*CERT: Learning To Save Lives (Part 3)*
By: Hikage
05 November 2003

For an Introduction to these articles, please review CERT: Learning To Save Lives (Part 1), which was posted 5 November 2002. At the time of this writing, they were organized under Basic NBC.

On with Part 3!


Light Search & Rescue

Your job as a CERT Search and Rescue member is to search structurally sound buildings. This frees the Fire Department and qualified personnel to search more hazardous locations. The search must be well planned and systematic. The participants must be organized and equipped to do the job.

Safety Equipment

- Gloves

- Helmet

- Vest

- Goggles

- Boots

- Heavy clothing for warmth and protection

- Flashlight with extra batteries and bulbs

- Personal First Aid Kit

- Water, paper cups, and food

- Whistle

- Marker pens

Basic Rescue Tools

- Fire extinguishers, at least two 3-A:40-B:C extinguishers

- Pry bars, 36 and 66 inches long

- Axes

- Sledge hammers, 5 lb. and 8 lb.

- Ladders

- Pocket knife

- Duct tape

- Utility shutoff tools

- Carpentry tools

- Note pad and pens in plastic bag

- CERT forms


Reviewing Potential Hazards

Size-up the situation properly. What is the magnitude of the problem? Is it isolated, or is it area wide?

You are the most important person on the scene. If you are injured, everyone's job comes to a halt in order to assist you to safety. You must take all possible precautions to protect your safety. Don't cut corners in order to get the job done.


- Gather facts of hazards, time of day, occupancy of building, weather,

building construction, and anything else pertaining to the situation.

- Assess the damage, gas leak, fire, hazmat spill, rescue, medical, etc.

- Consider possibilities, should it be left to professionals, or can it

be effectively managed with the skills and tools of your team?

- Establish priorities, where can you do the most good for the most


- Make decisions, what will you do based upon these priorities?

- Take action, Limit this to action you can safely accomplish.

- Evaluate your progress


Look out for leaning buildings and walls, utility poles that could fall, overhanging pieces of a building including cornices, decorative work, and chimneys, utility wires and hazards.

Caution: Assume All Wires Are Electrically Charged!

Ground Level

Look out for sharp objects, glass, nails, broken concrete or re-bar, slippery surfaces, accumulation of surface water, possible electrical hazards with this accumulated water, and people who will be a hazard themselves.

Below Grade

Look for contaminated atmosphere in confined spaces, gas leaks, smoke, flammable, toxic, or oxygen deficient air, flooding due to leaks resulting in drowning electrocution or accumulation of debris.

Always Be Aware Of Potential Hazards Around You!!

You best be in Red Alert mode!

Special Hazards

Please research and cover special hazards for your area of operation. For me, this includes Unreinforced Masonry Buildings (UMB) which become unstable after earthquakes. These buildings exist all over the Bay Area, and many other areas.

They are identifiable as follows:

- A "header row" of bricks every fifth or seventh row that are turned


- Archways around windows and doors

- deep-set windows

- Metal plates attached at level of floor and roof

Deep-set windows are the best indication, as everything else can be covered and disguised. These windows sit about 10 inches inside.

Signs of Possible Structural Damage

Use the following means to quickly assess buildings.

Horizontal Lines

- Look for uneven window lines with an imaginary line across tops of


- Foundation not level, ground around foundation fractured and uneven.

Vertical Lines

- Check for leaning of structure, compare to building next door

- Check garage doors and entry ways for out-of-plumb areas

Large Cracks in Exterior

- Check around garage doors, entryways, and foundations


- Check around foundation area for sand, mud, or soil coming out of

openings on the ground floor.

Wood frame buildings perform well during earthquakes if properly prepared with foundation bolts and cripple walls. Check around garage doors and foundations for structural damage.

Three Classifications of Structural Damage

- Light

- Moderate

- Heavy

You will only search buildings rated as Light and Moderate. Do not enter Heavily damaged buildings!

Light Damage

- superficial, broken windows, fallen or cracked plaster

- search, locate, triage, and prioritize victims in these areas

- utilities should be shut off if necessary or questionable

- all actions should be recorded

Moderate Damage

- decorative work on exterior is damaged, large amount of cracking

is visible, but building is not leaning and is attached to its


- get as much information as possible on potential victims before

entering the building, question people in the street

- shut off utilities as needed

- locate, stabilize, and immediately evacuate victims

- do NOT treat injured inside of building, except to open airway

and control bleeding

- aftershocks (when dealing with earthquakes) may cause stability

of the building to quickly change!

- document location of heavily trapped victims, and communicate this

information to professional rescue teams

- record all actions taken

Heavy Damage

- partial or total collapse

- tilting, or off their foundations


- secure the building perimeter and control access into the building

by untrained, but well-intentioned volunteers

- If safe to do so, shut off utilities

use street shutoffs rather than entering building

- communicate location and extent of damage to Fire Department

- gather information from witnesses and professional rescue teams

When dealing with earthquakes: If there is an aftershock, immediately stop all search and rescue. Exit the building, reevaluate, and re-plan. Continue the search if damage status has not upgraded to "HEAVY".

