Training Days: The John Nance Drill


Part Five


Article and photos by Tom Kiurski

On this training day, we had the availability of a ranch-style house that was slated for demolition to make way for an office building. The drills that we had set up prior to destruction included the John Nance drill and a firefighter removal from a basement window.

The John Nance drill is based on the death of John Nance of the Columbus (OH) Fire Department. Engineer John Nance was trapped in the basement of a commercial occupancy following a floor collapse. Despite the exhaustive efforts of multiple crews, Engineer Nance was unable to be removed from the occupancy prior to succumbing to the fire and its by-products. Several attempts were made in John’s rescue attempt, including dropping a ladder in the hole for him to climb out. Unfortunately, John was too disoriented to complete his own extrication from the below-grade area.

RELATED: Training Minutes: Rescuing a Firefighter Who Has Fallen Through the Floor

In the drill, one rescuer is sent into the basement of the house and told to go near the hole in the floor. The trapped firefighter is then sent down a loop of rope to tie a knot around himself to be pulled up, simulating a crew assisting a trapped firefighter. The knot can be a rescue knot or a handcuff knot; when completed, the upstairs crew can use it to pull the firefighter up through the hole in the floor. The loop is sent down so that the crew upstairs can split into two teams to pull the firefighter up by each end of the rope.

Once crews tried this maneuver, a charged hoseline was brought into the house. Firefighters were sent individually into the basement to try different ways out– a different way out than the first one with a rope loop. A charged hoseline was sent into the hole we had cut into the floor, nozzle-end first. The trapped firefighter was told to try to stand on the end of the nozzle with one foot on the bail and the other on the pistol grip. Holding on, the trapped firefighter told the crew to pull him up to the main floor. It was difficult to maintain balance; several firefighters slipped off the nozzle while training on this move.

Once the nozzle maneuver was finished, firefighters were sent a loop of the charged hoseline to stand on. After the hose and hands are holding onto either end of the loop, they call out for the crew to pull them up. This seemed to go much easier for most firefighters in our groups. We also discussed sending a ladder into the hole to see if the firefighter can get out on his own, or maybe send a crew down to locate the firefighter and assist him up and out of the hole.

The next scenario we performed was to remove an unconscious or incapacitated firefighter from the basement through a basement window. The basement window had to be large enough to accommodate this, but the rapid intervention team would assist after crews had entered the basement for firefighter rescue. The inside crew would consider using a window to remove the downed firefighter. They start off by calling for an attic ladder to be sent into the basement using an indentified window. The ladder is located and placed down next to the firefighter; the firefighter is rolled onto the attic ladder. The tip of the ladder is moved to the windowsill, and the back of the ladder is lifted as the outside crew pulls the tip of the ladder straight out from the building’s basement. Obviously, this drill will not work if the basement windows are too small. If the basement has a door wall or door, then the use of a window is not necessary.

Although the maneuvers we trained on this day are not used often, some hands-on practice once in a while can help us to recall these techniques should similar situations occur. They may even save the lives of fellow firefighters.


 Tom Kiurski is training coordinator, a paramedic, and the director of fire safety education for Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue. 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.


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