Up Against a Fence

Engineer Brandon Roark from South Bend (IN) sent in these pictures of something they recently ran across at a local strip mall. The business was secured with a chain link fence and rolling gate, inside the store. The fence sat approximately two and a half feet inside the entrance. The fence covered the entire store (all four walls had a fence.) The rear door was also blocked by a fence, but it did not have a gate present. Now this fence would be nothing more than a slight inconvenience to anyone with a tool, but it could certainly catch you by surprise. Simply another reason not to drop your tools at the door.

Since the fence sat 2.5ft inside the front windows, it may initially go unnoticed if the store was charged with smoke. After the door is forced, and the push begins, it would become obvious. It goes to show you that in these tough economic times business owners may not be securing their occupancies in the more traditional fashions we are used to seeing (these methods may cost them money.) These “non-traditional” homebrew security devices will undoubtedly become a more common item we’ll run across. As with every forcible entry situation we are faced with: slow down! Identify and Visualize what you are trying to defeat… work smarter not harder.


And They Say Vertical Vent is Dangerous…

It’s funny to hear that many people think that vertical ventilation is SO dangerous, yet the some of the same people believe PPV is the answer to everything. This video proves that there are dangers associated with PPV as well. It is unfortunate to point out that the reporter seems to know more about the hazards of PPV than some of the people who actually use it. Don’t get us wrong, we are not bashing the use of PPV, we are questioning the “use it on everything” approach practiced by some departments. We are not implying that the department shown in this video did that, we a simply using the video as the training tool they intended it to be. They should be commended for sharing this valuable lesson. Besides, listen to what was said at 3:48 in the video, because of what they experienced, this department changed the way they will use PPV in the future. Sometimes it’s more important to know when not to do something, then to know how to do something.
Video from KUTV Channel 2


Identify the Weak Link

Jonathan Richardson from Spring Lake (NC) sent in these photos of a door found while crews were out doing aerial placement training. The door obviously has some homemade additional security, but it’s not nearly as formidable as it originally appears. When ever faced with a homemade additional security measures, simply take the time to identify how it is secured. It’s important to not only identify what is securing the door, but also to identify the weakest link. Yes, there are four chains with padlocks securing the gate, but in this particular case, there is a easier option. Look again, those hinges are barely held on. Sure a saw would defeat this without issue, but in this case, a set of irons would also do the trick. Simply attacking the right side hinges (since there are only two) would be the quickest option. Anyone who has trained (or better yet, practiced to perfection) with the irons would be able to pry those hinges off the building in no time.


Ten Questions

VentEnterSearch’s own Jimm Walsh was recently featured in the Firefighterspot.com 10 Questions Series. They have a pretty interesting column where they ask various people throughout our industry the same ten questions and post the responses. Click here to take a look and see what Jimm’s responses were.


Heat Shrink Tool Wrap


There are a number of different methods to wrap tools. Some work better, and hold up better to fireground conditions. Two of the most frequently wrapped tools are hooks and halligans. It is important to point out that there may be a drawback to wrapping the halligan. The wrap on the handle of the halligan interferes with the ability to strike the halligan on the squared shoulder of the fork in tight situations. One of the most frequent wrap methods involves using oxygen tubing (or rope) and athletic tape. Unfortunately, this tubing/tape combination Is one of the worst in regards to fireground durability. Chief Ted Bownas from Millbrook (NY) fire sent in this idea for wrapping a hook that involves some copper wire and heat shrink tubing. Once the heat shrink tubing is in place, it will hold up better to the beating we subject our tools to on the fireground. This particular wrap uses 12AWG wire and heavy duty 2-1/2″ heat-shrink tubing. The wire was wrapped around the hook and temporarily held in place with a few strips of electrical tape. This tape simply holds the wire wrap in place while the heat shrink is slid into position and heated. It is important to point out that heat shrink tubing of this diameter requires a higher-wattage heat gun to produce the heat required to shrink the tubing.



Interior Security Bars

We have shown interior security bars on the site before, but these are a bit different, they are actually being installed during the initial construction of the building. These bars were found and sent in by the crew of DCFD Engine Co. 27 (Firefighter J. Stapleton, Firefighter A. Pumilia, Technician D. Mungo and Lt. K. Kline.) Interior security bars pose an interesting hazard to our operations. It’s worth mentioning that the ones shown here may not actually be noticeable from the outside. They are set far enough inside the window that window blinds would obscure them. So it’s possible that the inside team may be the first to discover them. The issue with this particular instillation is that the window needs to be taken out before the bars can be attacked and removed. These bars don’t look to be too substantial, but they need to be discovered, and removed early in the operation.

*The picture below has a piece of plywood being held behind the bars to show contrast for the photo.


