Archive for the 'Tips' Category

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Induction Loop Trick

There are a number of different methods to gain access to a closed gate. There are a few commercial products that property owners may have installed to make sure the fire department can easily access the property without damaging the gate. These products include: siren activation, emergency light activation, and even radio activation. However, each of these have to be installed properly and maintained regularly in order to remain operational. We have to have other options available to us to open the gates quickly when the commercial options are not present, or out of service.

Fortunately for us, there is another option that works on a majority of gates. Have you ever noticed that most gates open to let you out of the gated area simply by driving up to it? Have you ever wondered how that works? It’s called an induction loop, it is an insulated electrically conducting loop that is installed in the pavement. It can been seen as the lines cut into the ground in the area of the gate. The automatic gate opener monitors the inductance in the wire, and when it senses a change of the inductance, it opens the gate. We have the ability to easily trick the gate into thinking there is a car present, resulting in the gate opening. Any large metal object that can be placed on the inside and outside the loop at the same time will activate the gate. Typically there will be two induction loops installed near the gate. the first (or furthest from the gate) is to let the gate know that a car needs the gate opened. The second (closer to the gate) is to let the gate know that the car has cleared the gate, and the gate can close.

As seen above, the ground pad from the Truck can be slid under the gate with a hook. Once the ground pad is slid into position, the gate will open. As mentioned earlier, it has to go over the induction loop that is the furthest away from the gate.

Just so we don’t make the guys on the engine feel left out, the photo below shows a 14 foot ladder being used to accomplish the same thing.

One tip to keep in mind, is that once the gate is activated the hook or ladder need to be removed from the path of the opening gate. Quickly removing the hook (once the pad is in place) or pushing the ladder all the way under the gate takes care of the issue.

Wouldn’t it be helpful to keep the gate open for the remainder of the units responding to the alarm? A slick idea is to keep a piece of metal in place over the induction loop. Since we probably don’t want to leave the ground pad behind, or the ladder where it will get run over, we can simply use another object. A small piece of aluminum (like an old parking sign) can be placed on the rig for this exact purpose. It is much lighter and easier to put in place than the outrigger pad, and no-one will get pissed when its lost or run over.


Bucket O’ Chain

Andy Golz from Duluth (MN) Rescue 1 sent in this idea for simple chain storage. They were not happy with their previous set-up using old O2 bags for the chains, so they set out to find a better solution. They found a few empty foam containers and cut the tops off with a reciprocating saw. Once the top was removed a few holes were drilled about two inches from the top of the container. A few out-of-service prussik cords were used to form the handle secured to the container with a barrel or scaffold knot. Before securing the second side of either prussik, the cord was run through a five inch section of garden hose to complete the handle. Hanging the hooks on the top edge of the container makes them easy to find, and prevents the chain from getting tangled.


Tool Wrap

Tommy Ursetti from Sarasota County (FL) Station 5 sent in this photo of a different method of creating a tool wrap. This wrap simply uses cotton clothes line rope and some half hitches. The wrap is technically called a Chinese staircase, named from the spiral that is formed as the knot is tied. The wrap is started with a clove hitch at one end followed by multiple half hitches pulled tight after each knot. The wrap is finished with a another clove hitch and secured with super glue. One benefit of using this style of wrap is that it tends to be a bit more durable than wraps created with tape. Any small diameter rope works well for this wrap. One potential benefit to consider when using cotton rope is that it actually gets a little tighter when wet. Para-cord (550 cord) also works very well. It tends to create a flatter wrap if the inside stands of the cord are removed prior to wrapping the tool. Its a big pain to remove the strands, but some people prefer the flatter wrap. Tommy mentioned that he actually learned this wrap from Chris Kelly and Lt. Jerry Jensen.

Some people prefer modifying their tools with grips, others do not. There are obvious pros and cons. Whatever your preference is the key to success is to take care of your tools, and train with them regularly.


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