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.


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.




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.


Orlando Fire Conference 2015


VentEnterSearch’s own Jimm Walsh and Eric Wheaton will both be presenting at the 2015 Orlando Fire Conference in Orlando, Florida. The conference runs from February 26th-February 28th, 2015 and offers both a leadership symposium as well as a hands on training (HOT) program.

Both Jimm Walsh and Eric Wheaton will be teaching a segment of the Fire Fundamentals HOT class titled Can Confidence. 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.

The target audience for this class is firefighters and fire officers at any level with a desire to increase their confidence and learn how to properly utilize the water can.

For more information about the Orlando Fire Conference 2015 please go to www.OrlandoFireConference.com

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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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


Golf Ball RIT

Captain Shawn Royall from Charlotte Ladder Co. 23 sent in this idea to make sharing air in a RIT situation a bit easier. When training with their new packs they noticed that the pouches that contained the EBSS hose were a bit difficult to open with a gloved hand. They tried out a few ideas to solve the problem; two pictured here are a simple prussic loop, and a golf ball on a prussic.

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The nice thing about these designs is that they not only allow for the holster snaps to be opened quickly, but it also provides for positive contact with the working end of the hose from the beginning of the operation. It prevents the potential of opening the holster, the hose falling out and having to search for the working end.



Certainly one potential draw back to this design could be the potential snag or entanglement with the additional handle. As with anything, training with the new setup would be the key. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for others, but you must train on what you have. Sometimes an out of the box idea may solve the problem at hand. This idea could certainly be adapted to the hoses on the RIT bag as well. The prussic set up and pictures courtesy of FF Deany Phillips of Rescue Co. 10-B and the golf ball design from Ladder Co. 23-A.


AFA’s and Aerial’s

In some of our recent posts we have been discussing a handful of important aspects of 360’s. The first one about not being able to complete a 360 can be found here and the second one about 360’s on Automatic Fire Alarms can be found here. We started discussing the importance of utilizing the aerial during AFA’s. So now we have to ask: Do you bother using your aerial device during AFA’s?  If not, you may be missing out on a valuable street training opportunity.


As we mentioned, one of the greatest benefits found when using aerial devices during automatic fire alarms is the tremendous training it provides crews (when staffing and time permits). It is much better to practice during “insignificant calls” when adrenaline is not clouding our minds. The most important training opportunity this provides is aerial placement and set up. A majority of the time, the AFA’s from commercial buildings are unintentionally set off during normal business hours. The cause of the alarm is frequently due to brunt food in the break room or HVAC malfunctions. These AFA’s during business hours allow for us to practice positioning the ladder truck in crowded and tight streets or parking areas. Once the alarm has been handled, and the occupants allowed to return to the building is when the real training opportunity begins. The entire crew can meet back up at the rig (which is left set up) to discuss placement, reaches, scrub areas, victim rescues, etc. It can also be a great time to discuss apparatus placement with the Engine company crew as well.


We all know that outriggers can be one of the biggest challenges we run into when setting the truck up on crowded or small streets and parking lots. If you are assigned to a ladder truck that allows for short jacking, you may have a few options to overcome these challenges. For example, the truck shown here allows for short jacking. When setting up on a narrow street the tractor operator pulls to the opposite side of the street adjacent to the incident building. The tractor operator will exit the truck and place the short outrigger, often called the off side, straight down. This leaves room for the opposite outrigger, often called the working side, to be fully extended. The truck is now fully stabilized (on the building side) and ready to have the aerial placed in service. Doing this over and over creates good muscle memory for the “real emergency” when ladder placement is crucial and must be done right the first time.



Another benefit found when utilizing aerials during AFA’s is simply practicing getting off and back on the tip of aerial. Unfortunately there have been many LODD’s due to firefighters falling while getting off or on a roof from an aerial. Since AFA’s are low emergency calls, is a great time to build muscle memory at a slower pace to practice safe access to real roofs from aerials.


So whether it be during AFA’s or just drilling, get those ladder trucks out of the bay and set them up in your first due! You’ll never know the capabilities and limitations of your rig unless you use it. You may even surprise yourself on what you can learn from a non-emergency call like an AFA. Every call is a training opportunity.

Photo credit: Dennis Stevens, www.dennissphotography.com


AFA’s and 360’s

In our last post we discussed situations when a 360 of the fire building may be delayed or unable to be completed at all. That post can be found by clicking here.

Now we will ask some additional questions: Do you even bother to perform a 360? If so, what types of calls do you perform them on?


Most people would probably lean toward doing them more often than not, but those were really just the primer questions. The real question is this: Do you take the time to perform a 360 on “nothing showing” or “automatic fire alarms?”


If your staffing situations allow, it should be a part of your SOG’s to have a 360 done on these seemingly insignificant calls as well. For example, Winter Park has the Outside Truck crew perform a 360 on all automatic fire alarm activations. It is signified as being complete by a simple radio transition: “Outside Truck to Command, 360 all clear, standing by utilities.” It’s a great training opportunity for everyone, not just the ones tasked with completing it, but for everyone listening as well. It’s a simple way to keep the 360 on everyone’s mind.