Rollup Pin Lock


Lieutenant Brian Dalrymple from Richmond (VA) sent in these pictures of a different roll-up gate lock then we have shown here in the past. This particular lock is a pin style lock that goes through an opening in the channel and “cams” into the locked position. As you can tell from the photos below once the lock is “cammed” into place it prevents the roll-up gate from opening. There are a number of methods that would defeat this locking mechanism. Certainly, attacking the gate channel in methods shown in this previous post would work. Upon closer inspection, it was determined that those methods won;t work on this particular lock. Another option may be to attack the exposed cam by inserting the rotary saw in between the gate and the channel at a 45 degree angle.


The photo above shows what the lock looks like removed from the gate. The face of the lock is about 2” in diameter and the overall length is about 4” long. When the is gate closed, the lock is inserted through the channel, the key is then turned ½ turn. Turning the key causes the last ¾” of the lock to “cam out” thereby locking itself in place.


The photo below shows the back of the lock. You can see once the cam is is the lock position, it holds the lock mechanism in place.



Buffalo MAYDAY Training

Lieutenant Ronald K Bourgeois from Buffalo (NY) Engine 1 sent in this video of a MAYDAY prop they are using in Buffalo. Unfortunately, the motivation for the prop and annual training came from the tragic loss of two of Buffalo’s Bravest on August 24, 2009. Lt. Chip McCarthy and FF Jonathon Croom both fell from the first floor into the basement while searching for a reported person trapped in the structure. (We recently received some additional information from BFD about this training. The training was in the works well before the tragic LODD. The planning and development of this training actually began in January of 2009, before the LODD incident, not as a reaction to the incident.)

The purpose of this prop and training evolution is to build confidence and promote self rescue techniques. The portion of the prop shown in the video is part of a confined space maze that ends with the blindfolded firefighter falling through the floor. The collapsible floor section is activated by an instructor pulling on a rope, removing the hinged floor section’s support. Once the floor section collapses, the firefighter falls into a pit filled with foam. The pads end up surrounding the firefighter making movement a bit more difficult, similar to having debris from the collapse. The prop also contains a window at the end of the foam pit so the firefighter can practice self rescue form a high window. The prop cost was roughly $450, and was constructed with 2×4’s and ½” plywood. The trap doors were hinged with three heavy duty hinges, with a lip underneath for support. A hinged 2×4 holds the doors up and a rope is the trip mechanism.

Unfortunately, we cannot take back any of the LODD that occur in our line of work, but we can learn from them and try to prevent them from occurring again. Training evolutions like this are an important component to learning from them.




Residential Security Door

Lieutenant Nate Quartier from Ormond Beach (FL) Engine 94 sent in these photos of something the crew was discussing around the firehouse. One of the brothers, Jim Peter was telling the crew about a new residential security door he saw at the local home improvement store. So after a short discussion, the crew loaded up and headed to the store for some impromptu in-service training. (Which is a great idea, an amazing amount of training opportunities await us there.) At first glance the door appears to look like any other residential door, but the price tag alone should let you know it has something a little extra. (Of course the price won’t be known when we come across it on a structure.) The door is an outward swinging door with an extra lip over the jamb to cover the traditional gap, and the hinges are more substantial, more like hinges found on some commercial doors. Upon closer inspection, it becomes obvious what sets this door apart from the others. It basically has six deadbolts (4 in the middle, and one top and one bottom) that are all controlled by a single lock mechanism.

Below is a video for the product. Don’t mind the fact that it is a promotional video, it still has some good information about the construction of the door. We certainly question their forcible entry demonstration, but it seems that through-the-lock would be the simplest way to go on this one. Speaking of their forcible entry techniques… That is why it is important to train, study different doors, and lock mechanisms, and to identify and visualize when forcing a door. No one who ever wears our uniform should look that ridiculous when faced with a challenging door.



Rex Hook


Sgt. Pullen from DCFD Truck 4 sent in his idea of “making it work” with another rex tool modification. The tool was created by removing the collar from a mini rex tool and adding it to a shortened halligan (NY roof) hook. Once the collar was removed from the mini rex, a hole was drilled through the head, and a 2” piece of round stock was added. The round stock was then sleeved (and welded) into the hollow end of the shortened hook. The round stock gives the tool the strength required when prying with the rex head. The welding was performed by FF Wipprecht from Truck 4.

Sgt Pullen points out that the tool has proven to be useful for a number of different situations: going through-the-lock on investigations, lock-out’s/lock-in’s, forcing into the “charlie” side with nothing evident, into exposures, and to the floor above in apartment houses. All with minimal damage to the door and sometimes even quicker than conventional methods.

Obviously the shortened four foot hook has some advantages and disadvantages. Some advantages are that it’s nice to have the rex tool handy without the weight of it in the pocket, the tool has the strength and stability required for the lateral movement of working the rex head behind the lock, and it provides the user with a hook once entry has been made. Some disadvantages are that the tool is too long to be used in some hallways, and is too short for extended use pulling ceiling over head.

It’s just another great example of firehouse ingenuity and working smarter, not harder.


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