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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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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The Lost Art of the Truck Company

VentEnterSearch’s own Jimm Walsh will be presenting The Lost Art of the Truck Company on July 31, 2012 at the First Annual Mickel Begg Leadership and Safety Conference. The conference is being held in honor and reverence to the memories of Lieutenant John Mickel and Firefighter Dallas Begg. The conference will be held in Celebration Florida from July 31- August 1 and will also include presentations by Rick Lasky, Mac McGarry, and Mark Lighthill. The conference is hosted by Osceola County Professional Firefighters Association IAFF Local 3284, and the Central Florida FOOLS. These two fine organizations are offering the entire conference for FREE to anyone who is interested in attending. Please click here to download the flyer for additional information and registration information.

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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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Interior Security Bars

Captain Rick Cravero from Tamarac (FL) sent in these photos of security bars on the inside of windows from a local neighborhood. When the windows are shut, the bars appear to look more like french window panes instead of security bars. One thing that may give it away is that in this particular case, is that not many jalousie windows had french panes.

These particular bars are simply held in place by some self-tapping screws into the original window frame. These bars may slow us down a little, but shouldn’t be much of a match to a determined firefighter. Depending on how the window frame is secured (how many screws were used), pulling on the bars may remove the entire window frame. If the window frame is well secured, then inserting either the fork or the adz of the halligan in between the window frame and the security bar assembly to separate the bars from the window frame would speed up the removal. Once the frame of the bar assembly is weakened and separated from the frame in a few places, the entire bar assembly should be able to be “hinged” away from the window opening. The rotary saw always remains an option, but believe it or not, the hand tools may end up being quicker.

The main thing to consider when faced with bars is to remove them early! Waiting until conditions deteriorate, or worse, when a fellow firefighter needs to bail out is not what we should be doing. Trying to minimize damage to the structure by waiting to remove them may actually cause more damage in the end. Simply open it up, and get the job done!

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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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Maybe it’s the Decking…

Here is a great video of a close call on the roof. Forest Park (OH) firefighters were performing a vertical vent on a residential fire, when the decking started to fail. The firefighter knew enough to spread out and was caught and SAVED by the trusses. Huh, imagine that, the decking is what failed, and the trusses are what saved him… Maybe those trusses aren’t so dangerous after all. Maybe the fire service should be mad at the cheap and thin OSB decking instead of the trusses… Kudos goes to Forest Park for getting the roof, and knowing what to do in case things go bad. Training made the difference!

Video from WKRC Local 12 Cincinnati

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