Latch Straps Keep Self-Locking Doors Open, Mark Search Areas
The latch strap is designed to restrain a door latch so that the door will not relock when it is closed. This strap is especially useful in buildings which have mostly self-closing, selflocking doors. This type of door closure is used for main entrance and other entry doors, storage room doors, and stairwell doors which, for security reasons, can be unlocked only from the hallway.
Battalion Captain Robert McLeod of the Sarasota, Fla., Fire Department mentioned this idea during his search and rescue presentation at the fire fighters breathing apparatus specialist school conducted in October 1973 by the Fire Service Extension Department at the University of Maryland.
After this program, members of Station 16 of the Silver Spring, Md., Fire Department tried to design a strap that would have a variety of uses besides keeping a door from relocking. After considerable time and effort, they designed a strap made from a 14 X 3-inch piece of truck tire inner tube with two 1-inch holes cut in it and grommet placed at one end (Fig. 1).
Straps easily made
These straps are inexpensive and easy to make. The cost to make one strap is only 6 cents. It’s the price of a grommet. The materials and equipment used to make these straps includes:
- Truck tire inner tube,
- Straight edge and marking pencils,
- Short length of 1-inch pipe (sharpened at one end),
- Heavy-duty scissors,
- Flat piece of wood,
- Grommet and washer assembly, and
- Grommet-setting tool.
After cutting a 14 X 3-inch piece of rubber and laying it on a block of wood, the 1-inch pipe and maul are used to make two 1-inch holes. The centers of .the holes should be at least inches from either end of the strap. This provides room for gripping when the strap is applied to or removed from doorknobs. Before setting the grommet, two pieces of rubber (each about 1-inch square) must be placed on each side of the strap to prevent the grommet from pulling out under tension. If desired, each strap can be marked with the number of the unit carrying it, e.g., E 161.
Six uses for strap
The latch strap has six distinct uses:
- To keep a door from relocking,
- To hold open a door,
- To mark entry door to search area,
- To indicate which way to go after returning to entry door to get to the outside,
- To identify rooms or areas that have been searched,
- To indicate that a search is in progress.
- When it is desired to keep a door from relocking, the latch strap can quickly and easily be applied by following a three-step procedure:
- After opening door, place the hole opposite the grommet end of the strap over one of the doorknobs.
- Firmly grasp the grommet end of the strap and stretch it across latch to other side of door (Fig. 2).
- Place second hole around other doorknob (Fig. 3).
If push bars or handles are used, the
strap can be applied in the following manner:
- Place the strap around one of the handles and then pass the grommet end through the outermost hole and draw tight.
- Stretch strap across latch to other side of door.
- Pass shower curtain hook through grommet and secure it to the other handle.
Since the strap permits the door to fully close without locking, the door still can be used to lessen the spread of heat and smoke from one area to another, while maintaining a means of entry and egress.
The latch strap also can be used with a stretch strap or shower curtain hook to hold a door open (Fig. 4). The stretch strap can be made from a loop of tire inner tube with two S hooks placed on it. Money permitting, commercial straps can be used. A three-step procedure is used in applying these straps.
- After opening a door, place the hole opposite the grommet end of the strap around doorknob facing you when the door is open.
Doors Open, Mark Search Areas
- Place one stretch strap hook through grommet.
- Secure other hook to a fixed object, such as a railing, operating wheel of a standpipe riser outlet, or wire mesh of a storage bin.
Search and rescue use
Another application of the latch strap is for search and rescue. It can be used to mark the entry into an area to be searched, to identify areas that have been searched, to distinguish between primary and secondary searches, and to indicate to personnel other than the search team, that a search is in progress.
When a door is tagged to identify the point of entry, the latch strap can be applied in the same manner as to keep a door from relocking. However, the grommet end of the strap must be on the doorknob facing the way out! This not only lets the search team know what door they entered, but also the direction to travel to reach the outside after returning to the door. As mentioned earlier, tagging a door in this way also lets other personnel know that a search is in progress. Personnel seeking to check the welfare of a search team can quickly locate its general whereabouts by locating the door marked in this fashion (Fig. 5). This is another important safety feature of the strap.
Within the area, the latch strap can be used to indicate that rooms, such as bedrooms, have been searched. After completing a search and closing the door to a room, a search team member may elect to tag the door. This will depend on such factors as the type of occupancy, prior knowledge of the building, visibility and the number of latch straps available. If it is desired to tag the door, either hole of the strap can be placed around the outside doorknob (Fig. 6). Since the strap is attached only to one doorknob and hangs’ in a vertical position, it is easily ‘distinguished from the way the entry door is marked with the strap attached to both doorknobs.
Type of search indicated
After completing a search of an area, the search team may choose to remove straps from doors while returning to the entry door. After reaching this door, the end of the strap without the grommet is removed from the knob, letting the strap hang from the outside doorknob. This indicates that a primary search has been completed in the area. A secondary search is indicated by folding the grommetless end of the strap to put both holes over the outside doorknob (Fig. 7). In other words, when the strap is hanging from a doorknob by either hole, a primary search had been conducted, but if both holes of a strap are placed over same doorknob, a secondary search had been conducted.
To keep a door from relocking after a search, two straps must be used, one to hold the latch and the other to indicate that the area had been searched (Fig. 8).
Latch straps can be carried by the engine companies, truck companies, or other units. They can be attached to or carried with such items as standpipe equipment and smoke ejectors. Furthermore, personnel can carry at least two latch straps in coat pockets.