Extending Your Hand, Not Your Tool

Searching with a tool is something that every firefighter needs to be proficient in. Unfortunately, like many of the essential fireground skills we must master, most fire schools do not teach real world search techniques. In particular, they don’t cover how to effectively search with a tool. One of the things we must consider when sweeping with the tool is that the tool has no feeling. It transmits to the firefighter the sensation of coming in contact with an object, but it gives no indication of what the object really is. This forces the firefighter to reach out further, potentially coming off of the wall, to verify what the tool struck. Besides the fact that this takes additional time, it could also cause significant, if not fatal damage to the very victim we are trying to save. A simple drill to illustrate this point would be to search for a large piece of fruit (watermelon, cantaloupe, etc.) Perform this search blacked out, swinging a tool as you search. As you can imagine, you will certainly find the melon, but more than likely speared it or beat it up in the process. It could be argued that sweeping with the non-working end of the tool may minimize the damage to the victim (or melon) but perhaps there is a better way.

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Lets start off with discussing which hand you carry the tool in when you search. for this method it is best to carry the tool in the hand of the direction of the search pattern. Left hand search pattern = carry tool in left hand, right hand search pattern = carry the tool in your right hand. This places the tool against the wall, and minimizes the desire to swing and sweep into the room with the tool. When the searching firefighter feels the need to “extend” the search and sweep out into the room , the tool is paced against the wall and the firefighter places their foot on the tool.

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As you can see from the pictures below, the firefighters reach into the room is the exact same regardless if the foot was on the wall and tool swept into the room or if the tool was placed on the wall and the firefighter stretched out into the room.

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Another thing worth mentioning is that simple act of constantly swinging the tool out into the room actually contributes to firefight fatigue. It takes more energy to swing the tool back and forth than it would to just crawl with it.

Like everything else in the fire service, there is a time and a place were certain techniques should be used over another. This technique may or may not work well for you, but you will only know that after you take the time to train with it. Just keep in mind, when performing a search, you are looking for a viable human life in a very time sensitive manner. It is our duty to master the skill of the search and be able to complete the search in the most time sensitive (and least fatal way) possible.

In our next post we will build on this concept an show some additional things we should consider when performing this type of search.

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Carrying Tools

We have always been advocates of riding assignments and tool assignments. It’s one of the easiest ways to improve your company’s efficiency and effectiveness on the fireground. Even if your department doesn’t believe in tool assignments, you probably find yourself carrying the same tools on most occasions. How much thought have you put into how you carry your tools? Do you carry them the same way every time? Are you truly maximizing how you carry them, and making it easier on yourself?

Below are some photos of an efficient method of carrying the tools assigned to the outside team on the Truck Company. In these photos you’ll see that the firefighter is carrying the most often needed tools for the outside team: ladder, hook, halligan, light, TIC, and saw.

Below is a photo of a tool assignment for a residential structure. You’ll notice this method allows for a “free hand” to utilize a TIC for additional recon. The TIC is extremely helpful for the outside team to read the building and determine the fires location if its not already vented from a window.

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Below are photos of a tool assignment for a commercial structure. In this case the “free hand” is taken up carrying the saw. The TIC is still available for recon since its clipped on the air pack, but obviously the saw would need to be lowered to the ground first.

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The trick with this particular carry method is how the halligan and hook are laid inside the beam of the ladder. This allows one hand to “clamp” the tools to the ladder, and essentially allows you to carry three tools in one hand. The beauty of this method is that once you get to the area where the ladder will be deployed, the hook and halligan can easily be dropped without fumbling around. Allowing the ladder to be thrown from the carry position without being lowered to the ground. Dropping the tools in the area of where the butt of the ladder will be once the ladder is in position will prevent you losing them in high grass situations. Keep in mind that the utilization of straps or clips to secure the tool would make this option a little more time consuming.

It is worth mentioning that this method works best with ladders that are stored on beam. This allows you to partially remove the ladder, place your tools on the inside of the beam, and then get your shoulder in position before taking on the weight of the ladder. Specifying your rig correctly also increases your fireground efficiency, but we’ll get into those specifics in a future post.

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Even if this is not your choice of tools for your assignment, take the time to come up with the most efficient way to carry your tools. Keep in mind that having a free hand whenever possible gives you the most versatility for the unexpected situation or occasional need for a specific tool. We’d love to see (and show off) some of your tool carrying setups, email us at staff@vententersearch.com with some photos and details.

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Strap That Can

In the hands of a well trained firefighter. The watercan can keep a tremendous amount of fire in check. But before the true effectiveness of the watercan can be achieved it has to be carried religiously. One of the easiest and most effective ways to ensure the watercan will be where it’s needed-when it needed is to modify it with a carrying strap.

