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Use baseboards to stay oriented in search and rescue

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Use baseboards to stay oriented in search and rescue


By Mark van der Feyst

Maintaining orientation to the building is critical to the survival of the firefighter when conducting a search. Another set of clues firefighters can use to maintain orientation are the utilities located on the walls. These utilities are going to be baseboard heaters, steam/water pipes or radiators. These clues will point to where the outside walls are located within that structure. The outside walls are often used to locate these devices and can be felt when sweeping the walls during a search.

Many of these items are more likely to be found in older homes. However, baseboard heaters are still used today to provide electrical heat. Other devices such as the radiator and steam pipes are not used today and will be found in older homes. Some of these homes will have been renovated with an upgraded heating system. However, the original devices may have been left for aesthetic purposes. If you get disoriented inside the structure while conducting a search and feel a baseboard heater or a set of radiator pipes, you will know that you are on an outside wall and that there will be a window within a very short distance. 

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