Archive for the 'Inside Functions' Category

Hiding Behind the Door

Captain Dan Herberger from Batavia City (NY) Fire Department submitted a story that we should share at the firehouse table.

Captain Herberger says “While I was looking for my daughter a few weeks ago, I opened the door to her bedroom and entered, not finding her after calling her name.  After a few seconds I heard giggling and closed the door to find her between the wall and a piece of furniture.  The first thing I thought of was, would I have missed a child while performing a search?  I will certainly think of this experience when performing a search in the future.  You never know when a training opportunity will present itself.”

Searching behind every door, even if it is flush against the wall, (or this case, against furniture) is critical during a primary search. Doing so, could locate another room or a victim who collapsed prior to exiting and is now wedged between the door and wall. Our friends at note that about 12% of fire victims are found within 6ft of the door. So you might be asking yourself, If I am looking for a victim, why search behind a door that opens flush against a wall, a victim can not fit in that space? But if you think back to Captain Herberger’s story you will realize this is one real scenario! In his case there was a void space, just big enough for a child to hide behind a bedroom door.

Room orientation can also hide things behind doors. There are many hotels, college dorms and even private dwellings where entry or bedroom doors, when opened, cover closets and bathrooms. So how would we find these areas if we do not check behind doors? One method that works well for a two person search team is to assign the officer to check behind the door. As the firefighter is sent into a room to search, the officer already at the door maintaining orientation, has a great opportunity to check behind it.

Both members of the interior search team need to recognize what type of room they are conducting a search in. This will cue them into what “should” be the orientation of that room. For example, while searching a hotel room, we should be expecting a bathroom and possibly a small closet in each room. The officer should communicate to the firefighter “search the bathroom, search the closet.” Communicating this will guide the firefighter and help them have a more thoughtful search. If we came out of that hotel room and did not search a bathroom and/or a closet, we should be highly suspicious of missed rooms. Did we check what’s hiding behind the door?

Thank you Captain Herberger for this submission!



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Forks and the Mortise

When learning forcible entry the discussion of where to place the forks of your Halligan will inevitably come up. Your options are above the lock, below the lock or between the locks if there’s more than one. All options have their place but there is one particular type of locking mechanism where placing the fork in between the locks won’t work. Mortise locks (as pictured below) have been around since the 1800’s.

These locks get their name from the mortise or pocket that is required to be cut into the door for installation. They’re commonly found in older buildings, commercial buildings, high end residential or any place that requires a durable lock that will hold up to thousands of operations.

Sizing up a door for a mortised lock is difficult and has made me lean towards always placing my forks either above or below the locks and never between. If you are a strong believer in placing your forks between the locks then you should know that mortise locks normally don’t have escutcheon plates that are offset from the door more than a ¼”. This is because the lock cylinders are threaded into the mortised guts of the lock and this requires the installer to be able to spin the lock into position. Bored Cylinder locks are held together with screws and can be offset from the door greater distances.

If you haven’t figured out why you can’t place your forks in between the locks from the pictures above then take a closer look at an example of a door forced by Orlando (FL) Fire Department’s Tower 11 B shift crew.

Photos by: JJ Cassetta

This door had to be forced to allow smoke to ventilate from the upper floor of a hospital. It was inward swinging and set into a metal frame with concrete walls. As you can see if the forks were placed between the locks they would end up running into the deadbolt. This would prove to be very frustrating in smoky conditions and is the reason you should stay away from placing your Halligan there. Another option is pulling the cylinder using k-tool or other lock pulling tool. The mortised lock is a durable lock but the cylinder is only held in with two small set screws.

Jeremy Rubottom is currently a Firefighter with the Orlando (FL) Fire Department, assigned to the Heavy Rescue 1. Jeremy has been in the fire service for a total of 15 years. Prior to joining OFD, he was a Firefighter for the St. Johns County (FL) Fire Department for 5 years. He is an instructor at Valencia Fire Rescue Institute, working with the Truck Company Operations and Special Operations programs. Jeremy is a Georgia Smoke Diver and has taught at the Orlando Fire Conference for several years. He is also a H.O.T. Instructor for VentEnterSearch, LLC.


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Double-Wide Addition

Joseph Dorsette, from Broward County Sheriff’s Office (FL), recently submitted his findings that were discovered during an alarm at a residence. While conducting a 360 he noticed the single-wide mobile home behind the actual alarm had been modified into a double-wide, with an extra addition.

The existing single-wide mobile home appeared modified, the car port was closed in with a lightweight wall which was constructed of half inch plywood, sprayed with knock-down and painted. Three windows were added as well as a satellite dish, this made it appear to be the original double-wide.