It is important to mention that the 360 on these seemingly “insignificant calls” may be abandoned (or modified) if other tasks are required of the Outside Truck crew. For example, most buildings in Winter Park require the aerial ladder to be extended to access and investigate roof top air conditioning units (which are often to blame for our Fire Alarm activations.) Often times in this situation the 2 man Outside Team will split up, The Tractor Operator will set-up and extend the aerial for roof access, while the Tillerman performs the 360. After the 360 is complete (and announced on the radio) the Tillerman will join up with the Tractor Operator and access the roof.


Again, these recent discussions of the importance of 360’s are not being shared to delay initial operations. We are simply trying to demonstrate their importance and increase understanding of times when they should, and times when they shouldn’t (or can’t) be completed. Taking the time to standardize how and when they are completed will help set you up for success on the fireground. Also, taking the time to practice them on “insignificant calls” will help them become standard practice and part of everyone expectations.

Photo credit: Dennis Stevens, DennissPhotography.com

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Unable to Complete 360

A 360 of the involved structure can provide some very important information while operating on the fireground. However sometimes the 360 may not be possible. We must remember that the simple fact that you cannot complete a 360 may be just as important as what you’d see if you could. There may be any number of reasons that the 360 might not be achievable, some more prevalent ones may be:

Size of structure
Block wall fences
Immediate need for rescue (ie: victims in windows)

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The simple radio transmission “Unable to Complete 360” tells the other incoming units an important fact. It lets everyone know that we may be forced to operate without potentially valuable information. Depending the amount of radio traffic, you could even state the reason why the 360 was not able to be completed: “due to size of structure” “due to water on the Charlie and Delta sides” “due to obstructions.”

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Just because the first arriving unit cannot complete the initial 360, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be completed at all. The second arriving Chief Officer, or Safety Officer may need to be detailed complete the delayed 360. Of course, whenever possible, the RIT team should complete their own 360 to come up with the rescue plan.

The 360 can provide us with extremely valuable information. We must have a plan in place for how and when the initial 360 will be completed and announced, and more importantly, have a plan for when it can’t be done.


Cut and Force Post

Captain Chris Garniewicz from Bluffton Township (SC) Truck 375 sent in this cut and force prop that they recently put together. The idea was to create a compact prop that could be kept in the bay to used on rainy days and still be easily transported to be used at the burn building. The post is made from 6” x 6” x 6’ lumber and attached to a 4’ x 4’ base. The post can easily be removed to facilitate moving and storing the prop. Each side of the post contains a different skill station. Side one is a rebar cut tree: Side two for padlocks and chains; Side three is for cylinder pulling; and Side four is for hinge pulling.




The lock pulling side (side three) contains custom milled bronze cylinders. Bronze was chosen to prevent damaging the lock pulling tools. The hinge pulling side (side four) contains homemade hinges made from flat steel and rebar. As you can see both the lock pulling and the hinge pulling props use wooden dowels for frangible resistance. In addition, both sides also have plate steel to protect the post.





Faux Dormers

Are dormers a prevalent component of building construction in your area? If they are, are they real dormers or faux-dormers? Knowing the answer to this question is critical because they act very differently during fire situations and have totally different tactical priorities.


The presence of real dormers indicates a potentially occupied area of the structure. This area absolutely needs to be searched for potential victims. This upper floor of the structure will typically contain bedrooms, which should be very high on your search priority list. The other question that needs to be answered in this scenario is whether or not the structure is balloon frame construction as well. That certainly adds to the need to search this area immediately with an effort to open it up looking for fire that has traveled to the top floor. Finally, real dormers frequently have knee walls that can hide a tremendous amount of fire that can catch us off guard if we are not extremely familiar with the intricacies of this construction style.


Faux dormers have a totally different set of tactical concerns. Faux dormers are installed on homes to make the roof line more “interesting” and make the house look more grand. Frequently these faux dormers are built on top of the actual roof and have sheeting underneath and don’t even open into the actual attic space.


Know your area! Take the time to look around and be familiar with the construction styles found in your first due. Look for the tell tale signs of real dormers: steep roof pitch and windows in the gable ends. Smoke issuing from a real dormer potentially indicates a fire in an occupied area of the building that typically contains bedrooms. This situation requires an immediate search for life. Smoke issuing from a faux dormer potentially indicates an fire in an unoccupied area of the structure, the attic. This presents a much different situation, but it requires an immediate search for fire.


Building construction can have a dramatic impact on fire and smoke travel in a structure. We must know how two things that look so similar can behave so differently during fire conditions.

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Hook & Irons Collaboration

We are very excited to release our newest T-shirt design. This design is a collaboration with Hook and Irons Co.

Hook and Irons Co. is a firefighter owned apparel company devoted to celebrating the traditions and the history of the fire service. Their designs truly reflect all of the beauty and history of our job that result in items that we should all be proud to wear and own. We are truly humbled to have the opportunity to work on this awesome design with them. When talking about the shirt we decided to create a design that was simple and original–a badge for those who believe seconds make a difference.

The VES shirt was hand drawn, then hand painted with water color to create a faded, weathered look that can’t be duplicated using digital processes. The screen print for the shirt was created using that same water color painting. The design is printed on a lightweight tri-blend antique navy shirt.

The shirt is fitted. If you are in between two sizes, order one up.


Thank you for your continued support!

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