By Tom Kiurski
On this training day, our firefighters used the same house we had acquired and used in the previous session I described. We had a full month to use the house prior to demolition, meaning we could schedule our evolutions in such a way that we saved the most destructive training for last. Our previous training didn't do any destruction to the house whatsoever, but that would not be the case today.
This training session was to be divided into three learning stations, and everything I needed to research as the training coordinator was found on the Fire Engineering Web site. One fantastic tool on the Web site is the video section called "Training Minutes." Although there are numerous topics now on the site, they are broken down into sections for easy reference. By going to the Training Minutes section, you can scroll across to "Season 1" for our first training objectives for the day, which were "The Punch Technique" and "Door Tips."
We started in the far areas of the house to practice our punch techniques. After an explanation similar to the one given on the video, firefighters were asked to find a suitable piece of wall or ceiling and begin their training. Most were quite surprised how a simple variation can make such a difference in the amount of wallboard removed with minimal effort. Once completed, a simple talk on building construction ensued, using the parts of walls and ceilings exposed as a visual reference point.
Next we moved on to the door tips. This required some extra reinforcement of the doors in the house, since there weren't enough doors for everyone to try the technique. I took out the small screws that held the hinge to the door frame and replaced them with 3-inch screws that were long enough to get a bite into the wood framework. Next, the hinge pins were taken out and replaced with a small section of dowel rod (even these started to pull away from the frame, so I later switched to toothpicks).
As the firefighters finished the punch technique evolution, the door was ready for them. I explained the many reasons that you may want a door taken off its hinges, as in the video piece. These reasons may include wanting to throw the door over a hole in a floor, to protect an area from fire involvement by using a door where there isn't one, or to move an unconscious victim or firefighter across a floor. I then had each firefighter practice the technique of taking the door off. While the wood gave way, it had the same end result. I told them I was very confident they could break wooden dowel rods, but the point of the training was for them to practice the mechanics of the maneuver.
Finally, we had a window that was removed from the frame for our last evolution of the session. Firefighters were reminded of the head-first ladder slide that we had done earlier, but they were asked what they would do if there was no ladder at the window. I told them they could perform a hanging maneuver out of a window, with very little of their body in the room they are hanging out from. The group was shown how to perform the maneuver, and, wearing full personal protective equipment and self-contained breathing apparatus (to simulate the weight of realistic conditions), they followed my lead and hung out the window.
(1) The door hinge had to be reinforced for the abuse that it was about to take during the training.
(2) The window hang is a maneuver that can be performed to limit the body's exposure to heat inside a room while awaiting a ladder from below.
Tom Kiurski recently retired after 26 1/2 years with Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue. He served as training coordinator, a paramedic, and the director of fire safety education with the department. His book, Creating a Fire-Safe Community: A Guide for Fire Safety Educators (Fire Engineering, 1999), is a guide for bringing the safety message to all segments of the community efficiently and economically.