Archive for the 'Tips' Category

Take This Door And Shove It

We all know that the shove knife can be a very useful tool during non-emergent runs, like automatic fire alarms (AFA) . They are commonly used to gain entry into rooms that have an outward swinging door with a simple “slam latch”.

How many times have you responded to an AFA and found the Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP) locked inside a room with no key to be found? How about an elevator equipment room or an electrical room, all locked and missing keys? A majority of the time these rooms will have an outward swinging door with a “slam latch”. A perfect way to defeat this type of door, with zero damage, is the use of a shove knife. Like any tool, shove knives have their limitations and knowing ways to overcome them will set us up for success. One drawback is not being able to “shove” a door when a latch guard is present. The latch guard is installed to keep intruders from using the shove knife concept and defeating the lock. Unfortunately for us, this eliminates the potential to utilize a shove knife as well… Until now.

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An easy way to shove this type of door and overcome the latch guard is the use a 24 inch piece of weed-eater cord. Start by fishing the cord down from above the guard and behind the latch. The nice thing about weed eater cord is that is maintains a bit of a “memory” when unrolled it will still have a natural arc that helps get it into place behind the latch.

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Next, pull the cord out from the bottom of the guard, you should now have the cord wrapped behind the latch.

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Finally, pull both top and bottom ends of the cord towards you while doing an up and down sawing motion til the door pops open. Hint: Placing a little pressure on the door with your foot makes fishing the line in place easier because it allows the latch to sit properly in its keeper.

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This technique is surprisingly simple, but of course we recommend practicing on doors at the firehouse. The technique works just as well on doors without latch guards. Keep in mind that some doors are placed so tight into the frame that you may not have the room to fish the cord into place or defeat a tamper pin. Most slam latches are accompanied with a tamper pin. The tamper pin is the small semi-circle pin located adjacent to the slam latch (see photo above). The tamper pin works by staying outside the latch keeper causing it to be depressed when the door is closed. When the tamper pin is engaged it is intended to prevent the ability to manipulated the lock with items like shove knives and weed-eater cords. Confused? Find a door with a slam latch and tamper pin, open the door and press the tamper pin towards the door and you’ll find that the slam latch will not move inward. Now let the pin extend back out and notice the slam latch operates properly. When you place inward pressure on the door with your foot we are trying to push the tamper pin into the keeper (allowing it to fully extend) thus defeating the pin.

One benefit about weed-eater cord is that it’s cheap and light. It can be easily carried rolled up in your coat pocket without taking up any room or adding noticeable weight. While this technique might not work on every latch guard installation you come across, it is a simple and effective way to defeat most of them.

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Man In Machine Kit

Every truck company should be prepared to handle those obscure rescues like: machinery entrapments (fingers, hands, arms) Child stuck in a swing seat, and even simple ring removals. These calls can easily be handled by a well-trained and properly equipped crew and a little ingenuity. Included below are some photos and inventory list of the Man in Machine (MIM) Kit carried on Winter Park (FL) Truck 61. The kit is carried in a Pelican Box with shelves made from ½” HDPE plastic, and tools are secured in place with Velcro straps. The box is a little on the heavy side, but meets the need. We’ll point out a few of the more oddball items included in the kit with a quick explanation of how it’s utilized.

Many of the newer style of wedding rings are made from more exotic materials than previously found like tungsten carbide and titanium. These modern ring materials are to strong for the traditional ring removal tools often found in medical bags. This kit contains a ring cracker specifically made for tungsten carbide rings and a dremel tool and spoon handles for cutting titanium rings. The spoon handle is placed under the ring in between the ring and patients finger so the dremel blade does not come in contact with skin.

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The snap ring pliers is a great tool to carry since many machine components like rollers are held in place by snap rings on the ends. The snap rings are present to allow of the machine to be taken apart for maintenance. When dealing with a MIM type rescue, sometimes the simplest way to remove the entrapment is to take the effected portion of the machine apart instead of just trying to pry or defeat it in a destructive and often more time consuming method.

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Having simple lubricants handy like soapy water and vegetable oil work well in instances when less traumatic injuries are present and the effected body part is simply “stuck.” The water can be used as a cooling agent when any of the grinding tools are being utilized. Simply poking a few holes in the cap of the water bottle allows for the water to be squeezed out or dripped into the area of need.

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This kit is by no means the best kit out there; it has been assembled to handle the most common types of MIM incidents Truck 61 has encountered. Depending on the type of entrapment other items found on the truck are also utilized such as simple mechanics tools.

TOP

(2) SNAP RING PLIERS

(1) RING CRACKER w/ (2) SPOON HANDLES

(1) WIRE CUTTERS and (1) HEAVY DUTY END NIPPER

(1) SMALL HACK SAW w/ SPARE BLADES

(1) TIN SNIP

(1) SMALL FLAT HEAD SCREW DRIVER and (1) MULTI-HEAD SCREW DRIVER

(1) 9” PRY BAR and (1) 11” PRY BAR

(1) LONG REACH NEEDLE NOSE PLIERS and (1) LONG REACH 90 degree NEEDLE NOSE PLIERS

REMOVABLE TRAY

(3) COMPOSITE GRIND WHEELS

(1) 2” PUTTY KNIFE

(1) 3” PUTTY KNIFE

(1) 4” PUTTY KNIFE

(1) PLASTIC MOLDING REMOVER

(1) 18“ PRY BAR

(1) LARGE HACK SAW (stored on back side of tray)

BOTTOM

(1) STEEL WEDGE

(1) ANGLE GRINDER w/ DIAMOND BLADE

(1) DREMEL TOOL

(1) 2.5lb DEAD BLOW HAMMER

(2) DREMEL TOOL ACCESSORY KITS

(1) 1000ml VEGETABLE OIL

(1) 1000ml WATER

(1) 1000ml SOAPY WATER

(1) LARGE HACK SAW BLADE PACK

There are some tremendous resources available to learn more about MIM type Rescues, the guys over at www.plvulcanfiretrainingconcepts.com have some great resources. Also www.countyfiretactics.com has been featuring a bunch of MIM props that Andrew Brassard from www.brotherhoodinstructors.com has been submitting. It doesn’t take much to assemble a kit to increase your capabilities for the often challenging calls. So what other items have you found a need for in your MIM kit?

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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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