Commercially made straps are the best option to make the can easier to carry. They typically come with an adjustable and removable shoulder strap. They also provide carrying handles along the side of the can for sliding the can while crawling.

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A simple piece of webbing can also be used. The main problem with webbing is that it is non-adjustable and not easily removed or unclipped in an entanglement situation.

It’s always fun to raid the EMS supply room and piss-off the medics by taking a backboard strap and adapting it as a carry strap. This makes a cheap adjustable and removable strap. Seat belts can also be removed during the next junk yard extrication day and used in a similar fashion.

Our friend, Kyle A. Kosianowski from Sun Coast FOOLS sent us a picture of their can strap. They used an old set of bunker gear suspenders to make an adjustable carry strap.

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One other difference worth mentioning from the homemade straps shown above is their attachment points. The webbing strap and backboard strap are secured to the can via a screw link and stainless steel hose clamp. The bunker gear strap is held on differently with split rings. Take a look at the bottom attachment point; certain styles of water cans have a visible collar exposed at the bottom. Two small holes can be drilled through the collar and a split ring or paracord can be fed trough to crate the attachment point. Obviously be cautious of where you drill into the can, we are not responsible for you missing the mark and creating a leaky can.

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The commercially made strap is far superior to the homemade versions in many ways. Adjustability and multiple carry options are most notable. Even if the department wont provide the commercial straps, pitch in and buy it for yourselves, they are only about $30-$40.

Besides simply making it easier to carry, the most important aspect to using the water can is to train with it. Finding the most comfortable way to carry it while walking, and while crawling are certainly and individual preference. However, with some practice, it is even easy to perform a crawling search while having the can available to protect the search team if the need arises.

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Can Confidence- H.O.T. Class

VentEnterSearch will be spreading Can Confidence to the gulf coast of Florida for the Sun Coast FOOLS. Jimm and Eric will be teaching the Can confidence portion of a H.O.T. class in Englewood, (FL) on May 28th – 29th. This will be a two day class with the same delivery both days to accommodate shift schedules, space is limited so sign up fast.

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This class is designed to build confidence on one of the most often neglected tools found on nearly every fire apparatus, the 2 1/2 gallon water extinguisher. The “Can” can be an extremely effective lifesaving tool by allowing a well-trained fireman to quickly apply water between fire and victims. Attendees will learn proper filling and pressurization steps, how to build homemade carrying straps and other useful “Can” modifications. The class will also cover valuable skills on carrying and searching with the “Can,” and confining fire with it as well. Students will cycle through a “force an interior door off its hinges” prop and use this door to hold back live fire and smoke. Finally, attendees will perform live fire attacks with nothing more than a “Can” and witness the effect of the “Can” on pre-flashover conditions.

The target audience for this class is firefighters and fire officers at any level with a desire to increase their confidence and learn how to properly utilize the water can.
Register: www.SunCoastFOOLS.eventbrite.com
Cost: $60

 

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Expose the Gap

In this video we demonstrate one way of gaining entry into an outward swinging double door. Before we get into the post we want to get something out of the way… Yes, we recognize this is a glass door and our plan “A” should simply be to take out the 6×8 inch glass, reach in and unlock the door. What if during your plan “A” efforts you reach in and realize the lock is keyed on the inside as well? This additional security measure is typical when glass is located near the lock. For the purpose of this post, we are simulating that plan “A” is not an option and we are going to force entry using conventional techniques.

One firefighter forces are not as difficult as they may seem. With a little practice, one man forcible entry is a very efficient use of man power on the fireground. With a quick size-up of the door in the video we notice it is an outward swinging double door with a slam latch married with a dead-bolt. With this particular occupancy being a hotel, we can strongly suspect some type of chain or bar latch towards eye level of the door (which can be easily defeated). Again, your plan “A” could be to take a glass panel, reach in and unlock the door, but we are moving on to plan “B”.

When dealing with outward swinging double doors we typically wouldn’t have any type of door stop, making it even easier for a one firefighter force. However, what we will typically find is some type of steel or aluminum strip placed over the space between the primary and secondary doors. If this piece (as shown in the video) can be removed, attack its connection points and force it off. If it’s part of the primary door then attempt to pry it away to expose the gap.

After we expose the gap, we can enlarge the gap with the use of an aluminum wedge or an axe. This makes setting the Halligan a lot easier for one firefighter to perform the force. Because this is an outward swinging double door we can simply drive the adze straight in without having to “steer” the Halligan around a door stop. Once the Halligan is set, it’s time to make the force, BE DYNAMIC! You are by yourself, remember force is multiplied the harder and faster you pry the Halligan! Like always get out and see what’s in your first due and train on real doors when you have the opportunity.

