While it can safely be said that every response area in this country has unique challenges, the commercial storefront is one that is present in almost all areas. Forcible entry into these buildings is not necessarily difficult, but present some unique considerations and thinking points.
Just break the glass. That seems to be a lot of firefighter’s first thought on getting inside. This simplistic approach will certainly create an opening from the outside to the inside, but not necessarily the way we want. Consider the following:
- It may not be glass. In many areas it will be Plexiglas, lexan, plastic, or similar materials.
- It may be reinforced by either impregnated or aftermarket “chicken wire”, have metal strips spaced across, or have other security measures to prevent you from getting in even if the glass is broken.
- You still have to content with the crossbar or panic bar, which adds additional time and can be more difficult to remove than it looks. You will likely end up having to contend with the scenario of eager FF’s wanting to crawl in under the panic bar – an obvious FF safety concern.
- You will still have the lip of the door frame around the opening. This will likely still contain glass shards that can easily rupture a hoseline. It can also create a trip hazard that may delay rapid egress should conditions deteriorate. This occurred in a similar scenario recently resulting in critical burn injuries to several firefighters who were unable to quickly exit when a “dog pile” occurred at the exit.
For all the discussion points on the potential hazards and pitfalls of “just breaking the glass”, probably the most compelling reason not to break the glass is just that if you have practice and plans in the proper techniques it is simply faster and easier to just open the door. Take a look at the following videos:
It’s easy to see that whether you want to cut the lock or go through-the-lock, either are quite fast and eliminate all of the possible problems of breaking the glass. Consider these options next time you are presented with the glass commercial storefront. Discuss this issue with your crew members and practice on the techniques for defeating the “Adams Rite Lock” both manually and with a saw. Stay safe, and stay Combat Ready.
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Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Tips & Skills, videos | Posted on 17-12-2012| Posted in
One of the things we always talk about regarding staying “combat ready” is using every opportunity as a learning/teaching moment. We have an opportunity on every routine run to look at the buildings in our response area and size-up their challenges. This allows us to think about solutions in advance. The more of these ideas (tools) you have in your brain (toolbox) makes it more likely you’ll have the “right sized wrench” to fit the problem when you encounter it in stressful conditions during a fire.
During a medical run on the engine is exactly when we noticed these doors in an apartment building. Neither the gate or the door is atypical for our area, but the combination of the two inside the building is unusual for us. These gates are typically found on either the front or rear doors of many of our residences, but to find them inside an apartment building with enclosed stairs is unusual. The gates themselves are not difficult to force, they are secured by a standard deadbolt with about a 1 throw. Under normal circumstances, setting the adze above or below the lock and first crushing up and down then pulling the fork end out toward the lock side generally opens these fairly quickly. However many firefighters still like to approach these with a saw, which obviously would not work well inside the building under fire conditions.
So what would you do? My approach would be the hinges. I’ve found the hinges on these types of doors to consistently be a weak point. There is usually enough space between the frame and gate to just place the adze enough without even striking the Halligan so that a gapping (up/down) force can be applied to the hinge. This typically breaks the welds and maybe with a little outward pull on the fork the hinge is done. Work from top to bottom, see the video below.
Rocket science? Absolutely not. When you see this in plain daylight and have a clear moment to think about the challenges and solutions, the door’s weaknesses are easily found. But this is the importance of taking the time after routine runs, during on-the-air inspections, or otherwise to have a teaching/learning moment. Talk these ideas out with yourself, your crew. The more time you spend preparing for the fire, the better you’ll perform at the fire.
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Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Tips & Skills, Truck Company, videos | Posted on 12-12-2012| Posted in
It’s common that residential buildings will feature mostly inward opening doors, while commercial buildings will feature more outward opening doors. While the the technique for outward opening doors may be, I won’t say easier but more straightforward than an inward door, they may actually require a little more “force”. Outward doors on commercial buildings are likely to be set in brick or concrete, consist of strong metal doors and frames, and may have multiple or higher security locking devices.
The “power position” on an outward door comes when you set the adze fully BEHIND the door. It’s the same idea as wrapping your fingers around something fully, you’ll get the most pull. Getting the adze behind the door gives you a few advantages:
- 180-degrees of leverage, provided there are no obstacles.
- In addition to pulling outward, you can work up and down using the adze to crush the door and reduce the depth the lock is set in it’s keeper.
