This week I’d like to go over the FEMA marking system for buildings, searches and victims. Building markings should be made by structural engineers so it’s not something the average person should be putting on to a building, however, knowing what the markings mean will aid you during an emergency situation. The marking system I’ll be reviewing here is the CA OES/FEMA marking system which is very slightly different from the federal FEMA marking system but close enough – and since I’m in California that’s the system I know. Knowing these markings will aid you during a disaster if you are seeking shelter or aiding in search and rescue.
Building Markings are always done where they can be easily seen from the front of the building and not necessarily at the front entrance. The marker will use arrows to point to the safest entry point into the structure or safe haven. The markers must be two feet by two feet so you can see them from a good distance. Building markings look like this:
A building labeled Good will have cosmetic damage, there could be debris without structural damage and the utilities are probably still functional.
A building labeled with a single slash signifies that it has problems and evidence of structural damage. This could mean cracks around the foundation, door and window frames and other structural damage which could need bracing or shoring up. It is a structure which you need to access the risk versus reward to entering the building – get in, do what you need to do and get out because if there is an aftershock the structure may fall.
A box with an X means this structure is in bad shape, it could fall and has structural failure. Do not enter a structure such as this.
Main Entrance Markings start with a single slash /. Later when the search is completed the slash will become an X. Knowing this, at the top of the slash the date and time of search is written, on the left of the X is what team checked it. On the right of the X is what was found I.E. chemicals, etc. At the bottom of the X is if there were victims found.
The X marking system is also used at the entrance to each room or apartment within a building. This way search and rescue teams know which interior rooms have been checked allowing them to pass and know not to waste time on places that have already been checked.
The last important markings are for Victims, there are four marks. If there is a victim trapped under debris and the initial search team is waiting for a recovery team the team will mark the wall with a V and an arrow pointing to the location of the victim. A V with a circle around it means the victim is alive. A victim (V) with a circle around it ( O ) and a single slash ( / ) means the victim is known to be deceased. When the recovery team removes the body they will then create another slash through the circled V creating an X.
The full CA OES/FEMA PDF can be downloaded here: BUILDI~1Rev1
The National Urban Search & Rescue Response System PDF can be downloaded here: usr_23_20080205_rog
In addition to my signature 72 Hour Bag I keep in my car I always carry an EDC bag. This is the bag I carry to work everyday and it has an extra layer of clothes, pens, sunglasses, etc – all the junk you generally use on a day to day basis. Because in the film industry we don’t have a desk or a usual place of work our location and environment changes daily. One day we may be going to work in the morning for a 7am call time and the next day we may be heading out for a 4pm call time and working all night. Because of these variables we never know what the conditions of the days work will bring so it’s a good idea to have a catch all bag capable of sustaining you with little planning or forethought.
In the EDC I have experimented with various containers to hold the essentials to bridge the gap between my ever changing work place and my 72 Hour Bag which can be up to several miles away locked in my car at crew parking. I started out on the Altoids tin bandwagon and crammed some good items in there, I liked the size but felt I wanted a little more versatility. I then went to a Condor Pocket Pouch I got from LA Police Gear but it was always getting hung up on the outside of my bag and wouldn’t ever really fit in an internal pocket of my EDC bag. Also when I would open it things would spill out. Because it had so many pockets I would forget what I had where and inevitably have to dump the entire pouch out to find what I needed anyway.
After a little research I discovered this handy little unit, it’s available at Amazon and goes for about $15. Because it’s metal it will work as a device to boil water in, and it slides in and out of an internal pocket in my EDC easily. Let me walk you through what I keep in here.
You can see things go inside very neat and organized. I took off the top few bandaids so you could see under them.
In this picture I have a ReadyMan Survival Card my buddy gave me, it has a lot of options for saws, hooks and arrowheads all on a flat card. Not sure if it works in the field but its a nice addition, weighs almost nothing and lies flat at the bottom of the tin so I figured what the heck. I also carry Steri Strips instead of sutures because sutures have way too much risk involved in an emergency situation and a Navy SEAL Corpsman buddy of mine says he would use superglue or steri strips any day of the week over taking the time to suture in the field. Note to self, add dental floss and super glue to this kit (I used my last single use tube of super glue during a minor emergency at work and never replaced it). Also, you can see at the top of the picture the P38 can opener I always have one on me.
Below is a picture with some jute for tinder and a tampon which has many uses and you can read that article I wrote here.
