Archive for the 'Special Ops' Category

Strap Storage

Maekin Healy from Santa Clara (CA) Fire Department sent in a way to store ratchet straps for easy deployment.

Here is a simple tweak to help avoid multiple twists in your Auto Extrication straps during deployment. During storage, attach the hooks to the trigger. Next, simply lay the strap out flat, fold and roll like a donut roll. Last, Secure with any type of cord or Velcro strap. To deploy, remove cord or Velcro strap and roll it out like a hose roll. No more twists!

Below is a comparison photo of a strap post deployment, which one would you prefer?

The picture below shows the least ideal way to store the straps. However, this is arguably the most common storage method.

The picture below shows the ideal way to store straps. This will prevent the strap from becoming twisted during deployment.

This is a simple adjustment you can make to provide a cleaner deployment of straps when they are needed on scene. We are also a fan of how clean it looks stored in this manner and will surely make for a more organized compartment on the rig.


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Crib Packs

Captain Dave Facer from New Albany (IN) sent in these photos of their crib packs. As you know from previous posts, we are big fans of efficient ways of storing and carrying equipment on the rigs and on the fireground. The nice thing about this particular idea is that it does both; it stores well and carries well. Their crib packs utilize 18” long unpainted, non-pressure treated soft wood cribbing. Each crib-pack consists of (8)-4×4’s, (4)-2×4’s and (4)-4×4 wedges. Each pack builds an 18” platform when used as a 2×2 box crib stack. The 3/4” plywood can be utilized as a base when working in soft or uneven terrain. The plywood can also be utilized as a sliding base allowing the crib stack to be built from beside (not under) the vehicle, eventually being slid into position. The plywood can also be used as a shield in-between the patient and the tools when working in tight situations.


As you can see, basic notes were drawn onto the plywood for quick reference for their crib stack capacity, heights, configurations, and airbag information to make sure everyone is on the same page. The rubber mat (commercial mud flap) can be used for soft victim protection or for protecting lift bags when the need arises. The plywood is sandwiched by the cribbing and secured with two 1” ratchet straps.


Each crib pack takes little time to assemble but deploys quickly and provides a fast and convenient way to transport a fair amount of cribbing. Each pack weighs about 30 lbs. and one firefighter can carry two Crib Packsacks without difficulty.


The 6×6 cribbing is bundled with 3 small loops (yellow) and one large loop (red) that holds all 4 pieces together with one handle. This allows one firefighter to carry two bundles to the scene and build a 22” box crib for each trip made from the rig. The different colored webbing handle makes it easy to remember which loop is the “main loop” and keeps the bundle organized and compact.


This is simple and effective way to store, and efficiently carry, cribbing to the scene. Taking a little extra time to come up with efficient methods like this go a long way on the emergency scene.


Gas Leak: Grab n’ Goes

Every community is different in regards to their natural gas line infrastructure. Some departments have a large number of gas leaks and as a result have become very capable of handling the leaks prior to the arrival of the gas company.


Here is a quick and easy way of organizing your gas leak equipment. Its makes sizing up and grabbing the appropriate sized equipment a breeze. As you know from previous post here on VES we are all about organizing and carrying your equipment in the most efficient manner possible. Reducing the number of times we have to run back to the rig for more equipment during incidents has become somewhat of an art.

These Grab n’ Goes are made up of small sections of poly gas pipe. The diameter of the pipe is written on the pipe for easy identification. This helps make sure that everyone is communicating the correct size pipe when calling for additional equipment. The pipe section simply has wooden wedges inserted into the end, and a band clamp around the circumference. Besides just making the wedges and band clamps easier to carry, the Grab n’ Go can also be used to “size-up” the pipe size as shown in the photo below.



The information included in this post is only applicable to departments that are adequately trained and operate aggressively on natural gas leaks. The information contained in this post is purely supplemental, and should not be applied without appropriate training for responding to natural gas emergencies.

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Man In Machine Kit

Every truck company should be prepared to handle those obscure rescues like: machinery entrapments (fingers, hands, arms) Child stuck in a swing seat, and even simple ring removals. These calls can easily be handled by a well-trained and properly equipped crew and a little ingenuity. Included below are some photos and inventory list of the Man in Machine (MIM) Kit carried on Winter Park (FL) Truck 61. The kit is carried in a Pelican Box with shelves made from ½” HDPE plastic, and tools are secured in place with Velcro straps. The box is a little on the heavy side, but meets the need. We’ll point out a few of the more oddball items included in the kit with a quick explanation of how it’s utilized.

