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School Search & Rescue Team Guide: Effective Classroom Searches

Posted by Wayne Bennett on

In the aftermath of a natural disaster such as an earthquake, ensuring the safety of every individual is paramount. For schools, this responsibility extends even further, as educators and staff are responsible for the safety of their students. One of the critical tasks during disaster response in schools is the thorough searching of each room. To ensure that no student, teacher, or staff member is overlooked, a comprehensive method is needed.

Today, we'll delve into the three-pronged approach to interior room searches: visual, vocal, and physical. Each step is vital in its own right and contributes to a thorough search procedure.

1. Visual Search: The First Glance

The first instinct when entering a room is to use one's eyes. It's the quickest way to assess the situation.

  • Sweep the Room: From the entrance, take a panoramic view of the entire space. This gives a quick idea of any obvious dangers, obstacles, or trapped individuals.

  • Check Under Objects: Look under desks, tables, and other large furnishings. In an earthquake, individuals, especially children, often seek refuge under sturdy objects.

  • Observe Walls and Ceiling: Cracks, falling plaster, or dangling lights might indicate a potential danger or an area that's already been affected by the disaster.

2. Vocal Search: Call Out

Sometimes, victims might be hidden from sight but can respond to auditory cues.

  • Announce Your Presence: As you enter the room, clearly state who you are and your purpose. For instance, "Search and Rescue, is anyone here?"

  • Listen Carefully: After calling out, pause for a few moments to listen. Listen for voices, knocks, or any other sounds that indicate someone's presence.

  • Repeat Regularly: As you move through the space, continue to announce your presence and intent. Victims might be disoriented or scared and might not respond immediately.

3. Physical Search: Get Hands-on

When visual and vocal methods have been employed, it's time to get tactile.

  • Systematic Pattern: Use a methodical approach to touch and feel your way through the room. This might mean moving in a grid pattern or spiraling in from the edges of the room to the center.

  • Feel Behind & Under: Physically check behind curtains, under beds, and in closets. These are common hiding places during emergencies.

  • Use Tools: If available, use tools like poles or rods to tap and prod harder-to-reach areas. This can elicit a response from a victim or provide a physical indication of someone's presence.

Marking and Exiting

After the search is completed:

  • Mark the Room: It's essential to indicate that a room has been searched. This avoids duplication of effort and informs other rescuers of your progress. This can be done using spray paint, chalk, or even adhesive tape. Symbols and codes can be predetermined to convey different messages about the room's status.

  • Note Any Hazards: If you've identified potential hazards during your search, ensure they're clearly marked. This protects both rescue workers and any returnees.

 Watch this short video excerpt from our one-day Disaster Response Training:

Disaster response training for teachers and school staff is vital. Schools are places of trust, and in emergencies, that trust becomes even more crucial. By using a three-fold approach to room searches — visual, vocal, and physical — educators and staff can ensure that no stone is left unturned, and every individual is accounted for after a disaster.

Remember, thoroughness saves lives. Each step in this search process is vital, ensuring the safety and well-being of all involved.

Safety is a shared responsibility. Equip your educators and staff with the skills and knowledge to act confidently and decisively. For more information, checkout our Disaster Response Training.


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