Forcible Entry

These techniques are to gain entry to a building that is locked or blocked. Always gain entry the easiest way possible.

Doors and windows are obvious, but if you are trapped in a room, breach the sheet rock or plaster wall between wall studs and create a hole to climb through.

Forcible Entry Tools

- Prying and spreading tools, axe, crowbar, pry bar, wrecking bar, jack

- Cutting and boring tools, axe, hand saw, power saws, bolt cutters

- Striking and battering tools, axe, battering ram, hammer, sledge


Points of Entry

- Front door, is it open? does someone have keys?

- Window or glass door

- Tradesman entrance

- Garage door

- Back yard access

- Roof door via fire escape or stairs

How To Force A Door

Swinging Doors

- feel for heat, then try knob

- break glass panel in or near door, reach in and unlock

- if no glass, force open with sledge hammer by pounding directly

on the lock

Sliding glass doors

- break glass from top down, stand to one side

- pry door at the lock

- lift door to disengage lock

Overhead Doors and Garage Doors

- break glass panel out, reach in, unlock door

- if no glass, knock wooden panel out, climb through, open door

- cut hole in door for entry if a solid door

How To Force A Window

Sliding, swinging, and pivoting windows

- try to open window first

- open lock with thin tool or knife

- break the glass as last resort

Security windows (with bars)

- only attempt if absolutely necessary

- use a jack to spread bars apart

- strike attachment points with heavy sledge

- attach tow chain to car and pull off

How To Break Glass

- use long handled tool such as an axe

- stand to one side of the window

- tilt tool so hands are above part used to break the glass

so glass does not slide down the tool and cut you

- strike glass sharply with flat part of axe, and as high as possible

- start at the top of the window and clean out remaining glass

- unlock window and open before entering

- use same breaking procedure on fixed windows, glass panels

and garage doors

Search Procedures

Drill yourself on these procedures. Do not cheat. Do not change them. Follow them with utmost protocol.

Two teams of at least two people are needed. The first team stays outside of the building. They will watch for dangers such as fire. They control the scene outside, and make sure untrained volunteers do not disrupt the search. They may also send a runner to the Fire Department to notify them if assistance is needed.

The second team searches the interior of the building. ALWAYS STAY TOGETHER WHEN SEARCHING THE BUILDING. If there are many buildings to search, then the teams should alternate. This prevents fatigue.

Pre-plan every search. Organize your team. Make sure everyone is fully equipped, but not overly burdened. Go through the checklist at the beginning of this article and make sure everyone has the proper safety equipment. Each member should carry a different forcible entry tool. This provides more than one option to gaining entry to rooms. Interior teams should also have marking pens. Both teams should have utility shutoff tools. The outside team should have note pads and pens.

Prearrange a signal to warn of danger. (i.e., five repeated blasts of a horn or whistle.) Have a prearranged signal to let outside team know that a searcher is trapped or in trouble (i.e., one long, repeated, blast). Make sure everyone understands the signals that are chosen. If the signal is heard, it is repeated by everyone until the searchers are out of the building. IF THE SIGNAL IS HEARD, IT IS REPEATED BY EVERYONE UNTIL THE SEARCHERS ARE OUT OF THE BUILDING.

Examine and classify the damage of the building.

If you are going to enter the building, answer the following questions before doing so:

Has anyone been reported missing in the building?

Where are the potential hazards?

Are there any unique characteristics of this building?

What will be the point of entry?

Where are the fire escapes if any? Back stairs?

How tall is the building?

How deep is the building?

How many units are in the building? (check mail boxes)

These questions help prepare you for hazards and the amount of time the search may take, and most importantly, alternate exits from the building.

The Search

You've appraised the situation. You've organized your teams. You've answered your questions, and now you've decided to search the building.

Mark the outside of the building with a "/" to form half of an "X".

Feel the upper part of the door with the back of your hand. Once inside the door, stop for a second. Do you smell gas or smoke? If so, shut off gas and electricity if safe to do so, and leave the building. Complete the marking, and go to the next building.

If you do not smell gas or other dangers ask "Is anyone in here?", then listen for an answer. If you hear no answer, begin your search. Place one hand on the nearest wall. All turns will either be right-hand or left-hand turns depending on which hand is on the wall. This allows your search to be thorough and systematic. If you have to evacuate the building, reverse direction and place your other hand on the wall, and make the opposite turns you made until you are outside. While searching, call out and listen for responses.

DO NOT REMOVE YOUR HAND FROM THE WALL! To search a room more deeply, you may take your partner's free hand and reach out into the middle of the room. Your partner must not let go of the wall, and you must not let go of their hand. Use a long tool like a pry bar to get even further into a room, while you and your partner hold each end of it. Shuffle your feet to search for hazards on the floor. Make sure there is solid flooring under your lead foot before you place your weight upon it. Remain aware of the closest ways out of the building at all times. Use as many people as necessary to create a chain if you are attempting to reach someone deep within a room. When the victim is recovered, have one person move down the chain with the victim. Then disassemble the chain in reverse order, and move on or out in twos.

