The Bigwig Tool


Personnel and incident commanders alike must consider their own safety and the safety of their crews because hurried, unsafe search and rescue operations may have serious consequences for rescuers as well as victims. Personnel must be properly trained and equipped with the necessary tools to accomplish a search in the least possible time. Some of these tools may include rope, charged hoselines, forcible entry tools, and the fire service’s first and only marking door wedge—the Bigwig Tool. The Bigwig Tool is a new product that solves the marking and wedging problems firefighters face when they are tasked with searching.

Marking doors while searching is extremely important because it helps maximize a search crew’s efforts. When search crews can recognize rooms that have already been searched by simply looking at markings on a door, they will minimize duplication of efforts by not accidentally searching a room more than once; this creates a more organized and faster search crew. So, when the search crew encounters an unmarked door, they will search that room. This prevents search crews from missing rooms, which in turn will allow rescuers to find more victims and, potentially, save more lives.

The Bigwig Tool incorporates an adjustable, reusable fluorescent marking device for just this purpose. After a search crew searches and then exits a room, they simply mark the room’s door using the Bigwig Tool’s marking device. As they search more rooms and mark more doors, they adjust the marking device outward, similar to that of lead in a pencil, and continue marking. Once the marking device is consumed, insert another marking device to keep marking.

The primary reason for controlling doors while searching is firefighter safety, and wedging doors open is one of the easiest ways a firefighter can minimize the potential of becoming trapped. Whether it is a swinging or an overhead door, fire crews have been trapped or, even worse, killed when the doors they entered closed behind them. The Bigwig Tool is also designed to hang over the hinge of an open swinging door (photo 1) or in the track of residential overhead doors (photo 2), thus preventing the door from closing. By hanging it over the hinge, you minimize the risk of having a wedge getting knocked out of the door.

(1) Photos by Jill Weitzel.

The Bigwig tool also glows in the dark, which enables firefighters to visually see a door through which they entered. This will keep the search crew oriented in case they become misdirected while searching. It is also helpful when encountering a downed firefighter. If you encounter a door being held open by the Bigwig Tool while searching for a downed firefighter, there is a good chance that the firefighter is in that room; he most likely placed the Bigwig Tool in the door before he entered it.

The Bigwig Tool is lightweight and durable. It fits easily in a gloved hand and can be stored easily in a pocket or by using quick-break ties on a fire coat buckle. It can also be deployed easily for use in a variety of situations such as when marking searched vehicles and rooms in hazmat areas and during technical and vehicle rescues where marking for shoring and cribbing is needed. It is also useful when needing to wedge doors open to allow EMS easy access and cot removal at emergency scenes.

Some of the Bigwig Tool’s uses include the following:

  • Marking doors for egress routes and vehicle extrication cuts and to identify hazmat scenes.
  • Wedging swinging and residential overhead doors.
  • Lighting doors to more easily spot an open door and to enhance crew orientation.
  • Locating downed firefighters.
  • Technical rescues.
  • Creating easy access for EMS and victim removals.

A firefighter needs only one Bigwig Tool to complete an entire search of a building, big or small. It is the fire service’s first and only combination door marker and wedge. These two vital applications make the Bigwig Tool an essential item in every firefighter’s toolbox.

ELI VOSS is an 11-year fire service veteran and an engineer with the Davenport (IA) Fire Department, assigned to Engine 3. He is also an instructor with the Iowa Fire Service Training Bureau and Eastern Iowa Community College.

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