The second modification was an 8 x 8 metal shed possibly used as an additional bedroom or general floor space. A hole had to be created in the rear of modified car port and then the shed butted up against the home. Strips of aluminum, pieces of painted plywood, and some type of adhesive were added to make it fit against the home. Also, a hole was cut into the rear of the shed for a window shaker and a second satellite dish. It is unknown if the owner or occupants ran electric to the additions or possibly utilized extension cords for power. Also unknown is the layout of the inside, if the shed doors were left in place or removed and if an interior door was used and possibly subleased.

Another interesting observation, was the shed and the right side of the mobile home (looking at it from the pictured angle) were not connected internally but connected externally with a small piece of plywood and the aluminum panels from the ground

Joseph was not able to make contact with the occupant and all windows were boarded up from hurricane Irma. He stated that “As an officer this type of addition to an addition can hinder several aspects of our operations from interior attack to search and rescue.”

Other topic this post brings up are boarded up windows. This time of year it is common for hurricane prone areas to have a large increase in board up windows. Hurricane board ups, although typically not difficult to defeat, can present entry and egress issues if not prepared. If you work in a hurricane prone area, survey your first due during this time and build multiple plans of attack.

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Can Confidence Training Minutes

Portions of the VentEnterSearch Can Confidence class were recently featured on Season 19 of Fire Engineering’s Training Minutes. We have always been known for being huge advocates of the Water Can. When carried correctly, and utilized properly, the Can will put out a tremendous amount of fire. It’s an ideal tool for companies or crews who do not have the protection of a hose line. In these videos we demonstrate the Can’s abilities under live fire conditions by utilizing thermal imagining video. The break down and links to each episode are below.

Episode 1 covers the basics of the Water Can, and covers some of its capabilities and limitations. Click here for Episode 1.

Episode 2 covers several Can modifications to make the Can more user friendly and versatile. Click here for Episode 2.

Episode 3 covers multiple ways to search with the can. These are just a few methods we demonstrate in our Can Confidence class. Click here for Episode 3.

Episode 4 covers interior door removal, moving a door that has been removed and shows how much fire a residential hollow core door can hold back. Click here for Episode 4.

Episode 5 covers the concept of locate, confine and extinguish fire with nothing more than the Can. Click here for Episode 5.

Episode 6 covers the proper way to apply water from the can. It also demonstrates the effectiveness of the Can on a modern fuel load! Click here for Episode 6.

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Climate Controlled “Storage”

Lt. Todd Hime from Marion County (FL) Station 18 sent in this interesting find they came across while out testing hydrants.


From the outside, it appears to be a straightforward townhome building with a total of 5 two-story units. At the top of the stairs you will find an interesting opening about two to three feet high. As you can see from the photos below, this leads to a 3rd floor “climate controlled storage.” Climate controlled storage is the term the builder used when describing this set-up to the inquisitive crew. However we could certainty see it being used for a child’s play room or even worse case scenario, a child’s bedroom.


Upon closer inspection of the rest of the buildings being completed in this complex the crew found that one of the buildings at least had windows located in the gable of the two end units that may tip us off to the presence of this potential “third floor.” Two of the buildings in this complex (including the one shown here) do not have any windows in the gable.

Apparently, the building code allows for this “climate controlled storage” as long as it does not have permanent steps leading to the floor or include doors to close them off. Since these are townhomes and not apartment buildings, the occupants are free to alter the insides of the units however they like. We wouldn’t put it past a homeowner to retrofit a door to cover this opening once they take ownership of the property. Once a door is covering this opening, it may look like a simple air handler closet.


As we mentioned earlier, this opening is right at the top of the stairs. Any fire or smoke conditions on either floor would quickly fill this space with smoke and heat.


Below are the floor plans from the builders website, with no indication of the “climate controlled storage”.

Floor Plan

A quick aggressive and effective search is essential to increase/ensure the safety/survivability of the occupants in a building experiencing smoke and fire conditions. Unfortunately for us, sometimes building construction and poor choices of the occupants work against us. We must constantly be learning about trends in building construction, and learning the buildings in our first due in order to remain successful on the fireground.


Cancel the Engine

We are sure this video is going to make its rounds on the Internet. At this point we don’t know much about it other than it’s from Bellerose Terrace NY. Judging by the names on the coats, we are guessing it’s Floral Park FD. We already know that many people have taken exception to the lack of SCBA use during entry. We could also make an argument to leave the building sealed up until the water can was ready to go. However, we are not here to throw stones, lets use this video to discuss the effectiveness of the water can. In this instance it appears that the Truck Company (without water) arrived ahead of the Engine Company. This could happen in any city in the world. Even if your Truck Company carries water, it could have been a Chief’s buggy that arrived on scene first. For that very reason, EVERY VEHICLE THAT HAS FIRE DEPARTMENT MARKINGS SHOULD HAVE A WATER CAN! We can show up on scene and do nothing, or we can at least slow the forward progress of the fire. We are the fire department and that’s what people expect, regardless of the vehicle we show up in!