Many of the newer style of wedding rings are made from more exotic materials than previously found like tungsten carbide and titanium. These modern ring materials are to strong for the traditional ring removal tools often found in medical bags. This kit contains a ring cracker specifically made for tungsten carbide rings and a dremel tool and spoon handles for cutting titanium rings. The spoon handle is placed under the ring in between the ring and patients finger so the dremel blade does not come in contact with skin.


The snap ring pliers is a great tool to carry since many machine components like rollers are held in place by snap rings on the ends. The snap rings are present to allow of the machine to be taken apart for maintenance. When dealing with a MIM type rescue, sometimes the simplest way to remove the entrapment is to take the effected portion of the machine apart instead of just trying to pry or defeat it in a destructive and often more time consuming method.


Having simple lubricants handy like soapy water and vegetable oil work well in instances when less traumatic injuries are present and the effected body part is simply “stuck.” The water can be used as a cooling agent when any of the grinding tools are being utilized. Simply poking a few holes in the cap of the water bottle allows for the water to be squeezed out or dripped into the area of need.


This kit is by no means the best kit out there; it has been assembled to handle the most common types of MIM incidents Truck 61 has encountered. Depending on the type of entrapment other items found on the truck are also utilized such as simple mechanics tools.








(1) 9” PRY BAR and (1) 11” PRY BAR








(1) 18“ PRY BAR

(1) LARGE HACK SAW (stored on back side of tray)







(1) 1000ml VEGETABLE OIL

(1) 1000ml WATER

(1) 1000ml SOAPY WATER


There are some tremendous resources available to learn more about MIM type Rescues, the guys over at have some great resources. Also has been featuring a bunch of MIM props that Andrew Brassard from has been submitting. It doesn’t take much to assemble a kit to increase your capabilities for the often challenging calls. So what other items have you found a need for in your MIM kit?



In our recent post titled All Jacked Up we included a lot of technical information about the three most commonly carried jacks. It is important that we know the capabilities and limitations of our equipment. It’s handy to have all this information in one place for a quick reference or studying purposes.  Here is a way to keep all the technical information in one place by making a laminated “cheat sheet” or quick reference card. Below is the list of equipment and technical information on the cheat sheet pictured. You can easily design your own based on your department’s specific equipment and needs.


High-Lift Jacks

  • 60” and 48”
  • Lift height= Total height minus 10”
  • Base rotates and accepts 5/16” chain
  • Base is 7” wide to accept two 4X4’s
  • Shear bolt breaks at 7,000lbs. Max load=4660lbs. (2660lbs for the last 12” of the 60” jack)
  • Lifts 7/8 of an inch each ratchet. M/A=40to1
  • Top clevis rated at 5000lbs.

Paratech Vehicle Stabilization Kit (VSK)

  • 2 short- 47”(4ft)-60”(5ft)
  • 2 long- 68”(5ft)-96”(8ft)
  • 10,000lbs max w/ a 2to1 safety factor
  • Heads accept a 3/8” chain
  • 45-60 degree angle is ideal


  • 6 bags- 12,17,21,31,35, and 2.8 ton, set at 118psi
  • Bags will only lift full rated load 1”
  • Measure surface area of bag (in inches) touching load and times by 118 to determine current capacity

Petrogen Torch

  • 1.5 quarts of non-ethanol gas, only fill 2/3rds full
  • Tip size 0 (zero) cuts up to ¼”
  • Use tip sizes 81 or 83 for material greater than ¼”
  • Set gas and O2 at 20psi
  • Start up: Set pressures, purge O2, open O2 valve ½ turn, Open gas till fine mist, purge O2, light, inner blue flame 3/16”

Hydra Ram

  • 10,000 lbs. of force w/ 4” of spread
  • Inward doors of metal construction

Team Search Bags

  • Main line bag: 200ft of 9.5mm Kevlar coated poly rope
  • Rings and knots every 20ft, number of knots times 20 will tell FF how far down the line they are
  • 3 retractable line bags: 20ft of 6mm Kevlar coated ploy rope

All Jacked Up

There are three main styles of jacks that a frequently found on our rigs. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, so we decided to do a little comparison in this post. The three main jacks that will be discussed are Hi-Lift Jacks (left), Bottle Jacks (middle), and Racing Style Floor Jacks (right).

