Mayday Monday: Entanglement

Mayday Monday: Entanglement

By Tony Carroll

Happy Monday to everyone. Today’s topic comes from a frequent reader. During a recent building inspection, he came upon some renovation work in an apartment building. It looks like the building was in the process of running new upgraded electrical lines. You can see the pictures in the slide. This installation of MC cable appears to be done well. There are lots of instances where this method of running cables is not done well and can become a firefighter hazard.

Let’s revisit a fire from 1994 that involved wires and a firefighter. On April 11, 1994, Memphis firefighters responded to a fire on the ninth floor of an 11-story apartment building. Initial companies did not expect fire and were caught off guard when the elevator door opened and they were met with heavy smoke. In the chaos, one firefighter escaped to a stairwell but, in an apparent desperate attempt to locate his officer, left the safe area and became entangled in coaxial cables. Later-arriving companies located him in the hallway. Here is an excerpt from a Fire Engineering article written by M. Chubb and J.E. Caldwell (Tragedy in a High-Rise, Memphis, Tennessee”):

“the officer organized a human chain to search the fire floor. Ten feet from the stairway door they discovered the body of Bridges, entangled in television cables that had collapsed after the raceway supporting them collapsed from the heat. They disengaged him from the cables and checked for vital signs. Bridges was in cardiac arrest, his air supply exhausted.”

Here is a link to a NIOSH report on the tragedy: Memphis LODD 750 Adams Avenue

Today’s Mayday Monday drill is to practice negotiating an entanglement hazard. If possible, build a prop that can be reusable. No resources? Lace some wire between two tables turned on their sides, between two rows of lockers, or between two pallets. Have blindfolded members crawl through the wires trying to stay untangled. This is a great exercise to show the need for a good cutter and carrying it in a place where they can be retrieved. Now, GO practice! Please send any pictures of your drills and examples of wire tunnels to See you next Monday.     

Tony Carroll is a captain with the safety office of the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department.

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