Keyless Garage Door Entry

Often times we find ourselves needing to make access into a home in a quick yet non-destructive manner. This may be for well-being checks or public assist type calls. Most non-destructive methods of forcible entry simply require some creativity and a little knowledge of how a variety of different doors and locks are secured. This technique is no different, but involves a door we typically don’t take the time to defeat, the garage door.

In this video we demonstrate how to use the Keyless Garage Door Entry Tool to manipulate the emergency release rope on the automatic garage doors. This release rope is typically installed to allow the homeowner to open the door manually during a loss of power. Once we visualize how it works and know where to find it, it may be a viable option for non-destructive entry.

The tool is inserted into the gap at the top of the garage door and maneuvered into place to grab the emergency release rope. While keeping tension on the release rope, the garage door can simply be manually raised from the outside.

The one potential flaw in this method of forcible entry is if the door leading from the garage into the house is locked. Even if that is the case, and you end up having to use a traditional through the lock technique on it, once the call is over the garage door can be lowered and home can be secured.

With a little practice you can become quite proficient in using this non-destructive “forcible entry” technique.


Truck Company Operations

Join Jimm Walsh in Dublin, OH on November 13th for a full-day motivational and informative Truck Company presentation titled Truck Company Operations. This class includes portions of Jimm’s popular Truck Company programs Aggressive Truck Functions for a Safer Fireground, and Vent-Enter-Search. The class will cover the importance of aggressive truck functions and their positive impact on fireground safety and why VES is actually the safest most effective way to search. Click here to download the flyer.

Please contact us at if you would like additional information about bringing one of our classes to your location.

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Hook and Irons Company


Here are a few photos from a recent prop building day for the VES crew. The props are simple interior door-off-the-hinges simulators for our upcoming can confidence class. As much as we could talk about the props, they are actually quite simple and we’ll more than likely do a full write up on them in the future.


What this post is really about are those awesome shirts we are wearing. Those happen to be the “Keys to the City” shirts from Hook and Irons Co . Hook and Irons is run by a couple of solid dudes who happen to be fellow Floridians. Their designs truly reflect the beauty and history of our job. They only utilize high quality materials, and they feature awesome designs that typically have an actual story behind them. Check out their site and click on the descriptions of each of their shirts to read the stories behind the designs. Be sure to check out the designs tilted The Last Great Fire and Aerial Patent to see some of the back story we are talking about. Besides the quality of materials, and the stories, the coolest part about their products is how subtle the designs are. A fellow fireman would certainly recognize the design, but it doesn’t scream “HEY LOOK AT ME I’M A FIREMAN.”

Be sure to check them out and let them know how awesome their designs are. Maybe we can talk them into a working up a VES design?

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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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Can Confidence – H.O.T. Class

Can Confidence Class 4

VentEnterSearch’s own Eric Wheaton and Jimm Walsh will be teaching a H.O.T. class titled Can Confidence on October 11th, 2014 at the Florida State Fire College located in Ocala, (FL.) This class is designed to build confidence on one of the most often neglected tools found on nearly every fire apparatus, the 2 1/2 gallon water extinguisher. The “Can” can be an extremely effective lifesaving tool by allowing a well-trained fireman to quickly apply water between fire and victims.

Attendees will learn proper filling and pressurization steps, how to build homemade carrying straps and other useful “Can” modifications. The class will also cover valuable skills on carrying and searching with the “Can,” and confining fire with it as well. Students will cycle through a “force an interior door off its hinges” prop and use this door to hold back live fire and smoke. Finally, attendees will perform live fire attacks with nothing more than a “Can” and witness the effect of the “Can” on pre-flashover conditions.

Time: 9:00am or 1:00pm

Cost: $30

Click Here to Register




Slide Bolts

Lt Tim Shaw from Westerville (OH) E112 sent in this door they recently found during a fire inspection. As you can see from the photo below, no indication of supplemental locks is obvious from the outside. We can tell that it is a metal door in a metal frame, but what is not so obvious is that it’s actually a masonry wall covered with wood siding.


The photo below clearly shows the supplemental locks once the door is opened. This particular set-up is the weaker version of slide bolt lock installation. These slide bolts are only surface screwed to the door. The “proper” way to install these slide bolts would be to drill all the way through the door, and to use large washers on the outside. This would prevent the bolts that secure the lock from easily being pulled through the door during the force. You may also notice that the hinge side slide bolts are still in the out position. These slide bolts do not have to be retracted in order for the door to be opened. They are only there to prevent/delay the door from being defeated from the hinge side.