As demonstrated in the video, the water can works! Every firefighter should be Properly Trained on how to efficiently and effectively use the water can. We are professionals and should know more about this essential piece of Fire Department equipment… It’s a lot more than just P.A.S.S.

We have always been advocates of the water can. In the hands of a well trained firefighter, the can will put out a tremendous amount of fire.


Privacy Door Latch

Engineer Caleb Eiriksson from Fort Walton Beach (FL) Truck Company 6 sent in these photos and information about overcoming the PEMKO Privacy Door Latch. We have featured a large number of supplemental locks over the years, but we haven’t focused much on this one commonly found in many hotels and dormitories. The PEMKO Privacy Door Latch (PDL) is an extremely basic supplemental lock that can be easily defeated once you have a basic understanding of the lock. Under fire conditions, the PDL would not stand a chance to a properly trained firefighter with a well-placed set of irons. But it’s important to know how to defeat the lock in a less destructive fashion during an automatic fire alarm or service calls we often run in these type occupancy’s. Even when a building representative is available to assist with keys to the room, the PDL would still need to be overcome if it were in the latched position.

A Slim Jim from the vehicle lockout kit is one viable option, It works very well due to the tool being long enough to reach behind the latch and it’s flexible enough to allow the door to completely close when it is in place. The main downfall to using the Slim Jim is that it can’t (and shouldn’t) be carried in your pocket and will not be readily available when needed. Unfortunately, a shove knife is too rigid and too short to defeat the latch.


Open the door until the security latch engages


Slide the Slim Jim through the door and over the top and behind the latch.


Slowly pull the door closed while pulling back on the Slim Jim. This will pull the latch into the closed position. as mentioned earlier, the flexibility of the Slim Jim allows the door to be completely closed with the tool in place. Once the latch is disengaged, the door will open freely.

A more realistic and easier method involves the simple piece of webbing that you should already carry in your pocket.


Open the door until the security latch engages.


Slip the single piece of webbing over the top of the mechanism and pull back through the bottom. This is actually more difficult than it looks, and takes a little practice to perfect.


Slowly pull the door closed while pulling on the webbing. This will pull the latch to the closed position. Using a single piece of webbing will allow the door to close completely and prevents the webbing from getting caught in the jam. Once the latch is disengaged, the door will open freely.


Recently, Truck Company 6 ran into a hotel manager who had a homemade tool he carried to defeat the PDL’s is his particular hotel. It’s a simple piece of flexible metal fabricated into a shape that resembles the number 7. This tool works the same a the Slim Jim option mentioned above, but may be a little long (and unrealistic) to carry routinely in a bunker pocket.

A basic understanding of these style locks is essential to successfully defeating them in non-fire situations.. After working with these locks a bit, and seeing how easy they are to defeat with the proper equipment, Truck Company 6 has added both webbing and a shove knife to the medical bags to prevent from having to run back to the rig when these locks are encountered.


Extending Your Hand, Not Your Tool

Searching with a tool is something that every firefighter needs to be proficient in. Unfortunately, like many of the essential fireground skills we must master, most fire schools do not teach real world search techniques. In particular, they don’t cover how to effectively search with a tool. One of the things we must consider when sweeping with the tool is that the tool has no feeling. It transmits to the firefighter the sensation of coming in contact with an object, but it gives no indication of what the object really is. This forces the firefighter to reach out further, potentially coming off of the wall, to verify what the tool struck. Besides the fact that this takes additional time, it could also cause significant, if not fatal damage to the very victim we are trying to save. A simple drill to illustrate this point would be to search for a large piece of fruit (watermelon, cantaloupe, etc.) Perform this search blacked out, swinging a tool as you search. As you can imagine, you will certainly find the melon, but more than likely speared it or beat it up in the process. It could be argued that sweeping with the non-working end of the tool may minimize the damage to the victim (or melon) but perhaps there is a better way.


Lets start off with discussing which hand you carry the tool in when you search. for this method it is best to carry the tool in the hand of the direction of the search pattern. Left hand search pattern = carry tool in left hand, right hand search pattern = carry the tool in your right hand. This places the tool against the wall, and minimizes the desire to swing and sweep into the room with the tool. When the searching firefighter feels the need to “extend” the search and sweep out into the room , the tool is paced against the wall and the firefighter places their foot on the tool.


As you can see from the pictures below, the firefighters reach into the room is the exact same regardless if the foot was on the wall and tool swept into the room or if the tool was placed on the wall and the firefighter stretched out into the room.



