I was reading through emails the other day and came across an email about Vent-Enter-Search (VES).
The sender’s review of the technique was less than stellar, basically stating that search ahead and without the protection of a hoseline is dangerous that presenting an unnecessary risk, and our primary focus should be controlling the fire using large amounts of water.
I agree, and disagree, with this view. If you know me, and particularly from the old days, that I am an advocate and student of “old school” firefighting. Some of my favorite books in my fire service library were written by guys like Francis Brannigan, John Norman, and Vincent Dunn. I like solid stream nozzles, value mastery of technique, and frown upon mediocrity that seems to kill so many of our brethren each year.
I was originally taught VES in Ohio, and shown the videos from a rescue in Fairborn, OH where a 2 man truck company staffed by a chief and a driver threw a ladder to a second story window, the driver entered the extremely smoky room and closed the door, isolating the room from the fire (vent and enter). This provided a relief from the smoke and cleared the air a little while the driver located an infant in a crib, removed the child and handed the baby off to the chief who then relayed to a waiting ambulance.
This is a basic video explaining VES I found on YouTube
My opinion on it is that VES is just another thing to use, and we shouldn’t be totally opposed to using it. Like any tactic or technique we use that when improperly applied it can hurt us bad. Some people have it in their head that if it looks too dangerous that we shouldn’t be doing it. What they don’t realize that we live by a very simple risk management statement: risk a lot to save a lot, risk a little to save little, risk nothing to save nothing.
It takes proper training to deploy VES techniques and proper risk management assessment, just like anything that we do. Most will agree that firefighters just can’t go blasting water through people’s houses for a small oven fire (although I’ve seen it done), and it comes down to proper application of force. The military looks at it the same way, the Army doesn’t fight unless it has something to gain from doing so, and when it needs to accomplish the mission they send everything that would be needed to do so, and will take big risk for big gain. We must do similar. When we are going in to rescue a savable life, we should be aggressive and bold and use everything we have in order to accomplish the task at hand.
The same parallels could be drawn in EMS as well. We should risk our lives to preserve a savable life, both in response and transport if necessary, to get that life to definitive care. I think in terms of a cardiac arrest. We should risk our lives a lot to preserve an arrest that has had a ROSC in the field, but we should not risk anything to transport an arrest that has not come back.
We are no good for helping others, if we ourselves need help.