I have been asked, “What do you think you’re doing with your column?” Well, whatever it is, I thought that I would add some more of what is on my mind.
Fire escapes. Is it better to lower the sliding drop ladder on the first fire escape balcony to the sidewalk or simply lift with the hook to free the holding assembly and step out of the way to let the heavy ladder drop to the ground? It is always better to maintain control of the free ladder with the six-foot hook (pointed away from you) and lower the ladder slowly until physics makes it no longer possible for you to hold. Dropped ladders jam on the way down, giving you a tremendous access delay. They also “bounce” out of their guide angle irons and fall toward you and the rest of the fire folks on the sidewalk around you. (Not a pleasant day for you and the team.)
Is it better to step in the center of the fire escape stairs to the next balcony or at the ends? The answer is, watch the connections under your next step. All steps on stairs are stronger at the connections (and over the riser on staircases), but with fire escapes, one side of the stair frame may show more deterioration than the other. Another tactic is to shift your weight from flat step to flat step slowly, ready to step back down or grab hold of the assembly at a slow failure.
Vertical ventilation. You have vertical ventilation for the tour. You gain access to a flat roof of a structure on fire. The fire is somewhere below the top floor. Is it better to check the rear and sides of the structure for unseen victims, or is it better to open the roof at the bulkhead or at the scuttle to provide vertical ventilation to the interior vertical arteries to the fire floor and above? Well, I am selfish here. If you work for me, you had better open the roof before I hear from you about the additional victims you find. The needed vertical ventilation may often make the victims to be rescued simply occupants to be removed by those below. Second, if you get mentally, physically, and morally “tied” to these victim(s), we may never get back to the vertical openings the building, the fire, the firefighters, and the victims below need.
Another thing here is that the people you bond with may not be those in the most trouble. As a matter of fact, those in the most trouble may be us in the vertical arteries of the fire building with conditions worsening by mushrooming to flashing conditions or, at the least, preventing us from getting to the proper floor to begin a horizontal fire attack.
Get the roof, then look for victims, then report!
In this case, is it better to open (any way possible) the skylight before the bulkhead door or scuttle cover or after? Think! The skylight gives light directly to where the people move and congregate in the structure, not necessarily or directly true of the other openings. You have a fire? Open the skylight first for the mostest.
Pets. What is the best thing to do with a semi-overcome pet, especially a dog? Remove him to the nearest clear atmosphere, and then what? Make sure you use your rope (mentioned elsewhere) and tie the animal to some secure object. The dog may be grateful and full of love for you now, but things change as recovery takes over. The firefighting team may be sorry that he is not on a “short leash.” And the owners will be glad to see where he is on their arrival.
Downed live wire. Is it better to push a live downed wire off a victim or pull it? This is a great libation question after shift. It is always better to drop an anchor device on the loose side of the wire in such a life-and-death situation. Then do the quickest and best thing you can as you stand on some emergency insulation you find on the scene or on the truck. The same holds true if the victim is lying on the wire!
High-rise standpipe operations. Standpipe operations in high-rise office buildings are mostly boring-lots of emergency responses to faulty alarms, surges in pressure, work on the system, weather influences, and more. Well-equipped units arrive with sufficient rolled or folded hose lengths AND a collection of fittings, adaptors, wrenches, a control valve wheel, and a nozzle-usually in a carrying device. When ordered to stand by in the lobby for an investigation, drop the hose lengths if you must, but it is always best to NEVER drop the bag of fittings! NEVER. There are more out-of-round fittings and couplings that will not work at the upper floor that mean costly delays. More important, bails on nozzles crack or otherwise become nonoperable and usually are not checked until needed. Crews have lost firefighters who were unable to get water because the nozzle(s) were broken when they were needed.
Again, high-rise. What do you do in the elevator you are using to gain position on the upper floors, operations or staging? First, don’t overload, Second, ensure sufficient hose and fittings. Third, account for forcible entry tools. Fourth, watch the hand of the firefighter at the elevator control buttons. Watch it carefully. You know what floor you want to stop the elevator at (right?). Make sure that the finger in the glove presses that floor or below. If not, it is better to reach through the crowd of confusion and simply press the button you want-below that one. It is not the time for discussion. It is time for action!
More? Make up some of your own, and get the team talking. ■
TOM BRENNAN has more than 35 years of fire service experience. His career spans more than 20 years with the Fire Department of New York as well as five years as chief of the Waterbury (CT) Fire Department. He was the editor of Fire Engineering for eight years and currently is a technical editor. He is co-editor of The Fire Chief’s Handbook, Fifth Edition (Fire Engineering Books, 1995). He was the recipient of the 1998 Fire Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award. Brennan is featured in the video Brennan and Bruno Unplugged (Fire Engineering/FDIC, 1999). He is a regular contributor to Firenuggets.com.