Archive for the 'Pockets' Category

Keyed Vise Grips

Engineer Brandon Daniel from Kannapolis (NC) Fire Department send in these photos of his modified vise grips. As you can see from the photo, he made two simple modifications to the vise grips that make the tool more versatile.



The first is replacing the set screw with a threaded eye bolt. This modification not only makes the eye bolt easier to manipulate with a gloved hand, it also serves as an attachment point for webbing when using the vise grips to stabilize a padlock when cutting with the rotary saw. The other modification was welding a key tool to the handle of the vise grips. This ensures that the key tool is always readily available when utilizing thru-the-lock techniques. Its worth mentioning that may be beneficial to make the tip of the key tool a bit more slender about 3/16″ or so to ensure it fits inside the lock sufficiently to manipulate the mechanism.


It’s Really Called a Scrench

Bo Schiemer from Tacoma (WA) Truck 1 sent in these photos of a homemade tool he carries in his pocket. The main part of the tool is a simple scrench (chainsaw wrench) he has carried since his time as a probationary fireman. By itself the scrench had served him well, however, he recently decided he could make some slight modifications to make the tool even more useful. He noticed the similarities between it and the specialized tool for their lift bags.

The lift bag tool is utilized with this particular brand to attach multiple bags together to achieve a higher lift.

To compliment the scrench, and expand on its capabilities he welded 2 sockets together that he had cut in half. He found that a 15/16 socket fits the chainsaw wrench perfectly and simply sized up another socket to fit the diameter of the lift bag plug. He then drilled the socket with a 1/8″ drill bit, and drove in two roll pins.

He has found that adding this small component to his pocket definitely helps on heavy extrications and other lift bag related calls. He also carries an extra bar nut for the brand saw they carry on the Tiller. You never know when you may end up needing these simple lightweight additions to your pocket. And as much as we dont want to admit it, it’s really called a Scrench.


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.



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.


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


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.


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.


Pocket Full of Daisies

In our recent post titled Can You Here Me Now?, we discovered that carrying your radio in a coat integrated radio pocket might not be the most desirable option. Whether it was a result from reading the post, or perhaps you already believed in using a radio strap, we’ll follow up with an idea of how to utilize the now empty pocket on your coat.

The radio pocket can be used to efficiently store different lengths of personal webbing. Most people agree that webbing is an extremely useful item to have available. We have posted many of its uses in the past, but before it can be utilized on the fireground, we first need a handy and easy accessible way to carry it. Nothing is worse than finding a situation when webbing is needed, and struggling to remove it from your pocket and untangle it.


The photo above shows a 15 foot length of webbing formed into a simple loop by a water knot. The loop is then daisy chained and finished with a carabiner on the end.


Place the carabiner on the ending bight, allowing it to deploy properly.


The daisy chained webbing is then placed into the pocket with the carabiner hanging out which is then ultimately secured by the pocket’s velcro closure . Not only does the carabiner increase the many ways the webbing can be utilized, it also makes it easier to remove with a gloved hand.


The webbing is then deployed by simply reaching for the carabiner and pulling. The daisy chain will unravel and webbing will deploy from the pocket tangle free.


This simple and effective method of carrying webbing ensures that is accessible and knot free whenever it is needed.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Flashlight Wedge

Having a wedge ready to go and easily accessible is simple an effective way to make your forcible entry more effective. The photo below are from Joe from Engine 32 (NJ.) He simply used some zip ties and a piece of heat shrink tubing to create a place to carry a wedge on the back of his flashlight. This method allows the wedge to easily accessed without fumbling through your pockets, and keeps the wedge off of your helmet. Obviously this particular setup only allows for one wedge to be carried, so others will still have to be carried in another manner. Remember, one wedge is never enough! Of course, this wedge could get lost at some point, but since they are not made of gold, and you always carry more than one, it shouldn’t be an issue.

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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.


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.


Another Fixed Blade Option

Tim Anderson from Philadelphia Engine 16 sent in his method of storing a fixed blade knife. His setup uses one of the personal sized box lights with shoulder strap. His knife is mounted mid chest and is easy to get to with either hand. As you can see from the photo below, a few zip ties securely hold in knife in place.


Fixed Kife

Dan Daly from Chicago Fire Department sent in his method of carrying an easily accessible knife. His set-up utilizes a river (or dive) style of knife that is attached to his flashlight with zip ties. Dan rides this light/knife assembly on the chest of his turnout coat. This location ensures the knife is easy to get to at all times. This style knife comes with a hard plastic sheath that locks the knife in place, while still allowing it to be removed with ease. This style knife has one sharp blade, a dull edge, and a dull point that can be used as a small pry bar or even a shove knife. One nice thing about a fixed blade knife is that it is easy to operate with a gloved hand. We have shown a number of cutter ideas here on VentEenterSearch over the years but have not featured many knife set-ups. Knifes and cutters are both great tools to have, they each have a number of different uses an limitations and should both be considered in your personal tool selection.


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