- You can perform several “tricks” to extend your leverage.
It is also important to set the adze FULLY behind the door – as deep as you can get it. This moves the fulcrum closer to the door and makes causes the firefighter to do less work to exert more leverage.
There are several methods to extend leverage on an outward door, but one is well illustrated at this box alarm in Prince George’s County, MD. In the rear of this commercial building, firefighters encounter a metal door in metal frame, set in brick with a couple locks. The irons firefighter from TL-33 (Kentland VFD) has already properly set his adze fully behind the door but more leverage is needed. A few things are worth noting here:
- The irons FF does not “spin wheels” – after a few tries he quickly realizes that plan “A” isn’t working and that we need to try something else.
- The irons FF does not panic or get frustrated, I’ve seen frustrated FF’s in this scenario pull the bar completely out of the door which of course is in no way helpful.
- Note the fluid teamwork with minimal communication between the members of company 33 an 37 (Ritchie VFD). Due to previous inter-departmental training, they know what to expect of each other. The left hand knows what the right needs before it even asks.
Just like many forcible entry skills, this option is not available to you if you haven’t purchased the right equipment, prepared it properly, and trained on it -not just as an individual, but as a crew. If your partner doesn’t know what to do your knowledge is useless. We shouldn’t have to have a lesson at the fire door – we should be able to resort to what we’ve always trained on.
In forcible entry remember – we can’t do anything else until we get inside. Keep your skills sharp, have multiple plans, and DON’T GIVE UP!
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Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Tips & Skills, Truck Company | Posted on 15-10-2012| Posted in
In part one of “Check your Dance Card” we discussed a few items to take a look at before we enter the fire building and start our dance with the “beauty of fire.” In part 2, we will discuss a few more specifics that we should note as we enter the structure. Make no mistake, a constant review of this Dance Card is a must for all members… take mental notes of what you see. You’re going to want to come home from your latest “dance” and tell all your friends all about this “beauty.”
“Ok, let’s move” the boss said, after what seemed like an eternity to you. The reality, it was only mere seconds. We all know that reality is often suspended when you are out on the dimly lit dance floor. You, you’re an eager beaver, and chomping at the bit to get on with this next . Your Officer is more cautious; he’s been burned by this “beauty” before. He remembers the sting of her touch, especially if you are caught moving too quickly on the dance floor. He is trying to show you the patience required, but you are still rather wet behind the ears and excitable…
This “beauty of fire” doesn’t make it easy; she beckons you closer with her dancing flames and warm lustrous glow. Again, the Officer reels you back in…one more review before we hit the dance floor.
As you enter the fire building…
1. WHAT TYPE OF STAIRS SERVICE THE BUILDNG?
Generally we have 2 types of tread design (on the staircase steps) and 2 types of staircases. They are either “Open” (having no sides, walls or doors at the top or bottom) or “Enclosed” (having sides, walls and doors at the top and bottom). Open tread and open staircases allow the passage of smoke, heat and fire to the floors above and are not friendly to our operation. Enclosed steps and enclosed staircases reduce the chances of fire spread in the building (if the doors are to remain in the closed position). It may be wise to announce the style and type of stairs to other units as they arrive, so that they know what to expect. This is of particular importance when in larger multiple dwellings or garden apartments and there are isolated, wing, or multiple staircases that serve specific lines of apartments (i.e. do not transverse the entire building). “Ladder X to Command; we have enclosed wing stairs, we will be using the A wing stairs to reach the fire apartment.”
2. IS THERE A WELL HOLE TO USE FOR THE STRETCH
The presence of a “Well Hole” the space created between the landing section of the stairs and the run of the steps themselves can be utilized for quick hoseline advancement. It must be rehearsed prior with the Engine Co. to achieve maximum effect. It reduces the amount of hose needed to be humped up the treads of the steps and around each newel post (i.e. 1-50’ length can travel vertically 5 floors in the well versus 1 length per floor if going up and around each set of steps, newel posts and associated landings). “Engine 22 to members, there is a well” should be enough to let the members know.
3. HOW MANY APARTMENTS ON THE FLOOR
A quick stop on the floor below can get you a lay of the land. If you bypassed the lobby and forgot to count mailboxes, count the number and note location of the apartments that you see. Remember that depending of the way the stairs run (scissor, return etc), they may be slight variations in the layout when you get on the fire floor.
