Why don’t we work an 8-5, sitting behind a desk? Easy- we as firefighters love the constant moving and changing of every call, training event, and research study. Fluidity is the essence of the modern firefighter. The constant need to adapt and overcome is a tool that only experience and training can build. The highest risk/highest reward job function we as a fire service can do is rescuing one our own. This, in turn, must be the most fluid time of all. This article will cover the options available to rescuers to have the highest positive outcome. Certain facts have to be covered, in order to establish a basis for thinking. These come from the Phoenix Fire Department’s study after the death of FF Brett Tarver.
1. It will take on average 12 rescuers to save 1 downed firefighter
2. A 30 minute rated bottle will last 18 minutes during a rescue
3. It will take, on average, 22 minutes to get a downed firefighter out of a residential structure
4. 1 in 5 rescuers will become victims themselves
5. Total time in building for Rapid Intervention is 12 minutes
So, we know the first team must provide air and package, second and third team remove through closest point or the way they came in, while taking their own safety and air consumption into consideration.
Time in the IDLH, air for the victim, and safe removal is the keys for a successful outcome. There are many acronyms for Rapid Intervention- the article will give one, and discuss the options with each.
The RIC officer leads his team to the command post. The team does a RIC 360, and a quick plan is devised on entry points, exits, and primary/secondary plans. Another question to ask is “How long have the crews inside been working?” This gives a lot of information on a simple question. Information gathered includes each company’s LUNAR, based off of the Incident Command’s answer, strategy, and tactics.
A is for AIR.
As the RIC is activated, the primary function of at least 2 of the rescuers is ABCD. Air is the stand alone highest priority in Rapid Intervention. There are 2 cases I can immediately name that AIR was a contributing factor for the death of the firefighter- FF Brett Tarver (Phoenix FD) and FF Mark Langvardt (Denver FD).
Is the victim on air?
- Mask Integrity/ Seal intact
Level of consciousness
- Alert, Voice, Painful Stimuli, Unconscious
- With careful consideration, unconscious victims should be removed as soon as possible. Nothing inside of the structure can benefit an unconscious firefighter more than being outside the structure on the way to a medical facility.
Update the LUNAR
- With the “MAYDAY” being a last second, desperate cry for help, updating the MAYDAY can give the RIC Operations Officer/Incident Command an accurate portrait of what is going on inside. Consider it an “Internal Size-up”. This will allow command to determine the next appropriate flow for actions.
Check for Breathing/Spontaneous Respirations
- Purge the bypass. This will allow 2 things. First, it will show the integrity of the seal, and second, it will determine the progression of thought for how to secure AIR for the victim.
B is for Bottle.
- Checking the bottle pressure can be done based on the physical orientation of the downed firefighter. Bottle gauge, remote gauge, digital gauge, and (if equipped) Heads up Display (HUD) can all be used to determine the bottle pressure remaining.
The MSA air pack in the photo has all 4. By pressing the green Data button, the HUD will display the air pressure in the lights of the victims mask. This will also illuminate the other two gauges- digital and pressure. This information will control the next few steps.
RIC bags can be equipped with Spare Masks, 2nd stage regulators, and Universal Transfer Connectors (UTC, Trans-Fill, etc.). A full mask replacement is the most difficult for a stressful, low visibility operation. With training and practice, it can be accomplished by controlling actions and pace.
The UTC/Trans-fill should, in my opinion, be a last option. While training with them, the MSA air pack has an intake “pop off valve” that limits the air coming into the cylinder through this UTC. They can be rated at many pressures. If a RIC pack has a 4500 psi bottle, and a Firefighter pack is a 3000 or 2216 psi bottle, there will be a free flow (waste of precious air) out of this valve. While some air will reach the bottle, at best, it will balance the pressures between the 2 systems. My argument is simple- why not just use the mask, 2nd stage regulator, and 4500 psi you brought in with you to secure the most air to the victim. If the study previously mentioned (Phoenix FD) shows that the first team to contact the victim will not be the one to remove the victim, why waste time and air using the UTC? In further discussion, if the firefighter is equipped with a harness, Drag Rescue Device (DRD), or is placed into a hasty harness- why not remove the SCBA altogether?
Pro’s– less weight, less resistance when turning/making corners, less height when having to remove from window sill (Denver Drill), and smaller profile for wall breach/ vertical removal (Nance Drill).
Cons– might be only harness system for the drag, not equipped with DRD or webbing/rope for hasty, PASS if team has to leave for next team (can be solved with manual PASS attached to RIC Bag).
C is for Convert.
This is where a lot of the fluidity comes into play. If you have a system that you have mastered, whether rope or webbing, stick with it. Have a secondary system for a back-up. There are many options, I will cover a few.
Air pack conversion to harness
- Once you grasp the buckle of the waist strap, DO NOT LET GO!
- Slide the victim side to side to loosen. Lift leg onto shoulder to reattach waist strap under leg. Keep the button depressed to allow easy reconnection in limited visibility.
- For larger victims, drive the victim’s leg into their chest to reattach waist strap.
