Wednesday, November 25, 2009

7-Sided Searches and UCAN

Some recent calls, drills, and follow-up conversations in which I was a participant have brought out how well a couple of basic tactics can be adapted for multiple purposes.

The first is the 7-Sided Search.

7-Sided Searches should be conducted on every incident in which we have a potential victim.
The seven sides to be searched are:


1. Side A/Division A
2. Side B/Division B
3. Side C/Division C
4. Side D/Division D
5. Roof
6. Basement/Crawl Space
7. the Inside (including the Inside of each interior compartment)


1. Front
2. Driver's Side
3. Passenger Side
4. Rear
5. Top
6. Underneath the Vehicle
7. the Inside, including the passenger compartment, trunk, and hatchback areas

The rule for searching these is:

7-Sided Search

  • Every Vehicle

  • Every Structure

  • Every Time

The other helpful tactic is the UCAN mneumonic. Originally developed for MAYDAY applications, UCAN has applications to basic search tactics. UCAN was designed for a firefighter giving a MAYDAY report to COMMAND the following information;

  • Unit

  • Conditions

  • Actions

  • Needs

The MAYDAY firefighter should tell COMMAND the unit to which he/she is assigned, the conditions that required calling a MAYDAY, what actions the lost/trapped/disoriented firefighter is taking, and what the lost/trapped/disoriented firefighter needs.

These same four considerations work well when a search team moves through a building, particuarly when moving vertically.

For example, Truck 3 is assigned to conduct a primary search of Divisions 3 and 4 of an apartment building with a fire on Division 2. Truck 3 should give COMMAND a UCAN update each time they move one vertical floor upwards. An example:

"COMMAND, Truck 3"

"Truck 3"

"COMMAND, Truck 3 is on Division 3, we have a heavy smoke condition with moderate heat, no fire visible, we are starting our primary search, and we need ventilation support and secondary egress."

"Truck 3, COMMAND recieves that you are on Division 3, you have a heavy smoke condition with moderate heat and no visible fire, and that you need ventilation support and secondary egress. Repeat your Actions report."

"COMMAND, Truck 3, we are starting our primary search of Division 3."

"Truck 3, recieved, you are starting your primary search of Division 3."

There are five distinct advantages to using UCAN reports for reporting tactical movement through a fire building in the absence of a MAYDAY.

  • Firefighters become familiar with the UCAN methodology in routine situations and will not struggle to remember the mneumonic in the event they need to call a MAYDAY in the future

  • Firefighters become practiced at using the UCAN terminology and reporting location changes to COMMAND

  • COMMAND knows where the units are and what they are doing

  • Status changes are reported in a standard forma

  • Status reports are transmitted in a standard format. If one part is missed, COMMAND can just ask for the missing piece of information without wasting the air time for a complete UCAN rehash from the unit giving the report

The "A" step can be modified to include "AIR" levels. If a company has a member that is low on air, the company can give a UCAN report that includes the air reading for the member with the lowest air level, particularly in big-box structures where the company needs to exit with 2/3 of their air available.

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