Like most forcible entry scenarios, a well trained crew with a set of irons can make quick work of this door. With no visible indications of supplemental locks, a traditional force near the standard lock would be the most appropriate first action. Once the resistance if felt/noticed from the supplemental locks, its time to go to plan B. Simply changing the location of the irons to closer to the slide bolts and forcing traditionally would work just fine. Essentially the door will have to be forced in three locations. middle, top, and bottom. Going in the order mentioned (middle, top, bottom) would be the best choice. Middle first because until you do that, you wouldn’t even know the slide bolts were installed. Top would be next, because you are more fresh, have more energy, and are less likely to be obscured by smoke if you started low. Bottom would be last simply because its the easiest. Since these slide bolts are only surface mounted, they should pull out just fine.

This type of supplemental lock is typically found on the rear door of a commercial occupancy. Forcing the rear door on a commercial occupancy should be a high priority on a working fireground. Forcing the door early and re-closing after the locks have been defeated is an essential task. Obviously re-closing the door is suggested as to not contribute to flow path issues and negatively impact fire spread. Predict that interior crews will eventually needed this door open to supplement fire suppression efforts, or unfortunately for emergency egress. Forcing this door early, before it is actually needed will save us precious time later in the operation.

We will have a follow up post with a video on defeating this type of slide bolt supplemental lock in the near future. In the video we’ll share a more detailed explanation and share some additional tips on defeating them.


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.


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.



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.



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.


The Lost Art of the Fire Service Podcast

Jimm Walsh was just interviewed on the Jumpseat Radio Podcast. The Host Ryan Pennington asked Jimm what’s tagline The Lost Art of the Fire Service is all about click here to hear the episode. (Once you click on the link, scroll down to under the bio and you’ll see the icon to play the podcast.)

Some of the other topics include:

    Aggressive Search Techniques
    Pro-Active Laddering of the buildings, even if NOT on Fire.
    Tips for each Jumpseat Firefighter to improve their Truck Comapny Functions
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Padlock Twist

Our friend Andrew Brassard from Brotherhood Instructors LLC submitted this video showing the Padlock Twist. A padlocked chain is an extremely common forcible entry situation we may come across. One popular method of defeating this set-up is to try and drive the padlock off the chain by inserting the pike of the halligan into the shackle of the lock, and striking with another tool. However this method is not always the most efficient because the chain tends to act as a shock absorber and absorbs most of the force you are generating into the lock. Another and perhaps more common method is to simply use a saw or bolt cutters to cut the lock… but what if you don’t have a saw on your rig? Or you find yourself operating a long distance from the rig and don’t want to waste time going back to grab a tool?

As you can see in the video, you begin by simply twisting the chain to remove the slack. Once the slack is taken out, you place the forks of the halligan on the shackle of the padlock and keep twisting until the lock fails. The method in the video works really well for both low and medium security padlocks, which are typically the most common we come across due to their low price. The most beneficial part of this method is that it is a single person technique. One common use may be when the outside vent firefighter encounters a chain and padlock when accessing the rear yard at a private dwelling and may only have a hook and halligan to work with.

Knowing how to utilize your tools in a variety of different ways is an essential fireground skill. Simply knowing how to apply the maximum amount of mechanical advantage in different situations will make us more efficient and effective on the fireground.

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Rooftop RF Hazard

Cellular telephone transmission sites are most commonly found on standalone towers, however, building rooftop cellular transmission sites are becoming more and more common. These rooftop transmission sites are certainly something that all firefighters should be aware of. These sites pose a unique threat to firefighters operating on or near the roof in the form of a Radio Frequency (RF) exposure.

Most commonly the cellular transmission sites that are found on towers are made of of 3 sectors (or panels) of antennas 120 degrees from each other. Typically when they are installed on roofs, the antennas consist of 4 sectors (or panels) of antennas, one for each side of the building. Each sector (or panel) is typically made of of 3 high gain antennas, with the middle one dedicated to transmitting and the two outside ones dedicated to receiving. With the increase demand for bandwidth of today’s phones (think internet access), many cellular providers are increasing to 4 antennas per sector.

