Archive for the 'Tips' Category

Pin It

Andy Golz from Duluth (MN) Engine 1 sent in this simple and effective way to pin the Water Can. This tip works for replacing a missing pin, or to simply ensure the pin remains in place. They found a 2 ½” cotter pin and secured it in place with some paracord. The pin is tight enough that it remains in place without a zip tie, yet is still loose enough so that it is easy to pull when needed. The paracord also makes it easier to pull the pin with a gloved hand.

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Can You Hear Me Now?

Almost 7 years ago we featured a post titled Under, Over, or Not At All? discussing the pros and cons and the ins and outs of wearing a radio strap on the fireground. The post generated a great discussion with well over 100 comments. Many of our readers certainly have their preferences and some had great justifications. Recently, Fairfax County (VA) did an extensive study and report on the topic. Click here for the report. The report makes some pretty startling discoveries, and should be reviewed by everyone in the fire service, from the guys crawling down the halls, and to the Chiefs behind the desk.

The photo above shows the least ideal, but unfortunately the most common way to carry a radio, a coat integrated radio pocket. Signal loss, the actual closure of the pocket failing to keep the radio contained and exposing the radio to a greater level of thermal insult are all likely scenarios with this method of carry. The worst case scenario would be radio failure that could potentially lock up the tactical channel, having a negative impact to everyone of the fire ground.

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Besides the obvious added entanglement hazard, carrying the radio on the exterior of a coat also exposes it to the negative conditions found on the fireground. The strap outside the coat also puts the radio at a higher risk for failure due to thermal and moisture issues.

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Carrying the radio with a strap under the coat, but hanging low enough to have the antenna outside and away from the body (see photo below) is the most ideal and gives the user the best operational reliability.

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So after reading the detailed report, has anyone have a change of heart? Is anyone going to start to carry the radio differently based on this report? Do any of your departments MANDATE a particular method of carry? We suggest printing the report and leaving it on the kitchen table for everyone to review and discuss. One of the most important findings in the report is that the failure of a single radio on the fireground could potentially put everyone else at risk by tying up the fireground tactical channel. A special thanks goes out to the Communication Section Of Fairfax County Fire for their commitment to this research and sharing of this report.

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Saw Bracket

Lieutenant Kevin Nay from Leyden (IL) Fire Protection District sent in this easy saw modification. They were looking for a simple way to secure the chainsaw when not in use while operating on a peaked roof. They fabricated a bracket from scrap plate aluminum found in the shop. The bracket simply uses the existing screw holes for attaching the bracket to the saw. The cost was under $2 for the longer screws.

This technique is useful for chainsaws that have the depth guard on the bar. Making this modification changes how the saw “sits” (as seen below) but will not change how the saw “feels.” Either way everyone should get hands on and train with the saw after this (or any) modification to become familiar with it.

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Rung Plate

Tillerman Eric Wheaton from Winter Park Truck 61 sent in his “twist” on carrying a hook and ladder. This particular method allows the hook to not only remain in place on the fly section as it is extended, but also allows for the hook to remain in place if the ladder is rolled into a new position along the building. Rolling the ladder like shown in the video is an extremely fast way to move a ladder from one window to another when performing a VES operation.

In this method the hook is simply “hooked” onto the rung plate of the fly section on the inside of the beam. Eric has determined that hooking onto the 3rd rung plate from the tip seems to be the best location to ensure the hook remains in place while rolling the ladder. This method has been tested with a variety of different styles of hooks, and seems to work just as well regardless of hook preference.

Adding a small zip tie to the bottom of the hook may be an option to further secure it to the ladder if so desired. The idea behind the zip tie over a velcro or snapping strap is that a small zip tie will simply break away when the hook is tugged when being placed in operation. Another nice feature about this method of carrying a hook is that depending on the orientation of the ladder compartment on the rig, the hook may be able to remain stored in place all of the time since the hook rides on the inside of the beam against the rungs.

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Check Out Those Cans!

When was the last time you checked your gas cans? Not just the fuel level, but the actual condition of the can? Have you ever taken the time to remove the spark/flame arrestor, and pour all of the fuel out? Check out the photos below to see why this may be a good idea.

