Positioning Your Elevating Platform
Paul McFadden’s volunteers corner
One of the greatest innovations in the fire service, and one that has reduced injuries, increased exterior rescue efficiency and safety at elevated heights, and saved countless man-hours at large-scale fires is the aerial platform or tower ladder.
The choice of a telescoping boom, an articulating boom, or a ladder platform should depend on many local factors. Price, availability of repair service, fire station height and structural strength restrictions, geographical limitations, such as narrow streets, the types of apparatus available through mutual aid from surrounding districts, etc., all should influence the purchasing decision. But regardless of the type of elevating platform chosen, many of the governing rules for top performance and efficiency remain common to all.
Placement of the tower at the response scene will vary directly with the job we expect to accomplish with it. Naturally, life is our most important consideration and the one that we must address first.
As with an aerial ladder, the tower must be given access to the front of the fire building. Remember, you can stretch a hose, but you can’t stretch a ladder. The officer and chauffeur of the tower, as with an aerial, must be alert to any civilians and firefighters showing at windows on or above the fire floor. If only one person is showing or if there are people in one general location, the tower should be set up as close to that location as possible. This will reduce the amount of “flying time” required for removal; but at the same time, we must keep in mind the need to have the capability of covering all or the greater part of the rest of the building.
With a greater number of victims showing at different locations on arrival (the situation where the tower really excels), set up closest to the person who your size-up deems to be the most severely exposed.
The bucket has the capability of removing people from multiple locations without the need to return to the ground with each individual. Also, with the bucket filled to capacity, we need only to place these people at the closest point of refuge. This could be the street, an adjoining roof, or the floor below the fire. The point is to get them out of the bucket as fast as possible so that we can return to the less severely exposed. Don’t forget these people who have been assigned a lower priority. Remember, they are frightened and may jump from panic if verbal assurance of their eventual removal is not continuously given to them from members on the ground, in the bucket, or both.
Judgement calls are sometimes hard to describe on paper, but if you know deep in your heart that a person is going to jump (although he may not be in the most danger), get him first and then focus on those in the most trouble. Any method used to keep people from jumping is acceptable.
Not long ago, I was at an incident where six people were at one window in the fire apartment on the fourth floor, fire showing behind them. I knew that they were going to jump (once one goes, they all go)—until a lieutenant on the ground with 30 years of ladder experience looked up and yelled, “If you jump, I’ll kill you!” They stayed. The lieutenant turned tragedy into a simple removal.
The location of the bucket’s access gates has some departments confused as to proper placement of the apparatus. Their concern is that these gates can be used by both firefighters and civilians for entrance into and egress from the fire building. Forget them. Place the apparatus 32-35 feet from the building.
- If you’re removing life, position the apparatus so that the bucket is close to your objective. This reduces flying time.
- If you’re using the bucket for an elevated master stream application, put the turntable perpendicular to your objective for head-on water stream.
- And, if your truck has a frontmounted turntable, turn the cab out-
- board at a 15° angle so that the boom can pass the cab at low levels without coming in contact with it.
The bucket gate is a convenience to be used for access at non-emergency locations, such as the roof, the street, or when bedded in the cradle. Just because we now own a bucket doesn’t mean we can forget basic ladder placement position—at the sill, not above it. With a bucket, this means that the top rail, not the gate, is at the sill. Trying to put the bucket openings at the window violates all the rules of good ladder placement. First, it puts you too high at the window for entering and, more important, exiting a fire area during search and rescue.
Secondly, it is almost impossible to have the exact angle with the boom so that the gate comes directly in front of the window. This condition leaves a triangular void between the bucket and the building that the sometimes panicked and reluctant victim must cross to enter the safety of the bucket floor. And, along with the possibility of wet or icy window sills and bucket rails, you are creating an unsafe act.
With the top rail at the sill, we can slide in and out of windows with relative ease. Also, it makes loading the bucket with civilians much easier. All we have to do is stuff them in.
I’ll probably get in trouble for that last statement, but stuff we do. The unconscious victim who is giving you absolutely no help can be dragged onto the sill and then shoved into the bucket. The conscious victim can give you a lot of help, but he may need a nudge. The firefighter, who is making a hasty retreat, need only to jump into the bucket. The most important point is that in all three cases, the people are below the window level if, in fact, the fire blows out.
Who do we worry about in the bucket? Little children. You will find it best to hold them or press them into a safe location while you are in the process of moving from one area to another. As for the panicked adults, order them to sit down, and don’t be afraid to assert yourself.
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Let’s look at the bucket position one more time. It’s been argued that the bucket cannot always come as close to the window as we would like because at some angles the larger caliber stream device with stream straightness and tips keeps the bucket away from the building (sometimes up to two feet away). Take these devices off and store them inside the bucket. When we use water, we have plenty of time to assemble the nozzle. The reverse is not always true when we have to remove people. Remember, people come first—ALWAYS! The fire, well, that will go out.
Maybe someday Tom will let me talk about water.