Archive for the 'Inside Functions' Category
Kyle Rice from Christiana (DE) Station 12 sent in this interesting picture found on a non-fire related website.
Seeing this from the outside while performing a VES might be slightly confusing, and possibly dangerous. If the doors to the bed are closed, it could possibly prevent “reading” the conditions in the room prior to entering from the window. Taking the window would more than likely allow minimal smoke to escape, giving the appearance that there is little smoke present in the room. Fortunately, it should be quite obvious from the ladder that the bed in just inside the window opening, and that the bed is surrounded by this enclosure.
Finding this from the inside might also pose a few challenges, namely egress and search. If the doors were closed, and moderate smoke conditions present in the room, the window could go unnoticed as an emergency egress. It could also be confusing since an inside team might expect to see a window as soon as they make entry into the bedroom. Unfortunately a sloppy search team might miss the bed entirely if the doors were in the closed position.
Going into a search you should have some expectations in mind. You should “trust but verify” these expectations, but don’t get vapor locked on them. When you encounter something out of the norm, you should quickly determine what it is, what if any impact it may have on your operations, and continue the task at hand.1 comment
Chris Bauchle from Indianapolis International Airport (and USAF TSgt, judging from the finely pressed uniforms…) sent in these pictures of his apartment building. From the hallway, it appears to be a standard center-hall style apartment building. But, since you know your area, you’d know that this building was previously a school. When the building was converted into the apartments, two classrooms were combined into one apartment. As a result, The “second door” actually leads into a closet inside the apartment. You’d probably figure it out after forcing the first one, or taking the time to notice the apartment numbers on the door if smoke conditions permit. Either way, it could waste some precious time.
During the conversion, the “second door” was secured from the inside with standard hinges. The original door hardware was left in place for aesthetics.
Whenever a building is being re-purposed in your area, take the time to walk though and ask the construction crew some questions. It is amazing what you’ll learn, and more importantly, what they’ll tell you if you just ask! A special thanks goes out to Chris and his Brothers from the Indy Airport for protecting us all as we fly into IND for FDIC in a few weeks!2 comments
Justin Oliva from the Indiana Fire Association sent in this interesting find. It is a new style of door lock and handle combination. As you can see from the photo, the actual door knob recesses into the lock assembly. The lock utilizes an electronic key (slot below the handle) that allows the door knob to move. The unique feature of the recessing knob may allow this door to go undetected in low visibility situations if the search team is relying on “sweeping” the wall for knobs in order to locate doors.
It’s also worth mentioning that electronic locks have an internal battery pack that powers the lock. These locks do not require building power to operate. They do however require a charge on the internal battery to operate. In addition, it appears that this lock assembly utilizes a traditional lock throw, so standard forcible entry techniques will force the door with ease. The absence of the knob (when recessed) makes it more difficult to attach something to allow for control of the door during the force.
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.5 comments
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.6 comments
Steven Cunningham from Stafford County (VA) Quint 12 sent in these photos of something they found during a recent walk though of an elementary school. They saw a storage room that also had a sign for the sprinkler room, so obviously they wanted to check it out. When they opened the door, they were quite surprised at what they found.
Not only that the room was much larger then was expected, but more importantly, that the storage room had been converted into a small classroom. The sprinkler room is actually one room off of the former storage room (the door can be seen in the left side of the photo above.) Things like this could be happening more often due to the combination of school overcrowding and budget cuts. So they most important question is: would you have checked this room on a primary? What about the secondary? What if it didn’t have the sprinkler sign? It is also worth pointing out that this room has no windows or secondary means of egress.
We will never know of all of these instances that happen in our response areas, but we can do the best to prepare ourselves for them. We need to get out into our response areas, and walk through buildings on a regular basis, and always expect the unexpected. …We don’t think this is what the teachers had in mind when they said they wanted smaller class sizes.2 comments
Captain Tim Meister from Charleston (IL) sent in these photos of a hidden playroom they came across on an EMS run. As you can see from the photo, the entrance of the playroom is approximately 3-4 feet off the ground behind a hinged piece of paneling. The overall dimensions of the room were 8′X12′ so even though the room has a low ceiling, it is still nearly 100 square feet in size. The room did not have permanent power but did have a lamp with an extension cord that is plugged in while the kids are playing. These hidden playrooms are much more common then you would suspect, and as you can imagine, will cause us significant issues during a search. Even slight smoke conditions would make this room impossible to find, the small handle on the door, paired with the picture hanging from it would not even make us suspect the presence of the room.
Chris Johnson sent in these photos of how the guys from Concord, NH Tower Ladder 1 found a better use for the bag they were issued as an MCI triage kit… They cut the waist belt off of the pouch and added some quick clips, allowing it to fit onto the side of the Hydra Ram perfectly. They use this to carry the through-the-lock tools hands free and in an organized way anywhere they go. The bag is actually clipped onto the swivel-ends of the shoulder strap, not the Hydra Ram itself. This allows the whole bag to come off when the shoulder strap is dropped to use the tool (although you can still use the tool with the bag hanging from it.) They also added some rope zipper pulls so the bag can be opened with gloves on.
Through-the-Lock Bag Contents:
• Key Tools: standard one, home made one, and a 5/32” Fox one
• Shove Knife
• Vice Grips with Cable Handle
• (2) Door Chocks
Joe Barr from Pine Hill (NJ) sent in these photos of something they ran into on a recent run. The cages are not visible at all from the outside due to the window covering and the setback of the jamb. They are starting to notice these more throughout the area. The resident claimed that she is supposed to open the cages for the fire department if there were ever a fire. Some of the cages are locked by a master lock, and this one, blocked from opening by furniture. This makes opening them not a quick and easy task for the resident to accomplish. Whenever we are operating in a structure with blocked egress windows like this, some immediate attention should be given to their removal. Leaving something like this in place while crews are operating inside could put us behind the call if we needed to remove a victim, or even worse, one of us. Fortunately, these can be removed easily from the inside with a set of irons, the trick is identifying them, and prioritizing their removal.7 comments
Hidden access stairs can certainly cause some confusion on the fireground. They allow for unobstructed smoke and fire travel, and can make finding additional floors frustrating.
The first example was sent in by Derek Porter and the Engine 3 crew from Morgantown (WV.) In this example, a spiral staircase leading to the occupied basement is concealed behind a bi-fold closet door. The staircase was added by the homeowner once the basement was “finished” to prevent having to go outside to access the basement. The spiral staircase fit just perfectly into the existing closet, while maintaining the bi-fold doors.
The next example is from Ronny Findeisen from Stuttgart Fire Department in Germany and proves this is not just a problem found in the United States. In this situation you can see a set of sliding closet doors that is concealing two hidden stairs leading to both a floor above and below.
Neither of these situations are going to ruin our day, they are just going to make the primary search a bit more complicated and time consuming.