Search the building from the top down. Look at the floor plan to orient yourself. Each door you enter should be marked with the "/" open "X". Search under debris if you can safely do so. When finishing a room, close the "X" on the door. Search elevators, but do not use them!

Always Stay Alert

Listen for survivors who may tap on pipings and structures to give a signal of their presence. If you are unable to get into a room, knock, shout, and identify yourself as a CERT volunteer. Then listen for answers.

Know your limits, and do not push past them!


Building Marking

Before entering a building, you made the beginning of an "X". This was done with a "/" upon the door or wall next to it. This "X" on the building will have important information filled in.

Top Quadrant

- Date and time of search

Left Quadrant

- Agency doing the search

- CERT teams will want to include district info

Bottom Quadrant

- Full Search

- Partial Searched, could not search some areas

Right Quadrant

- Important Information

- person trapped on second floor, back apartment

- structural damage, top floor not searched

- HazMat spill 3rd floor

- Utilities to building shut off

Upon entering, it is wise to immediately write the date and time of entry, along with number of searchers entering. This will be very valuable if the safety of the searchers becomes an issue.



You've searched, now you must rescue. This may be as simple as lifting a bookcase, or as complicated as using ladders, cribbing, and levers to get the trapped victim to safety. Always move slowly! Take time to assess the hazards around you. Continually check them throughout operation. This phase never ends!

Don't Become A Victim

- Handle hazards first, eliminate things that will injure rescuers

before attempting to get the victim out

- Always do things the easiest way possible K.I.S.S.!!!!!

- In a hostile environment, remove the victim as quickly and safely

as possible. If a person may die immediately from the danger, there

is NO time to evaluate medical condition, JUST GET THEM OUT!

- If you discover someone trapped or pinned, first evaluate hazards

around you, then assess the victim's medical condition, if injured

decided if it is safe to treat the victim there

- If a victim is trapped, decide if you can quickly complete the rescue

with minimal risk. If you can't complete the rescue, DON'T START IT!

send a runner to the Staging Area to get help

- Remove debris slowly, protect the victim from the debris, do not

injure the victim further with your rescue method

Lifting Heavy Objects

Lifting By Hand

- have secure footing and balance

- keep back straight, lift with legs

- look up while lifting

- use more people to make the job easier, one person must be in charge

- use cribbing to support object being lifted

Lifting With Tools

- Levers; pry bar, wrecking bar, pipe, piece of wood

- Jacks; car tire jack, lifting jack

A lever is a rigid piece of material that is free to move about a fixed point called a fulcrum. A lever uses mechanical advantage to transfer a force from one place to another, while changing direction with the force. Levers are extremely important. It transfers a downward pushing force into an upward lifting force.

When using a lever, keep your face and body out of the flight path! Imagine the lever breaking at any given time, and make sure no one is in line to get hit or crushed when it happens! There should be one member of the team who is not helping physically at all. This person stands by with the whistle, and watches for dangers. This safety person must be listened to, and has the final say in matters of safety.


This is a method of building up support, usually with blocks, underneath the items being lifted. This allows workers to pause and reposition their levers for maximum efficiency.

Cribbing materials must be stable, and capable of supporting the weight that is being lifted.

Cribbing Procedures

- Have all lifting and cribbing materials ready at the site

- Make sure all lifters are aware of the plan

- Support the object with cribbing before lifting starts

- Lift object and place cribbing under it, watch your fingers!

- Only lift high enough to place one layer of cribbing under it

- Lower object onto cribbing

- Repeat procedure until victim can be removed

- Move slowly

And now, the big secret. USE MORE THAN ONE LEVER! We attempted to lift a dumpster off of a dummy (yes, the stuffed kind), and had to use three levers. If it isn't comfortable and safe for all the workers involved, then use another lever!

Rescue Carries

I am not going to cover these in detail. Jot these names down. Look up references in books and the internet with pictures, and practice them.

Firefighter's Crawl

Human Crutch

Two-Person Carry


Three-Person Carry

Log Roll

Stretcher Carry


Make stretchers out of chairs, blankets, doors, ironing boards, table tops, and other items that are handy.

Think outside the box!

A Note On Ladders

Be aware of overhead wires. Metal ladders can result in electrocution. Have at least a 10 foot clearance between wires and the ladder. Secure the base of the ladder to prevent slipping. Secure the ladder at the top if possible. Tie it to something.

Place the ladder at a safe climbing angle. With your feet at the base, your arms should comfortably extend until palms touch the ladder. This places it at a safe 70 degree angle. Place the ladder 1 rung above the window sill and 3 rungs over roof tops.

Climb safely. Hold the rungs, not the beam. Stand at the center of the rungs. Look up, not down. Walk vertically up the ladder.



That's it for Light Search & Rescue!



Paraphrasing and direct quotes taken from City of Newark CERT Student Training Manual. Newark, California.


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