4. VERIFY FIRE FLOOR AND APARTMENT NUMBER/LETTER
What may have appeared to be a fire on the 3rd floor from the street may turn out to on the second floor depending on the buildings configuration as it relates to the street level. Some buildings have lobby entrances that are raised above street level, which may change your initial fire floor notifications. Verify the fire floor and announce the apartment number or letter over the air, so that those who may be going above can pinpoint the direction they need to head.
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Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Company News, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company, Uncategorized | Posted on 22-02-2012| Posted in
**This week we are featuring a short run-down of each of the programs that our staff will be presenting at this year’s FDIC in Indianapolis**
Tuesday (Pre-Conf Workshop, 130p-530p) – 25 to Survive
25 to Survive
TT’s Lt. Mitchell and Capt. Shaw will co-present thier flagship program, 25 to Survive: The Residential Building Fire. This program highlights 25 critical areas that present themselves to operating forces at the number one fireground killer of civilians and firefighters alike. They will present this engaging, interactive presentation will focus on pre-incident, operations and post incident operations. They will give you street smart tips and take home drills to make yourself and your fire company better prepared at the next residential fire you respond to.
Lieutenant Douglas J.Mitchell Jr., Fire Department of New York and Captain Daniel D. Shaw, Fairfax County Fire & Rescue:
Course Summary: More firefighters are seriously injured and killed while operating at residential building fires than at any other fire we encounter. This dynamic and interactive lecture program will address 25 critical firefighting errors and issues common to the residential building. Learn sound tips and take home practical drills to address and correct errors at residential fires. Topics include combat-ready attitude, leadership techniques, SCBA confidence, overcoming building construction features (setbacks, long stretches), communication failures on the fireground, developing and delivering sound and accurate on-scene reports, coordinated ventilation, and more.
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Posted by administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Company News, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Incident Command, line-of-duty, RIT / Survival, technology-communications, Tips & Skills, Truck Company, Upcoming Classes | Posted on 08-02-2012| Posted in
NOTHING makes what we do more worthwhile than hearing back that information we passed on in our programs was put to use effectively in an operational scenario. There’s a lot of effort behind the scenes in what we do, but a story like this makes every second worthwhile:
My name is Johnny Davidson. I work for the Round Rock FD in Texas. Back in April we had pleasure of attending a class put on by Nick and Danny. I’ve been to a lot of rescue course’s in my career and these guys along with Traditions Training stand among the best. So here’s my short story about forcing a door after attending their class.
A few weeks after the class we were called out to a medical alarm for an elderly person who pressed their alert button and the alarm company could not get a response from the victim. On arrival we discovered all the doors & windows were locked. Out of habit I grabbed the door spreader and went to the front door. After two attempts with the door spreader we had no success. I looked at the dead bolt and it hit me like a brick. I advised my firefighter to get the “irons” of our rig. As he was striking the door, I radio our dispatch and advised them we were attempting to force the door again. My firefighter then set Halligan and I began to strike it. It was like a hot knife thru butter. The door opened and we found our patient laying on the bedroom floor semi-conscious.
After checking my run notes it took 13 seconds to get thru the door using a version of the techniques learned from Traditions Training. Thanks for giving me another tool in the tool box of knowledge.
Round Rock Fire Department”
Thanks you, Lt. Davidson, for sharing this story with us. And thank you to everyone out there who ever let us share a skill or piece of knowledge with you – PASS IT ALL ON!
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Posted by Blog, Tips & Skills, Truck Company | Posted on 23-05-2011| Posted in
Like many firefighters, I have witnessed someone at the door to the fire building repeatedly trying the same technique over and over with no success. This is frustrating because, with the exception of some public service calls, we were not called to force the door but rather to handle the fire (or other emergency) on the other side of it. All firefighters, regardless of position or assignment must maintain good forcible entry skills, because we can’t do our job until we get inside the door.
Over the years, forcible entry has become a speficic interest of mine. I have had many great mentors on the topic and my own share of fireground screw ups, all of which taught me one very important fact about forcing doors of any kind: YOU MUST HAVE MULTIPLE TECHNIQUES FOR WHEN PLAN “A” FAILS.
