Archive for August, 2012

Reading Windows

Sgt Ryan Blizek from Mechanicsville (MD) Station 2 sent in these pictures that are a good reminder of the importance of reading windows. Reading windows is an essential skill for everyone on the truck, practically the outside team. Windows can tell us where we need to VES and where we don’t. Windows can also show the inside team where the staircases are located in a multi story building. In this case however the off-set windows for the stair case are a little unusual. The first and second floors are what we’d expect to see when a building has a return style staircase. The mid-floor windows signify where the mid-landing or return of the staircase are located. This in important for everyone (truck, engine, etc.) operating in the building to know. The stairwells can always be used as a area of refuge, and most of the time, lead to an area of safe haven. However, whats going on on the third floor? Look at the picture below.

You can see that the stair case (and return) are still present, but it leads to a pretty interesting drop. The drop from that third floor stairwell window down to the return is about ten feet. Not something you’d want to discover if that window was being used for entry (for what ever reason.) The moral of the story… know how to read windows, know what to expect, and sound the floor before entering any window.

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Vise Grip Mount

John Gilkey from Montgomery County (MD) Station 29 sent in a solution to ensure a pair of vise grips are always handy for rotary saw forcible entry.

The simple solution was created with some scraps laying around the firehouse and involves adding a low profile mount to secure the vise grips right to the air cleaner cover. The mount is made from a thin piece of metal, a 3/8″ bolt, a few nuts, and a small piece of velcro.

The nice thing about this set-up is that no real modifications are needed to the saw. Just take the bolt holding the air filter on, thread the “back-bone” and bolt it all back together. The vice grips are then adjusted until they “Grip” the 3/8” nuts and are held in place with the velcro strap.

Another modification on this set of vise grips was the addition of only two links of chain to the adjustment bolt. The saw’s shoulder strap can be removed and can be used as the lanyard for holding the vise grips when stabilizing a pad lock while cutting.

These modifications are simple, don’t take up any room in a compartment and always assures that your vice grips are with you when you use the saw to cut locks.

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Residential Shutters

Rex Orcutt from East Pierce Fire and Rescue in Pierce County (WA) sent in these photos of something they recently ran into at a residential fire. The house was equipped with metal rolling shutters. Prior to entering the structure, the shutters were in the open position. While operating inside, the crew heard a loud bang, and the window went dark. The shutters had automatically lowered themselves into the closed position. Some quick work with the rotary saw took care of the issue. After the fire they started to determine how the shutters operated.

As you can see from the photo below, the shutters are operated from the inside by a hand crank mechanism that is attached to the shutters by a nylon strap. The heat from the fire melted the strap causing the shutters to lower into position.

When the shutters are stored in the open position, they maintain a low profile, and can easily go unnoticed prior to making entry.

Obviously having the shutters close during our operations can cause a number of issues. Having a crew ready to defeat them once the lower may be a viable option, but is far from ideal. Preventing them from lowering in the first place is key to making this a successful operation. One simple solution could be a simple pair of vise grips secured to the track from the outside to prevent the shutter from being able to lower.

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