In this video we are using the ForceWedge from Daniel Troxell of TroxFire. The “ForceWedge” is a 5.5 inch by 1.5 inch high strength aluminum wedge that allows a firefighter to easily capture or wedge any gapping progress made during a forcible entry operation. Daniel is a solid brother that makes many other tools and forcible entry related props at a very affordable price. Check out his ForceWedge at www.TroxFire.com

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Blocked Door

 

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Seeing these signs on the rear of a commercial occupancy can tell you a few important things. The most obvious is that the door may actually be blocked. But how blocked is it? Is there an actual wall on the other side of the door? Is it fully blocked by high rack storage? Or is it just partially blocked by something less significant like a partial or rolling rack storage?

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What else can this sign tell us? It more than likely indicates that one large business occupies multiple tenant build out spaces. When the building was designed they simply built a shell, with no particular tenant in mind. This is becoming a more popular construction method because it keeps the developers options open in regards to potential tenants.

As you can see from the Alpha side this is one large occupancy that occupies multiple tenant build out spaces.

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On the Charlie side, you can see that three of the doors are blocked, leaving only one potentially clear. We say potentially because these rear storage areas are often overloaded and doors quickly become blocked with merchandise. This is particularly a problem during the holidays when stores are overstocking to keep up with demand.

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When operating at the rear of a commercial occupancy it would be important to transmit this finding over the radio. It may help command appreciate the size of the occupancy if it not already obvious, and it may help interior crews understand that they may not have easily accessible secondary means of egress. From a RIT perspective, the RIT team should certainly make their way to the Charlie side to evaluate these doors themselves. Their presence may make the RIT team re-evaluate their potential rescue plan in case things go bad. Depending on time, and conditions, it may be worth forcing the door anyway to truly evaluate how blocked it is, and how it may be used to support operations.

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Storefront Simulator

In our last post we demonstrated how to maximize the training potential in an acquired structure with a metal door. Click here To see that post. Keeping with the acquired structure topic, in this video we’ll cover how to convert a glass storefront into a realistic and reusable training prop. This glass storefront prop is a great way to rotate a large amount of crews through a scenario involving cutting the throw of an Adams-Rite style lock. The scenario involves creating a gap with a Halligan and a rotary saw to force entry into the building. You can also demonstrate and practice creating a gap with other methods using a simple wedge or axe. This prop is quick and easy to reset and utilizes cheap and readily available consumables.

One of the most important benefits of this drill is that is gives crews the opportunity to build their confidence and understand the pros and cons of this style of forcible entry. It also provides you the opportunity to have the discussion on the importance of maintaining control of the flow path by keeping the glass storefront intact.

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Maximize the Opportunity

Check out our recent video that demonstrates how to maximize the training potential in an acquired structure. In the video we cover how to use a single metal door to perform a number of different forcible entry tasks including:

  • Thru the lock
  • Traditional force
  • Gapping the door
  • Drop bar bolts
  • Cutting hinges
  • Doggy door cut

The main idea is to have a plan ahead of time and attack the door in a methodical fashion. Obviously you would not need to do each of these tasks to a single door on the fireground, but on the training ground, is the best way to maximize the training opportunity. It’s a much better way for multiple people to gain a number of different skills off of a single door.

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Aggressive Truck Functions for a Safer Fireground

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Head on over to fdic.com to check out Jimm’s recently published article titled Aggressive Truck Functions for a Safer Fireground. Click here for a direct link to the article. It introduces the idea of how the timely execution of Aggressive Truck Functions can actually make the fireground safer.

Jimm once again has the honor of presenting a class under the same title at FDIC this year on Wednesday April 22, 2015 at 10:30am in the Wabash 1 room. There is also a video on fdic.com also of Jimm talking about the class click here for a link to the video.

We look forward to seeing you in Indy, you know where we’ll be on Wednesday!

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Portable Door Lock

Ken Deichler from Poughkeepsie (NY) sent in these photos that he came across on a non-fire related website. They are of what is called a “portable door lock” these locks are typically used to provide additional security in a hotel or hostel type setting. After doing some research on these locks we learned there are many different renditions of similar style locks available on the Internet, some are certainly more secure than others.

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The idea behind these locks is that they are temporary, adjust to fit most doors, and do not require any tools making them easy to install. They are obviously not intended to replace permanent locks, but are marketed to provide a basic additional barrier and deterrent against intruders. They also allow for the door to be secure even if someone has the key. Basically it keeps housekeeping from barging in you.

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As you can see above, the portable lock bracket is simply inserted into the strike plate and the door is closed, then the tensioner is slid into place securing the door.

These locks shouldn’t pose any problems to a truck crew with a well-placed and properly operated set of irons, but it will certainly foil most engine companies out there (just kidding engine guys.) Another thing worth mentioning…since these locks need to be placed and secured from the inside their presence almost always indicates occupancy of the room or area being secured.

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