As an example, last month Danny Doyle and I were just outside Austin, TX working with the Round Rock Fire Department on truck company operations for the week. Of course one of the skills was forcible entry. Using their department’s door prop, each student forced the door numerous times. Now each student forced the same door prop, which used the same stock of material, and forced it using the same approach. Below is a picture of some of the metal “locks” that they forced. What do you notice? THEY ARE ALL DEFORMED DIFFERENTLY.
It goes to show the point that 2 doors, made by the same company, installed by the same person on the same day, and locked in the same manner, will likely respond differently even when attacked with the same series of techniques. This is just due to subtle variations in angle/placement of attack, force delivered, and probably the inherent slight variations in a piece of metal.
The take home here is that you can’t just have plan A, or just plan A & B. You have to have C,D,E,F,G,H,I, et cetera. Because when YOU’RE the one between the fire and the rest of the box alarm, ALL EYES ARE ON YOU and everyone is WAITING FOR YOU – it’s probably the most stressful spot on the fireground. It means we have to expect the unexpected – we have to be able to recognize when what we are doing is not working, and have another step to move onto.
In our classes we teach “troubleshooting forcible entry”. This video is a brief demonstration of one of the students forcing a troublesome door and working through a variety of steps in order to get the door in a pretty quick timeframe. As a disclaimer, it it not an inclusive discussion of all the skill points and tips for an inward door. I always say that there is a list of techniques and a list of tools, all possibilities to get us through the door. The kicker is that the list is CONSTANTLY RE-ORDERED at each fire based on asking yourself:
- What tools do I have available?
- What manpower do I have available?
- What I have I already tried?
The results of thinking those questions may take what was previously #22 on your list of preferences and move it to #1 for this fire, because for instance you are by yourself and only have a Halligan bar.
Remember forcible entry is NOT AT ALL about force, it’s all about technique.
If you’d like to break some doors, we have a combination Truck Company Ops and Forcible Entry Academy class coming up in Bensalem, PA in August. Click here for information and registration. Or we’d be happy to come to you, just email us.
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Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Tips & Skills, Truck Company | Posted on 04-05-2011| Posted in
We’ve done a bunch of talking about the Adams-Rite lock and forcing entry to storefronts, partly because it’s a forcible entry challenged found almost anywhere and everywhere. Like all things firefighting, the key to success is having not just “Plan A” – but multiple plans. Depending on your scenario, one may be preferable than another at one fire and less preferable at the next.
Once option for forcing entry at these fires is of course to cut the throw of the lock. Check out this quick video tip:
- What is your “go to” technique for these doors? Why?
- What circumstances would cause you to move this cutting technique to the top of the list?
Let us know your thoughts, and check out these other related articles on the topic.
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Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Tips & Skills, Truck Company, videos | Posted on 12-03-2011| Posted in
The term HUD Window refers to the stereotypical wooden board up frequently seen on “vacant” buildings, damaged buildings, and occasionally buildings under construction. It’s not a standardized term – I’m sure there are many regional variations. Just as there are variations in the name, there are variations in the style, construction, and manner of installation. As with all things forcible entry, a “one plan” approach is likely to fail you when the unexpected is encountered.
While out doing some district familiarization and rookie training we stopped at this house, which was the site of a recent fire. How often do you go by the address of fire you ran last tour, or the fire that the other shift went to? Unfortunately, I’ve worked in places where nobody has any interest in visiting the fire we ran last tour, or that the other shifts ran on the days off. That’s a terrible waste of resources. Not only is there a fire with good things to discuss, but it’s a fire that ACTUALLY HAPPENED IN YOUR AREA! Take a minute during the day to top by and see what went down.
In our area it would not be uncommon do go back to an address a second time due to arson or careless squatters. In this case we were able to not only to learn what to expect, and how houses in this area are being secured, but also do some rookie training and talk as a group about different ideas.
Different ideas are exactly what you’ll need for these situations. When I posted a brief pic of this house on our Facebook page the other day we had no less than 5 ideas in a few minutes. Is this something you spend time talking with your crew about, or do you just watch SportCenter all day?
There are many ways to skin this cat, but here are a few of my initial thoughts:
– As you pull up at a fire, don’t blindly run up with the same tools. Look at what you have. For example, as the OV FF here I would be thinking about bringing a chainsaw due to multiple boarded up windows – that’s not a usual tool for me in that position. I would make two cuts – one each as close to the outside of the frame as I could judge.