Also in the pack I carry an unlubricated condom, which looks like it needs to be switched out and you can read about the uses of a condom in a survival situation here. I carry two large safety pins, a swiss army knife, a 9 volt LED light which is freaking awesome. I got them off Ebay – the one in the link is about $5 but I think I paid about $1 each so if you hunt a little you can find them cheaper.
As you can see I carry two Altoid mini tins to hold smaller items and keep them organized. One caries a whistle my buddy whittled down to its smallest size possible while still being functional – just don’t swallow it. There is also a button compass and some matches, if you look closely I have two brass brads. These are the perfect size to defeat a Master Lock that we commonly use in the film industry. Occasionally we need to get into some locked places where we actually have permission to go but the owner of the lock can’t be contacted to get the combination so instead of destroying the lock we’ll just defeat it. On the top left of the pic I carry the mini leather man squirt tool – it’s actually the driver I use to suture but its small and fits nicely in this kit. Just next to it is my pocket lock pick set and in the Altoids tin at the bottom contains some cotton balls with petroleum jelly in a tiny zip lock baggy and also a supply of my daily meds in case I can’t get home.
So there you have it, that’s the tin I carry on a day to day basis in my EDC.
In getting back to the roots of this blog I want to review what to do after an earthquake. No one can really say when the big one will hit Southern California, and perhaps this is a regional issue, but I think many tips can be drawn from the post earthquake response and apply them to other natural disasters.
- Make sure you have your shoes on!
- You need to check yourself and others for injuries. Provide aid immediately to anyone who needs it. Stopping bleeding is the most important thing. A person will bleed out arterially in 30 seconds while most people can go into the four minute mark without oxygen, so the priority is Bleeding, Airway, Circulation. Spinal injuries are a big mystery these days. It used to be standard practice to immobilize the victim before moving them, but new research has come out that all the immobilization we had been doing is just wasting time in getting the victim to the hospital – which is more important. Why am I saying this? I am not a medical professional but if a persons life is in danger and you suspect a spinal injury the first priority should be getting them to a safe area. If they die lying where they are then it doesn’t matter that they would’ve been paralyzed… they’re dead. After you have stabilized your dwelling, check on any elderly neighbors.
- Check utilities. Make sure the gas line is shut off, especially if you suspect a broken line. If you smell gas open all windows and doors and turn off the main breaker to your house. After shutting off the main breaker then turn every smaller breaker OFF. This way when you feel it is safe to turn power back on you can do so slowly and by one circuit at a time, making sure there isn’t any damage. Remember to use all your senses, look, smell, touch. Yes, touch feel the surface of plugs and switches for heat – if there’s heat then there might be a short which will lead to fire. Mark the device, turn off that breaker and move to the next circuit. Later, when the power is still off on that circuit and you have the time check the wiring inside the device. I recommend turning off the water supply to your house immediately, this way if there is damage down the line the tainted water won’t enter your pipes and any reserve you have left in your pipes and water heater will still be potable.
- Check your structure for damage. If doorways look out of square or the roofline looks off you may need to think about creating an emergency shelter, make sure you inspect the chimney – it is a structure which goes from the living space all the way through the structure and if damaged can cause serious injury or death if it falls in an after shock. In addition you may need to create a makeshift rest room in the back yard.
- Begin to get your emergency supplies in order – you have your earthquake kit in a safe place right? Access all your canned goods and items from the fridge and freezer, use frozen items immediately, then fridge items, then canned goods. Get your drinking water supply in order quickly – people need at least 1 gallon per person per day. Most water heaters are 32 gallons, use this as drinking water only – do not waste this resource on cleaning. When that water is exhausted, use bleach to purify water, 16 drops per gallon. Before adding bleach to dirty water use a bandanna to strain the water and try to get it as clear as possible first.
- When opening doors and cupboards, do so slowly – items have moved and a can of peaches can hit your head harder than an 8 year old swinging a bat during T ball practice.
- Do not go out sightseeing, use your vehicle only for emergencies, do not spread rumors – only report factual information you have witnessed by eye. Rumors can lead emergency personnel on wild goose chases wasting valuable assets.
- Check to see if your land line works – the land line will still be the most reliable form of communication because of the redundancy in the system. Land lines operate on 52 volts DC and are separated from the power grid. If you have a dial tone then great – only use it in an emergency. If you need to get in touch with family do so first by trying to send a text. It’s a short burst of information and attempt to get the message to one family member out of state first who then can notify the rest of your family from their communications center. This way you are not tying up a limited stressed out communications network telling Aunt Sally that it was scary, but you’re okay.
- Turn on your radio to get information and learn what the extent of the damage to the community is.