Features, Fireground Safety

Mayday Monday: Entanglement on the Fireground

Nathan Flynn

By Tony Carroll

This past July 23rd, we saw the one-year anniversary of the tragic Howard County (MD) fire where Lt. Nathan Flynn made the ultimate sacrifice. This one-year date was marked by the release of a comprehensive report by the Howard County Fire Department covering the details of the fire and outlining a path forward for the department. Please look it over. Click here for a link to the report.

Buried in the report is a section covering the rescue of Lt. Flynn. This part of the report reviews the actions of the units during their heroic efforts to locate and remove Nathan. On their way to find the trapped member, the firefighters were met with lots of wires hanging down, causing them to become entangled. Fortunately, they were equipped with wire cutters and they were trained to use them. I know you are saying: “They are wire cutters…how hard is it to use them?” Well, imagine being in high heat conditions with low visibility and trying to rescue a trapped brother firefighter. Are you ready for this scenario?

This month’s drill comes from Lt. Tim Aungst, also from the Howard County Fire Department. In his whiteboard drill,  you are challenged to the following:

Go out to your gear and cut these items. (Get some scrap wire and other items you might encounter in a fire.)

  1. Did you find your cutters on the first try?
  2. Are they in an easy/fast pocket to deploy with gloved hands?
  3. Did they cut the wire with the first try?
  4. Do you have quality cutters? If not, will you get them by next shift?

Another simple Mayday Monday drill/skill that can have an immediate impact on your survival or someone else’s. Test your cutters. You might be surprised.

Please give this drill/skill a try. Send in some feedback of what you have found…best vs. worst cutter, modifications you have made, where you keep them, etc.  Also, send in pictures of you and your crew testing your cutters to [email protected]. See you next month.  

Tony Carroll is a battalion chief with the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department.

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