Archive for October, 2009

Basement Security

Robbie Marsh from Montgomery County (MD) Takoma Park Station 2 sent in another interesting basement find. From the outside this part of the basement appears to have a typical basement style window. The window toward the A/B corner appears to have a common galvanized tub that surrounds the window since the ground is built up near that window. This situation is extremely common and not much of an issue.

However, the issue becomes apparent from the inside. The window is secured by a 2×4 frame, a welded metal frame, and a piece of scrap sheet metal. The 2×4 frame was secured directly into the block and the metal frame was secured to the 2×4’s. This assembly could more than likely be pried from the wall without too much of an issue. The sheet metal may be a bit more difficult, it was welded on top to a piece of pipe and secured directly into the sill at the bottom. This type of homebrew situation is certainly not impossible to defeat, but it may slow us down just enough to cause a problem. As we have seen through so many previous examples, some building owners go to great efforts to keep people out and never think of us during their “brainstorming” efforts. They get creative with their installations which just means we need to get even more creative with our methods to defeat them.


Stairway to Nowhere
Jeff Purcell from Riverdale (MD) Fire Department sent in these pictures he took while in a store in Hanover, Pennsylvania. The pictures are taken from the basement level of the store and show a staircase that could cause some confusion. Obviously at one point there were two staircases between the basement and first floor. Now there is only one and it’s on the opposite end of the building. If there was any decent level of smoke in the basement it could obscure that this is in fact a stairway to nowhere. Another point to consider is the distance that you’d have to travel to egress from this basement. The presence of only one stairwell could mean having to cover a lot of ground to get of the basement. Hopefully this was not allowed by code, but we all now how that goes.


Ladder Trick

Dan Dejkunchorn (D-Chorn) from Orlando (FL) Firehouse 9 showed us this great method to assist in throwing ladders. This method works great in a number of different instances. The first is when throwing a stick where an overhang is present and there is nothing available to butt it against. Another use is when on a hard surface where the stick may tend to slide like wet concrete. While this method works well in a number of different circumstances, the real reason it was developed was for the “not as tall” firefighter. This method works well on any length of ladder but was intentionally developed for the longer ones (14+). Just another example that proves that it’s better to work smarter not harder.


This ladder tick simply has the firefighter dropping their hook on the ground, stepping on the hook, and using the hook to butt the ladder. With a little practice, this method can be extremely effective. It’s one of those things that everyone should try a few times to see if works for them. You never know when you may be in a situation that requires its use. The video shows the firefighter using the ladder to push the hook into the desired position. That was done intentionally for demonstration in the video. With some practice, it’s easier to drop the hook closer to the actual point of deployment. Keep in mind, it’s better to drop the hook early and push it in to place since it would take too much time to move or pull the hook back into position.

When a shorter firefighter throws a ladder greater than the 14, its more difficult to “get under” the ladder to get it rotated into position. The hook gives the advantage since leverage is not on their side. Throwing a ladder is a classic example of a class 3 lever. The butt of the ladder is the fulcrum, the firefighter is the effort, and the weight of the length of ladder is the load. Shorter firefighters have to work harder to throw a ladder because their height limits the location where the force is applied. Longer ladders have more weight beyond the point of effort (the firefighter). While throwing the ladder, this makes the ladder seem much heavier for the shorter person. Remember, anytime you change the location of any of the three points of a lever (fulcrum, force or effort, weight or load) you change the mechanical advantage. So again, it pays to work smarter not harder. A simple trick like this solves the problem and gets the ladder into position without extra effort.

A special thanks goes out to Dan for sharing and Rob Petroff from Orlando (FL) Firehouse 11 for demonstrating this ladder trick for us. Dan has a few more ideas that we will be featuring in the near future.


Insignificant Bars
Eric Baron from Hempstead (NY) Fire Department sent in these photos that show how not all security bars are created equal. These bars are essentially insignificant and are simply held in place by four cut nails (two on each side) as shown in the photo below. Some simple prying with the halligan on the bracket will pop the nails out in no time. Attacking two brackets on the same side will allow this bar assembly to be “hinged” on the remaining two nails and be taken out of the equation quickly.

Any time a window covering is encountered whether insignificant like this, or a real obstruction, it needs to be removed early in the operation. We never want to be in a situation of having a brother trapped behind an obstruction that should have been removed earlier. Besides, taking a window means TAKING THE ENTIRE WINDOW! That means everything: glass, sash, the works. This would include bars like this as well. So clear the window, and don’t ever be fooled by insignificant security like this.


Fortified Door

Gabriel Angemi from Camden (NJ) Rescue 1 sent in these photos of something he and the brothers of Rescue 1 came across on a fire run. This door was fortified for something we don’t normally encounter… This door was hardened to keep people in!  Click here to see the full write-up on the door and how Rescue 1 attacked it.


Double Drop Bars
Sometimes it’s extremely easy to read the door from the outside. The door shown above is easy to determine that it has two drop bars present. Unfortunately, the picture we took from the inside did not turn out, but we can tell you exactly what it contained. It was a simple U shaped drop bar bracket that extended the width of the door. The brackets accepted simple wood 2×4 drop bars and was duplicated both top and bottom.
There are a few things that may slow us down when forcing this door. The fact that there are a total of 24 carriage bolts securing the two brackets may make attacking the carriage bolts a non-desirable option. The drop bar bracket being solid across the bottom somewhat limits the ability to knock the top drop bar out of position from a cut made in the middle of the door. The sad thing about the occupancy on the other side is that it was only a restaurant, not some mercantile stocked with high dollar items. This post is leading up to our next post that will show a similar but much more difficult door later this week.


Single & Double Door
Caleb Freeman from Redmond (WA) 16 Truck sent in these photos of something he and the 16 Truck crew use for training the rookies. From the outside the door looks like a standard double door, that should not pose too much trouble for the outside team.
From the inside the door looks quite different. One of the doors was framed over making it appear (from the inside) to only be a single door. It may cause some interesting and confusing radio traffic between the inside and outside teams. Similarly unique situations like this exist in almost all of our areas, and serve as great teaching points. Take the time to go over, review, and quiz each other on this “unique situations” and train on how to defeat them.