Bottle Jacks are the smallest (in size) of the jacks reviewed. The size to lift ratio on this style of jack is tremendous with some bottle jacks having lift capacities in excess of 20 tons. Most bottle jacks have an adjustment screw that can be used to bridge the gap from the jack’s fully collapsed (stored) size to the height of load that will be lifted. The adjustment screw prevents wasting any of the lifting stroke of the jack. The handle of a bottle jack is typically small, and requires more movements to produce lift. The handle size and location typically require the operator to be very close, and possibly under the load, which present obvious safety concerns.

A small 2 ton bottle jack would have a 7” stored height with about 5” of potential lift. This would result in about 12” of extended height up to about 15” of height when the extension screw is in use. This jack would typically have a 3.5’ x 4” base and weigh about 6 pounds. Keep in mind that the 7” stored height of this jack won’t fit under most common passenger vehicles.

A larger 20 ton bottle jack would have a 11” stored height with about 7” of potential lift. This would result in about 18” of extended height up to about 21” of height when the extension screw is in use. This jack would typically have a 6” x 6.5” base and weigh about 31 pounds.

Racing jacks (floor jacks) are the quickest an easiest to use of the different jacks being discussed. Racing jacks are typically fabricated out of steel, aluminum, or a combination. Aluminum is obviously the lightest, and as a result, is typically the most expensive. Aluminum is the best choice for our use since we’ll be required to pull the jack out of a compartment. No reason to create a career ending injury just to save a little bit of cash on this useful piece of equipment. Racing jacks with the single solid large wheel on the front are better and easier to maneuver than the ones with two smaller wheels on either side of the jack. Some manufactures even offer a “low profile” racing jack if the average stored height is a concern. Racing jacks typically have long handles that place the operator away from the lift. This provides a little more safety and allows the operator to see more of the lifting evolution during its use. Racing jacks also require the fewer movements of the handle to produce all of the jacks lift potential. The one pictured here produces 1 ¼” of lift with each pump and only requires 9 pumps. One drawback to the racing jack is the natural arc of movement produced during the lift. As long as this arc is understood and anticipated ahead of time, it shouldn’t produce too much of an issue during a typical lifting operation. Because of this arc either the jack, or the load is going to move during the lift. There might be certain operations where this arc could cause issue however. Racing jacks also have the ability to roll with a load on them, which again, depending on circumstances could be either a good thing or bad thing.

Both the bottle jack and racing jack produce their lift via a hydraulic cylinder. As with any other hydraulic cylinder, they need to periodically be used and placed under a load. Simply taking the jack out of the compartment and operating it in a non-loaded fashion is not enough. Placing it under a load ensures that the O-rings maintain lubrication, and handle pressure, and support a load. Any time a new jack is placed in service it should be noted how many pumps it requires to operate correctly. Its not a bad idea to write on the jack how many pumps it takes so you can always gauge the jack’s performance.

Hi-Lift jacks come three different lengths, and even a specialized series of “first responder” jacks. All three models are rated at 4660lbs (but are tested to 7000lbs. Its important to note that the last 12” of lifting height of the larger 60” jack is only rated for 2660lbs (tested to 4000lbs.) Please note that the Hi-Lift shown in these photos has the top clamp-clevis removed due to the way the jack is stored in the rig.

The 36” Hi-Lift weighs 27lbs max and has a max lifting height of 27”. The 48” Hi-Lift weighs 30.2lbs and has a max lifting height of 38.63”. The 60” Hi-Lift weighs 33.3lbs and has a max lifting height of 49.75”.

The Hi-Lift has the greatest range of motion, each pump of the handle produces about 7/8” of lift requiring 55 pumps to produce 50” on lift on the largest jack. The jack tends to be unstable when standing on it’s own, but it becomes much more stable when placed under a load. The part that actually holds the load is relatively small, and does not project far from the jack, this limits the lift (or purchase) points of the jack. Most modern vehicles don’t have solid bumpers anymore, so we have to look for other options. One of the most effective lift points on a vehicle is the wheel well. It will damage the vehicle, but if someone is trapped under it, that should be the least of your worries. Hi-Lift also offers an accessory called the LM-100 Lift Mate, which is specifically made for this purpose and to prevent damage. The Lift Mate is rated at 5,000lbs and attaches to the jack to provide two hooks that can attach to almost any style wheel. This allows the jack to get a purchase on the wheel as the lift point as shown below.

