Approach building collapses with caution

Our natural inclination is to rush in and begin searching for victims, but we must also know our limitations


It may seem obvious, but building collapses of any magnitude represent a severe hazard to the firefighters and other emergency responders on scene.

Our natural inclination is to rush in and begin searching for victims.

Keep in mind, however, that all bets are off in a building where significant structural damage has occurred; if it failed once, the chance of further collapse is high.

Safely and effectively operating at a building collapse, like any other technical rescue incident, demands specialized training, equipment, and personnel. It's important to understand your department's capabilities and limitations in this area; if you can't address a technical rescue with available resources, know how to get a qualified team and call immediately for mutual aid.

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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