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How to Mark a Building After its Been Searched?

Looking for the SAR Markings or Preliminary Damage Assessment pocket card?  Click here or scroll to the bottom.

“Rescue 4 on scene and has command ….”

An EF3 tornado has ripped through your community and has done wide-spread damage … but you don’t know how wide-spread or how much damage. What next?

As alumni from my RECON1 classes know, appropriately answering How BIG and How BAD is job #1.

[NOTE:  To see if your organization qualifies for one of my 8 hour RECON1 courses, contact me here.]

Once the initial size up has occurred, the search and rescue (SAR) process begins. At some point, every structure will need to be searched, usually in the Primary phase of SAR efforts.

One of the biggest fouls in search and rescue is saying that a search has been performed but not having a record of what has – and has not – actually been searched.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen or heard of a search being conducted only to find out that the searchers can’t explain where they searched, where they did not search and at what level of thoroughness … well, I’d be writing this from one of my villas on the coast of Spain!

In the past, one of the ways that we would indicate that a building has been searched is by using spray paint to mark the FEMA markings.

Biloxi, Miss., September 3, 2005 -- A member of the Indiana Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) team marks a damaged house after searching for victims of Hurricane Katrina. The gulf coast of Mississippi sustained extreme damage from the hurricane. FEMA/Mark Wolfe
Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) team member marks a damaged house after searching for victims of Hurricane Katrina. FEMA/Mark Wolfe

Paint worked great … but one (1) can of spray paint only would last a couple of houses and in the field we are greatly limited by how many cans we could carry. And all of that is also assuming that our ‘paint-manship’ was legible and didn’t run down the side of the building!

After the gross but unintended miscommunication of what was and wasn’t searched after Hurricane Katrina, a new system was established by FEMA: Search Stickers.

They could be carried by the dozens, written on with a Sharpie, offer a watermarked ‘tutorial’ to help prompt what should and should not be added to the sticker … all while remaining consistent with the FEMA required Urban Search & Rescue Program Directive 2013-014 – US&R Marking System (Supersedes US&R PDs: 2005-009, 2005-010 and 2006-018.

Since I train other responders how to – among other things – properly mark and document what structures have and have not been searched, I also get lots of questions where to get the search marking sticker template. I’ve been happy to provide that template here.

Come to find out, many agencies found it problematic to screen and source the vendor, the printer and the paper just to have a supply of search stickers on hand. And searching for an existing supplier to provide pre-printed search stickers proved fruitless (go ahead and search for yourself, I’ll wait).

So finally … I’m pleased to offer your one stop shop for purchasing official search marking stickers to indicate that a structure has been searched after a disaster, etc. The legwork is done … just pick a color and a quantity.

Official search stickers:

  • Create a visual record that a building has been searched
  • Replace messy and bulky spray paint
  • Are removable (doesn’t do additional damage to property)
  • Are watermarked to prompt the correct FEMA marking
  • Available in Multiple colors and quantities
  • Yes, this is the same sticker we use at the federal and state USAR level and uses the official FEMA template.

Order yours below:

Also available (FREE Download) is the form used by FEMA teams to account for residents after a disaster.  Simple to use.

And for those in Law Enforcement, there is Just-In-Time training designed specifically for the unique challenges you face during a flood response.  Takes about an hour and it will immediately help you lower your risk and those of your response partners.  Enroll below:

Mike McKenna

About the author

Mike McKenna is the founder and president of TEAM Solutions. He helps public and private sector leaders improve their outcomes before, during and after a planned event or unplanned crisis.

Please contact Mike via the Contact page.

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