The most common frequency ranges that are found on cellular transmission sites are in the 824-849MHz, 869-894MHz and 1850-1990-MHz bands. Just for comparison, the most common public safety radios operate in the 769MHz-800MHz, 806-824MHz, and 851-854MHz range. As you can see our radios operate very close to some of the cell phone frequency spectrum, and that’s what that whole re-banding thing was all about. It is worth mentioning that our radios operate at a much lower power (3-5 watts) compared to cellular transmission sites (up to 500 watts) so there are no RF energy issues to be concerned with in regards to our radios.


One of the most challenging parts of working around these antennas is simply identifying their presence. Often times the antennas are hidden behind fiberglass covers for aesthetic purposes. So easily detecting their presence from the street might be next to impossible. One of the only obvious indications of their presence may like one of the signs shown below posted on the stairwell door providing roof access. This sign is required by the FCC when certain levels of RF energy are present on the roof. Unfortunately this sign will not alert us when we are accessing the roof via the aerial ladder.


There are many variables when determining the amount of RF energy that is present at each antenna site. It depends on the power output and number of radio channels or transmitters that are present at each site. The FCC permits up to 500 watts per channel, but often times only 100 watts is found in rooftop sites. For our purposes on the fireground it really doesn’t matter the actual power output. We should treat every cellular transmission site like it is capable of producing high levels of RF energy that can significantly hurt us.

The RF energy produced from these antennas is non-ionizing radiation, similar to the energy found in a microwave oven. So the major concern of RF energy exposure is over heating of the human body. Just like those leftovers in the microwave, if your body is in the path of the RF energy you could be heated to a well-done temperature. If you must be around the antenna, a good rule of thumb is to remain behind or under the actual panel of the antenna. The reason this works is because cellular transmission antennas utilize very directional antennas. Essentially all of the energy is focused out the front of the antenna. This is why being below or behind the panel is the safest place if you must be near it for any reason.You never want to allow your head to be in line with the transmission pattern of the antenna. The further away you are, the less energy you will be exposed to. It should go without saying, but never touch the actual antenna.

Besides the RF issues, these cellular sites often present other hazards such as tripping hazards and additional electrical issues. The cable trays mounted on the roof could easily be obscured by smoke causing a tripping hazard. Most radio rooms will also be serviced by a backup generator that will be independent of the buildings primary electrical system. In addition, the site will have battery backup systems as well. So it would be very difficult for us to ensure that all power has been isolated from the equipment.

One of the best things to remember when operating around rooftop cellular antennas is to simply to apply the HazMat mantra of Time, Distance, Shielding. While RF shields are available for certain applications, they have no practical use for us while accessing a rooftop during fireground operations. Simply stay as far away from the antenna as you can, and if for any reason to need to pass in front of one, do it quickly. Time and Distance can minimize your exposure.

If you are curious about the possible location of any cellular transmission sites in your area, there is a free website that will show all sites within a 4 mile radius of a particular address. It may not list every single site, but it’s pretty comprehensive and certainly seems like a fairly accurate tool for planning purposes.


The picture above shows a “hidden” cellular transmission site. The four squares are found on each side of the building are each hiding one panel antenna. This particular building has a total of 16 antennas, four on each side. If you found yourself operating on the roof, you could see that your head could be very close to the transmission pattern of the antenna.



The picture above shows a two different cellular transmission setups. There are two sets of panels that are focused on side A of the building. This just shows that there are two different cellular providers on this building. You can just barely begin to see one of the panels on the D side as well. This particular style of installation is more hazardous to a crew accessing the rooftop from the aerial ladder. You would be perfectly safe to be standing behind these panels since the RF energy is focused out the front. Having said that, if you don’t need to be close to the antenna, simply stay away. Look at the windows just underneath the antenna panels, it just demonstrates how the RF energy is in fact focused straight out.


The picture above shows another style of roof top transmission sites. This particular setup is more hazardous to the team operating on the roof. Although its hard to tell from the picture. These panels are slightly set back on the roof. This creates a situation where someone could walk directly in front of the panel and directly into the transmission beam. You can also see that the radio room structure has been added to the rooftop of the building. This style of installation would have the trip hazard from the cable trays present in-between the radio room structure and the antennas.

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