Webbing offers a wide variety for securing the victim and the RIC pack. The following are some examples:
- Webbing through shoulder straps
- Carabiners on handles- the handles on the sides of the MSA air pack are rated at 500 pounds and top hole rated at 750 pounds. This is a quick way to snatch and grab the downed firefighter.
- Chest wrap with webbing (also can be used when SCBA removed for ease of dragging, lifting, etc.)
- Secure the RIC bag in the integrated or hasty harness, chest strap, the lapel microphone opening of the jacket, jacket snaps, etc. These options allow for the SCBA removal with consideration for ease of dragging and lifting also. The hose in most RIC bags is long enough to reach from most attachment points on the trunk of the body.
D is for Drag
The victim has air and removal device in place. Now comes the most physically demanding- the drag. A second means of egress, while ideal, may not be an option. The search rope placed on entry will lead to a guaranteed escape route. Options exist for removal through a team approach. Rotating rescuers and management of personnel becomes essential for the officer. Transition/trade out rescuers, after strenuous activities (up stairs, down stairs, through debris, through wall breach, etc.), to get the most work, strength, and efficiency of each rescuer. This takes discipline of the crew to switch, during long removals, to allow for work and recovery, instead of one rescuer doing all of the work and using all of their air. Efficiency is the key to safe and rapid removal.
- A belt/harness attached to the webbing/DRD allows for power muscle use. Driving with the legs at a low angle allows for full strength of the legs through efficiency.
- The integrated DRD can also be utilized for rapid removal. This can be checked after air is applied to the victim by the rescuer at the head.
The options become endless when rescuing a down firefighter. Be fluid, adapt, and overcome. The ONLY way to become familiar and comfortable with any removal technique is to get out and train on them. Reading and seeing pictures adds no value in a true emergency. With the content of the article, remember, use what you have and have trained on. If none of these options are your first “go-to” in a down firefighter situation, make them your secondary or tertiary method.
I hope this has refreshed and sparked interest in your idea of victim removal. A lot of these techniques can be used a fire victim removal techniques also.
Built by SECURITECH is a one of the newest security systems introduced into the fire service in the past few years. Mainly seen on commercial buildings, however, they are growing with the prepping community and some residential homes. They are also being used more and more by Marijuana dispensaries. We have noticed these locking systems on doors in your Walgreens or CVS-style stores, located mainly on the C or D side of the building.
The system features multi-point locks for an exit door. Focusing on a 4-point locking system with stainless steel deadbolts; a stainless steel pry plate covers the main deadbolt and stainless steel thru-bolt plates.
SECURITECH offers two options for of locking mechanisms. The TEL-100 model is a manual locking system where a paddle on the interior has to be pulled for the system to lock. The TEL-200 model provides the same locking deadbolt protection but with a self re-locking system each time the door is closed. A pull handle is not installed on this door. A door closer is required for this style of self-locking system. Bolts on the exterior of the door near the top should indicate the door closer, but that may not always be the case. Some use of the framing square on panic style door latches may work if the pull paddle is installed. The TEL-100 system is the primary system that this technique will work on.
The system uses a standard 4-point locking system; three retractable bolts on the latch side and one bolt on the hinge side(non-retractable). Two additional locking points can also be added on the hinge side totaling six locking points. Locking bolts are free spinning to prevent a saw from cutting them. The bolts are made of stainless steel and are 5/8″ in diameter. The bolts could be set at different lengths into the door frame. This is depending on the installer and what is actually behind the frame i.e. backfilled with concrete, brick, or wood that the jamb is mounted to. The bolts are overall 7″ in length and installed high and low on the latch side of the door. The hinge side bolt is located in the center of the door near the jamb side. Other bolts could be placed high or low on the hinge side as well.
The Main Locking Mechanism
The main locking mechanism is located in the center of the door on the latch side. The latch is secured by six carriage bolts and a stainless steel cover that also extends over the jamb to prevent prying near the bolt. The “bolt” is actually a flat bar that is 1-1/4″ wide by 1/2″ thick and is connected to
the two other bolts above and below via a cable that is hidden in a piece of aluminum C-channel.
The door can be outfitted with an additional egress module that prevents thieves from being able to to grab and go out the door. This module is activated when the paddle is pushed to activate the door locks. It keeps the door locked for 15 seconds after the paddle is pushed. The paddle has to be held in the pushed position for the 15 seconds before the door will open. The module is usually placed above the locking mechanism on the very top of the door.
A side by side comparison to help show where or what is being locked on the inside. This door has a standard setup installed on it. There could be additional bolts on the hinge side of the door.
The key to successful entry through this door is irons work with the GSF method. For the hinge lovers, the hinge side will be the least likely option to use due to a non-retracting deadbolt. Saw work will be difficult due to free spinning deadbolts and offset latches. Preplanning your first and second due area is going to be key when knowing what your up against. Due to the design and characteristics of the locking mechanisms, Command should be notified as soon as possible that entry will be delayed due to a fortified rear/side door. The firefighter will need to fall back on his or her training to be successful in gaining entry through this door. The standard placement of the irons may not work, however, knowing how to manipulate the tools, using the mechanical advantage and possibly using a roof hook for leverage, will get you through this door.
– Please note: The author of this article would like to remain anonymous.