Another thing worth mentioning is that simple act of constantly swinging the tool out into the room actually contributes to firefight fatigue. It takes more energy to swing the tool back and forth than it would to just crawl with it.

Like everything else in the fire service, there is a time and a place were certain techniques should be used over another. This technique may or may not work well for you, but you will only know that after you take the time to train with it. Just keep in mind, when performing a search, you are looking for a viable human life in a very time sensitive manner. It is our duty to master the skill of the search and be able to complete the search in the most time sensitive (and least fatal way) possible.

In our next post we will build on this concept an show some additional things we should consider when performing this type of search.


Strap That Can

In the hands of a well trained firefighter. The watercan can keep a tremendous amount of fire in check. But before the true effectiveness of the watercan can be achieved it has to be carried religiously. One of the easiest and most effective ways to ensure the watercan will be where it’s needed-when it needed is to modify it with a carrying strap.

Commercially made straps are the best option to make the can easier to carry. They typically come with an adjustable and removable shoulder strap. They also provide carrying handles along the side of the can for sliding the can while crawling.


A simple piece of webbing can also be used. The main problem with webbing is that it is non-adjustable and not easily removed or unclipped in an entanglement situation.

It’s always fun to raid the EMS supply room and piss-off the medics by taking a backboard strap and adapting it as a carry strap. This makes a cheap adjustable and removable strap. Seat belts can also be removed during the next junk yard extrication day and used in a similar fashion.

Our friend, Kyle A. Kosianowski from Sun Coast FOOLS sent us a picture of their can strap. They used an old set of bunker gear suspenders to make an adjustable carry strap.


One other difference worth mentioning from the homemade straps shown above is their attachment points. The webbing strap and backboard strap are secured to the can via a screw link and stainless steel hose clamp. The bunker gear strap is held on differently with split rings. Take a look at the bottom attachment point; certain styles of water cans have a visible collar exposed at the bottom. Two small holes can be drilled through the collar and a split ring or paracord can be fed trough to crate the attachment point. Obviously be cautious of where you drill into the can, we are not responsible for you missing the mark and creating a leaky can.


The commercially made strap is far superior to the homemade versions in many ways. Adjustability and multiple carry options are most notable. Even if the department wont provide the commercial straps, pitch in and buy it for yourselves, they are only about $30-$40.

Besides simply making it easier to carry, the most important aspect to using the water can is to train with it. Finding the most comfortable way to carry it while walking, and while crawling are certainly and individual preference. However, with some practice, it is even easy to perform a crawling search while having the can available to protect the search team if the need arises.

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Expose the Gap

In this video we demonstrate one way of gaining entry into an outward swinging double door. Before we get into the post we want to get something out of the way… Yes, we recognize this is a glass door and our plan “A” should simply be to take out the 6×8 inch glass, reach in and unlock the door. What if during your plan “A” efforts you reach in and realize the lock is keyed on the inside as well? This additional security measure is typical when glass is located near the lock. For the purpose of this post, we are simulating that plan “A” is not an option and we are going to force entry using conventional techniques.

One firefighter forces are not as difficult as they may seem. With a little practice, one man forcible entry is a very efficient use of man power on the fireground. With a quick size-up of the door in the video we notice it is an outward swinging double door with a slam latch married with a dead-bolt. With this particular occupancy being a hotel, we can strongly suspect some type of chain or bar latch towards eye level of the door (which can be easily defeated). Again, your plan “A” could be to take a glass panel, reach in and unlock the door, but we are moving on to plan “B”.

When dealing with outward swinging double doors we typically wouldn’t have any type of door stop, making it even easier for a one firefighter force. However, what we will typically find is some type of steel or aluminum strip placed over the space between the primary and secondary doors. If this piece (as shown in the video) can be removed, attack its connection points and force it off. If it’s part of the primary door then attempt to pry it away to expose the gap.

After we expose the gap, we can enlarge the gap with the use of an aluminum wedge or an axe. This makes setting the Halligan a lot easier for one firefighter to perform the force. Because this is an outward swinging double door we can simply drive the adze straight in without having to “steer” the Halligan around a door stop. Once the Halligan is set, it’s time to make the force, BE DYNAMIC! You are by yourself, remember force is multiplied the harder and faster you pry the Halligan! Like always get out and see what’s in your first due and train on real doors when you have the opportunity.

In this video we are using the ForceWedge from Daniel Troxell of TroxFire. The “ForceWedge” is a 5.5 inch by 1.5 inch high strength aluminum wedge that allows a firefighter to easily capture or wedge any gapping progress made during a forcible entry operation. Daniel is a solid brother that makes many other tools and forcible entry related props at a very affordable price. Check out his ForceWedge at

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