– I’d also consider a short ladder (10′ or less) to provide me with better access to these shoulder height windows (see this idea in use in Joe Brown’s OV video here). These 2×4 braces were also nailed into the sides of the frames, that may limit the effectiveness of certain removal techniques.
– As the irons FF or officer, i might think to tell my OV to start right away on the windows as we head to the door. Given the lack of an outside 2×4 here, I think we can make a relief strike just below the bolt heads with the 8lbs axe and just drive the bolts through to make access to the front door. Remember that YOU might have a plan and a thought, but the effectiveness of the entire CREW will improve if everyone knows it – COMMUNICATE. Ideally, PLAN AHEAD.
– Be prepared for surprises. You may assume by the presence of the HUD coverings over the door area that there is no additional challenge, however a peak inside allowed us to see that the original security gate was still in place. How strong is it? Who knows, but worth being prepared for.
– Of course being the site of a previous fire, I have to consider the buildings stability. In our area, squatters and vagrants are a distinct likelihood so my intentions are to enter if at all possible. That said, I’m paying extra attention to the floor’s stability as I move ahead. I’m also thinking that overhaul from the previous fire has given the fire a head start into void spaces.
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Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Commentary, Tips & Skills, Truck Company | Posted on 25-02-2011| Posted in
In this post I’ll discuss the setup features of the irons carried at work. There are of course many different setups and modifications that can be done to this essential set of tools, and as many opinions on each. Of course ours isn’t the only way, but I’ll try to explain the thought process behind our setup…
Some modifications are more well suited to certain tasks. If your company uses riding assignments, you can match up the right Halligan for the anticipated task. I talked about this idea in a previous post, here. Sometimes I feel like fireman sometimes adopt a concept (or modification) just because its the hot new thing and not because an evaluation of their job reveals it would be useful.
An 8lbs axe has been my personal striking tool of choice ever since I learned about using it as a wedge. As Dan Troxell, my captain and also a TT instructor says, the sledge is a “one-dimensional tool”. I have taken advantage of the axes versatility on both inward and outward doors, both in a team or alone ,and have never found myself wishing i had a sledgehammer.
This axe is 8lbs, the extra 2lbs over the standard 6 provides significant extra “oomph” without being unwieldy to carry. On the underside of the blade we have ground a few indentations to allow the Halligan to marry close. Keeping the handles of the axe and Halligan close makes for an easy grip.
I do like having an extra grip made with some clothesline and lacrosse tape on the bottom 3rd of the axe handle.
Starting at the forks, the tips of the forks are filed (not grinded) to a smooth thin curve. Many stock Halligans come with a small ridge on the beveled side of the tips. Many times I have seen that ridge catch on the leading edge of a door while forcing, effectively stopping progress. There is also a “set line” ground and marked with a dab of red paint. This is useful for judging the set depth, especially for newer members. Of course the fork’s shoulders have been flattened out to be available as a striking surface.
On the shaft, you’ll see that we have a “grip” in the middle 3rd. While not my personal preference, I’m not the only one who uses this bar. I’m usually content with the natural octagonal grip provided by the forged design of a good Halligan. I see many Halligans that have grip top to bottom. To me that eliminates the ability to slide a striking tool down the shaft onto the shoulders. However it seems that having the grip in the middle third has been good compromise – it adds a little grip when venting a window or opening up and seems to stay out of the way of the shoulders.
The head of the tool is kept clean and smooth. On the adz, the “blade” is kept thin – not like a knife, but free of ridges like we discussed on the fork tips. I would like to add a little width to the adz, maybe 1/2 inch (for extra leverage while gapping) but haven’t gotten around to it on this bar yet. The adz has a depth mark to help gauge when the adz has been set to the doorstop on an outward door, so that the door doesn’t get skinned by prematurely pulling out or down.
So thats a quick rundown of our setup and why, as I finish a morning cup of coffee after shift change. It is important that we know not only WHAT we have, but also WHY. There are many potential setups and modifications. Evaluate what each position does at a fire and what setup would be most beneficial. For example, when operating as the hook firefighter (basically our OVM) I carry a 6′ Halligan hook and a bar. We’ll make that setup the topic of a future post.
So with that all said, whats your setup – AND WHY?
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