Archive for the 'Inside Functions' Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Open the door until the security latch engages

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

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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.

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Open the door until the security latch engages.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 www.TroxFire.com

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Portable Door Lock

Ken Deichler from Poughkeepsie (NY) sent in these photos that he came across on a non-fire related website. They are of what is called a “portable door lock” these locks are typically used to provide additional security in a hotel or hostel type setting. After doing some research on these locks we learned there are many different renditions of similar style locks available on the Internet, some are certainly more secure than others.

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The idea behind these locks is that they are temporary, adjust to fit most doors, and do not require any tools making them easy to install. They are obviously not intended to replace permanent locks, but are marketed to provide a basic additional barrier and deterrent against intruders. They also allow for the door to be secure even if someone has the key. Basically it keeps housekeeping from barging in you.

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As you can see above, the portable lock bracket is simply inserted into the strike plate and the door is closed, then the tensioner is slid into place securing the door.

These locks shouldn’t pose any problems to a truck crew with a well-placed and properly operated set of irons, but it will certainly foil most engine companies out there (just kidding engine guys.) Another thing worth mentioning…since these locks need to be placed and secured from the inside their presence almost always indicates occupancy of the room or area being secured.

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Can You Force Me Now?

Captain Scott Allison, of Tower 1 in Harrisonburg (VA) sent in these pictures of something they recently encountered on an odor investigation call at a cell phone store. Take a look at the pictures and we’ll talk about it below.

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You might not expect to find this level of security on a fully interior room. As we mentioned in the intro this was found in a cell phone store. These stores have been subject to a significant amount of after-hours break in’s due to the high value and small size of the product. As a result, the stores are going to extreme measures to secure the product.

Obviously roll down doors are not frequently found in a small mercantile occupancies like this. In addition to the roll down, the spilt barn door offers two fox style-locking mechanisms. From the outside the presence of the centered key-way and straps should alert you to the fox style locks.

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Obviously the likelihood of this door being fully secure with someone inside is not high, but it’s not impossible either. If encountered in a working fire after hours, this room would certainly need to be accessed and investigated. While to door itself is quite secure, odds are the wall around the door would typically be the weakest link. However if you look closely, in this case, it looks like the walls inside the room are lined with painted plywood. Making the wall breach option a little slower than usual.

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Something else to consider making the job a bit easier would be to pull the fire alarm if it is not already sounding. In this case you can see that the fox style locks are activated electronically via a proximity card reader. Typically supplemental electric locks like this are opened when the fire alarm is sounding. It’s not a foolproof method by any means, but it if it works all you’re faced with after the rollup is defeated is the traditional deadbolt and slam latch.

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Like in many cases, a well thought out traditional force would most likely would be the quickest option. Identifying and visualizing what locking mechanisms are present and attacking the door in a calculated fashion would certainly get you in. The lower door has the fewest locking mechanisms (one slam latch and two bars) so it should be the primary objective.

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Outboard Saw Conversion

The rotary saw equipped with a metal cutting blade is an extremely important tool for us to have in our forcible entry cache. There are a handful of modifications and conversions that we can apply to the saw to make it preform more efficient. The outboard saw conversion is one of the simplest and most effective modifications to make the saw a more versatile forcible entry tool. The outboard saw conversion involves moving the saw blade assembly to the right (or outboard) side of the saw body.

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Have you ever tried cutting hinges on a outward opening metal door? Have you ever encountered a frameless glass door with a mortise lock that secures into the floor? The rotary saw is certainly a viable option for both of these situations. When utilizing a non-modified (stock) saw, it is difficult to line the saw blade perfectly perpendicular to a hinge or floor lock that is being defeated. As a result, the blade ends up cutting at an angle and tends to more likely bind up. The outboard saw conversion puts the blade flush with the saw’s body, allowing it to cut easy in tight places saving time and energy. Another situation where it may be beneficial to have an outboard saw is when cutting locks in recessed doorways.

If you have more then one metal cutting rotary saw on the rig, you should consider applying the outboard conversion to one of them. The conversion is still a viable option even if you only carry one metal cutting saw on your rig. The outboard saw gives us versatility while not compromising any other functions. The outboard saw still operates the same as a stock saw. There is however a noticeable change in how the saw “feels” to the operator since changing the location of the blade effects the gyroscopic effect on the saw. It is important to make sure everyone has operated the saw in a training setting before using it on an actual emergency run.

The photos below show the benefit when cutting a hinge with an outboard saw. The first photo shows an unmodified saw, and the second shows the outboard saw. You can clearly see how the outboard saw cuts the hinge at a better, more perpendicular angle.

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The next photos show how the outboard saw cuts the floor lock. The first photo shows an unmodified saw, and the second shows the outboard saw. Again, you can clearly see how the outboard saw cuts the lock at a better, more perpendicular angle.

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The outboard conversion can be accomplished with just a few quick and easy steps. All you need is the scrench that came with your saw, or a flat-head screwdriver and ratchet. Click here to download a complete step-by-step guide to perform the outboard saw conversion in PDF format.

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