves to protect your hands. Your hands are your most
important rescue tool.
Basically, there are two main methods of removal that
rescuers can employ to get victims out of a structure. They are:
■ Self-removal or assist.
■ Lifts and drags.
Self-Removal Or Assist
Ambulatory victims may be able to get out, with or without
assistance, once obstacles are removed. Even when a victim is capable of
self-removal, provide assistance and support as the victim vacates the area to
avoid the possibility of additional injury.
Lifts And Drags
If a victim cannot get out on his or her own, size up the
situation to determine the most appropriate means of removal. The extrication
method selected depends on the number of rescuers available, the strength and
ability of the rescuers, the condition of the victim, and the general stability
of the immediate environment.
One-Person Arm Carry. If you are physically
strong, you may be able to lift and carry a victim by yourself. Reach around the
victims back and under the knees, and lift. The victim may be able to assist
by placing an arm around your shoulder.
One-Person Pack-Strap Carry. To accomplish this carry:
■ Stand with your back to the victim.
■ Place the victims arms over your shoulders and grab the
hands in front of your
■ Hoist the victim onto your back by bending forward
slightly, so his or her feet just
clear the floor.
Two-Person Lift. The two-person lift is also
called the "Georgia Street Carry."
◦ Rescuer 1: Squat at the victims head and grasp the
victim from behind around the midsection. Reach under
the arms and grasp
the victims forearms.
◦ Rescuer 2: Squat between the victims knees, facing
either toward or away from the victim. Grasp the outside
of the victims
legs at the knees.
H Using safe lifting procedures, rise to a standing position,
lifting the victim. The victim can then be walked to safety.
Chair Carry. This technique requires two
◦ Place the victim in a straight-back chair (e.g., a wooden
◦ Rescuer 1: Facing the back of the chair, grasp the back
◦ Rescuer 2: With your back to the victims knees, reach
back and grasp the two
front legs of the chair.
◦ Tilt the chair back, lift, and walk out.
Blanket Carry. The blanket carry requires at
least six rescuers to provide stability to the victim, with one person
designated as the lead person.
◦ Lay a blanket next to the victim.
◦ Tuck the blanket under the victim, and roll the victim into
the center of the blanket.
◦ Roll up the blanket edges toward the victim, to form
tube-like handles on each side
of the victim.
◦ With three rescuers squatting on each side and grasping the
"handle," the lead
person checks the team for even weight distribution
and correct lifting position.
◦ The lead person calls out, "Ready to lift on the count
of three: one, two, three, lift."
◦ The team lifts and stands in unison, keeping the victim
level, and carries the victim
◦ To lower the victim, the lead person calls out, "Ready
to lower on the count of
three: one, two, three, lower."
Improvised Stretchers. A variety of materials can
be used as improvised stretchers, which can be carried by two rescuers. For
example, your instructors will demonstrate how to make a stretcher from poles
Drag. Drag the victim out of the confined area
by grasping either under the arms or by the feet and pulling across the floor.
Remember to use safe lifting procedures. Both dragging techniques are shown in
the figure below. One rescuer can also use the blanket drag (shown in the
figure on the following page) by wrapping the victim in a blanket, squatting
down and grasping an edge of the blanket, and dragging the victim across the
floor. By carefully assessing the situation and the victims physical
condition, then using correct removal techniques, CERT members can remove
entrapped victims safely.
Carries and Drags
Search and rescue are two different activities that should be
planned carefully and practiced in advance. The decision to attempt a rescue
should be based on:
■ The risks involved.
■ Achievement of the overall goal of doing the greatest good
for the greatest
The objectives of search and rescue are to:
■ Maintain rescuer safety at all times.
■ Rescue the greatest number of people in the shortest amount
■ Rescue the lightly trapped victims first.
CERT members are restricted to light search and rescue.
Their mission when dealing with heavily damaged structures is to:
■ Isolate the area.
■ Warn others.
■ Search And Rescue Resources
The three main resources required for search and rescue
Each of these resources may be very limited. Planning,
accurate size-up, and careful attention to rescuer safety will be critical.
Conducting Search and Rescue Size-Up
As in other CERT operations, size-up is a critical first
step. Search and rescue size-up follows the same basic process as for
fire-suppression or medical operations. Size-up continues throughout response
efforts and provides valuable information about how search and rescue efforts
Should size-up indicate that total or partial evacuation is
necessary, the CERT mission is to ensure safety and organization during the
Conducting Search Operations
Once the decision to begin search operations is made, CERT
members must systematically:
■ Locate potential victims.
■ Employ appropriate search techniques.
Locating potential victims requires CERT members to conduct a
"mini-size-up" of areas of entrapment and potential number of victims.
After locating potential victims, CERT members will implement a search
■ Is systematic and thorough.
■ Avoids unnecessary duplication of effort.
■ Provides documentation of results.
■ Conducting Rescue Operations
■ Rescues involve three functions:
■ Creating a safe environment.
■ Triaging or stabilizing victims.
■ Removing victims.
The goals of creating a safe environment are to maintain
rescuer safety and to remove victims as quickly as possible while minimizing
additional injury. A large part of maintaining rescuer safety is for every CERT
member to recognize his or her personal limitations and follow prescribed safety
Once the environment is stabilized, victims can be removed in
a number of ways, depending on their condition, the number of rescuers
available, the strength and abilities of the rescuers, and the stability of the
immediate environment. Sometimes, a victim may be able to get out once obstacles
are removed. Leveraging and cribbing may be used for debris removal. When victim
removal is required, CERT members must assess the situation and select the
extrication method that is best suited for the situation. Victims with head or
spine injuries must be stabilized to avoid additional injury. In these cases,
EMS personnel should be called in if possible.