These photos show the rust that was poured out of a normal looking metal gas can. The wire mesh that makes up the spark/flame arrestor may actually filter the larger chunks of rust keeping them in the can, but some of the smaller chunks may pass through. This rust could easily make its way into the saw and wreak havoc on a small engine.

There are many benefits to using metal gas cans: durability and compliance with legal requirements are probably the most important. However there is one important potential negative drawback. Rust! It’s just something we may have to deal with since plastic cans are not really an acceptable alternative, and are ultimately not fire service friendly.

The simple fix is to really check the conditions of all of your fuel cans, and have the department spring the $30 to replace that beat up 20 year old gas can and prevent damage from that $1500 saw.

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Elevator Key Ring

Assistant Chief Michael Wolfschmidt from Surf City (NJ) sent in these photos of a simple modification they have made to their elevator key ring. Simply adding snap rings to attach each key to the main ring allows for easy removal. It is much easier to manipulate the lock with the single key than the entire ring. Unfortunately the one downfall to this modification is that it defeats the purpose of having all of the keys attached directly to the ring: It’s easier to misplace an individual key.

Another idea is to make a smaller ring with just one or two keys for the most common elevator doors found in your first due. The smaller ring will be used most of the time, and is much easier to work with without having to remove keys. It is also a good idea to make two set of the smaller rings with identical keys. (Obviously the one in the picture below is missing a key, but you get the idea.) This approach allows for the truck crew to split up and approach the top of the elevator car (to secure the power) and the actual elevator door (to facilitate the rescue) simultaneously. These simple tricks speed up the rescue, and make our job much easier.

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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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Window Punch

Martin Patino from Flower Mound (TX) sent in this slick idea to ensure a window punch is always readily available on a MVA. Every one of us has probably has a traditional window (center) punch fall apart, or freeze up at just the wrong time. This simple idea is accomplished by adding a weld bead onto a pair of cable cutters. Once the bead is on the tool, a little time with a hand file will allow the bead to take shape into a point creating the window punch.

Cable cutters are a handy tool to have on MVA’s to cut battery cables, and even defeat the stubborn wiring harness when removing a door. This simple idea makes sure you always have a functional window punch handy without adding any weight or taking up any additional room in your pocket.

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Force Bag

Dave Weinman from Frederick County (MD) sent in this photo and description of their “force bag.” The bag becomes a one stop shop for both destructive combat forcible entry operations and routine through the lock and non-emergency entry operations. They routinely grab the force bag and the irons (they use the popular 8lb force axe and a tuned up pro bar) or a rotary saw, resulting in very few doors that they are not able to defeat. 


 
The kit consists of a Hydra-Ram and its standard bag with the pictured tools added to perform a number of different operations.  In addition to the Hydra-Ram and mallet, (which may or may not be necessary when carrying the irons) they have included the following tools: a modified channel lock tool with key tools in the handles for the removal of rim locks, a K tool in case the rim lock needs some extra encouragement, an additional key tool to take care of the stem hole or recessed latch like those found on Adams Rite commercial locks.  For less fortified doors they have also included: a bucket handle tool for the opening of double glass doors with push bar openers, and a shove knife for making quick work of unsecured knob locks.  A vice grip with chain is also included for lock cutting operations, or door control. The bag is finished out with wood wedges for capturing progress during one man forcible entry or for securing open a forced door.
 
The bag is fairly comprehensive and addresses the common forcible entry needs they have identified in their first due area. The strapped carry bag slung over the shoulder allows the member assigned to FE to carry the irons in one hand while maintaining.
 

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MVA Tool Kit

Mike Terzo Jr. from Rush (NY) sent in this kit of tools he deploys at motor vehicle accidents. The kit includes the following: seatbelt cutter, window punch, duct tape, Ajax strip and peek tool, vice grip adjustable wrench, yellow disposal blanket, length of webbing with carabineer and a 5/16 wrench. The tools are used primarily to disconnect the battery, cut seatbelts, break windows, check under the interior trim for possible air bags or high voltage power, door control, and patient protection.

The purpose of carrying all of the tools in one bag is to ensure that each of these tools is available at every auto accident. The benefit of having all of the commonly used tools in one place allows quick access when the kit is placed on the hood or roof of the vehicle. An additional benefit is that it allows firefighters to carry less equipment in their own pockets. These kits can be made on the cheap, and can be customized based on individual preferences.

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