The Hi-lift requires the most maintenance of each of the jacks reviewed. The climbing pins and reversing latch all need to be lubed in order to work smoothly. The Hi-Lift also requires the most training to remember how to use it correctly. However, the most interesting thing about Hi-Lift’s is that they can be used for much more then simple lifting operations. For example, they can be used either as a winch or as a clamp with a 7000lb rating. These expanded capabilities make the Hi-Lift (particularly the first responder edition) and excellent “tool for the tool box.”

Click here for the detailed instruction manual on the jack.

In the photo below each jack is raised to it’s highest point.

As with any other lifting operation, the adage of lift-an-inch / crib-an-inch applies. We should not make a habit of operating under a load that is only supported by a jack, regardless of which type of jack it is. A quick stack of cribbing makes the operation much safer with little effort. Anytime we are lifting a vehicle we should make sure to chock the wheels to prevent any front to back movement during the lifting operation. We need to remember that when we raise a vehicle on the front and back axis, the vehicle will naturally raise in an arc motion. Both the bottle jack, and the Hi-Lift jacks remain stationary, which could result in either the jack tipping over, or the vehicle slipping off the lift point of the jack. The floor jack on the other hand is designed to work with this arc, since it can roll into position.

The two photos below show how arc that is created as the racing jack is operated.

As we mentioned earlier each jack has its pros and cons, its all a matter of determining what your needs are and understanding which jack is best for the task at hand. Its not a bad idea to have one (or more) of each style jack available for whatever may come your way.



Washington D.C. Truck Company 12 sent in this photo of their window/motor vehicle accident kit. Their particular kit includes the ‘‘Big Easy Kit’’ for opening a locked car (child locked in), padded board splints, c-collars, head blocks, Dewalt corded sawzall with spare blades, hand saw, foam blankets for covering patients, various hand tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches, socket sets, pry bar, utility knives, pliers, slip joint pliers, trauma shears, seat belt cutter, mini hot stick duct tape, medical tape, and a kit of padded splinting devices.

MVA kits are a handy way to have all of the random small items needed during an extrication. We have all had to get the job done without some of these simple tools, but having them in an easy accessible place makes a difference. Having all of the commonly used items pre designated, and prepackaged makes the job much easier.

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Cut Here

The increasing popularity of hybrids was accompanied by an increased amount of information provided to firefighters on how to deal with them when they have been involved in an accident. A quick internet search on anything hybrid related with provide a large amount of information geared toward firefighters. One interesting thing is that for the first time the automobile manufactures started to labeled things for us on the vehicle, particularly, what not to cut in an emergency. They have since taken this idea of providing information to firefighters one step further… The manufactures have now started to include information of where we should cut. These labels are now being utilized on non-hybrid vehicles as well. For instance, the pictures used in this post were taken on a full sized, four door, diesel pick-up truck.

Chevy, for example, calls these labels “First Responder Tags” and “Cable Cut Tags.” They install the “First Responder Tag” (shown above) near the hood opening directing to the proximity of the cut tags, and the “Cable Cut Tags” (shown below) are located on a cable near the under hood fuse panel. In this case, this truck (being a diesel) has two batteries. As shown in the photos, there is only one cut tag, leading us to belive that making one quick cut will disable the entire electrical system. So take it for what it’s worth. the manufactures are showing us exactly where to cut in order to remove the electrical hazards, or we could go old school and do traditional cable cuts near the battery, it’s up to you.


Sawzall Sleeve

Michael Rush from Chattanooga (TN) Squad 3 sent in this simple but effective method of storing sawzall blades. They simply took some scrap cardboard and folded in in half to make sleeves to hold the blades, these sleeves are kept in the box with the saw. The cardboard sleeves are covered in duct tape to make them last, and finished with some custom sharpie work to identity the different blades carried. They have found that the cardboard-duct tape combo fits in the sawzall box easily, takes up less space, and is more pliable then using a sleeve made from old fire hose. The nice thing about this method of storage is that the blades can be easily identified when reaching into the box to grab a specific blade. Another benefit is that the entire sleeve of blades and be slipped in the coat pocket of who ever is utilizing the saw, making a mid-cut blade replacement a breeze.


It’s in the Bag

In a post a few weeks ago titled “Set It Don’t Forget It” there seemed to be some misunderstandings on the capabilities of lift bags that we felt should be cleared up. We apologize in advance for the heavy use of math that is contained in this post.

Click Here for the supplemental page containing the information.


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