Let's Talk Fire: 5 Things You Did Not Know You Needed
That Crafty Firefighter
One of the most interesting facts about firefighters is how innovative we can be. Firefighters are a crafty and creative bunch. We often find ourselves in situations that are anything but common and everything but fun. It is in these situations that we improvise and create "tools" to assist us in operations. One of my favorite examples of firefighter innovation is the cherry bomber. The cherry bomber is a simple wooden dowel cut to a smaller length with a bent nail in the top of it. You simply hang this nail on a door hinge and it will keep the door open while you search the room. It really is a crafty creation that makes the job just a little easier.
As firefighters it is our jobs to always be thinking of what we can do to bring the scene to a peaceful close. Axes, irons and rope are obvious choices to bring with us when we tackle the flame on it’s own turf but it may surprise you as to other items we can use to assist us in our everyday operations on the fire scene. The simplicity of most of these items may at first have you questioning their usage and worth on a fire call. I assure you however that they may very well save your life.
This fascinating little device can be handy for to something. Most the time we see these items holding down boxes and bags on the back of pick up trucksbut their resourcefulness lends very well to the fire service. Ask any firefighter who has ever had the chance to fight a fire in a low income part of town if they have had to deal with a storm door that would not stay open, be it a faulty mechanism or any number of reasons and I am sure they will tell you it happens all the time.Making an attack with a storm door beaning you in the elbow and back is a difficult task for even the most seasoned of firefighter.
If you happen to have a quality bungee chord on your person you can simply use this little lifesaver to secure that pesky storm door to a porch or any stationary object within reach. The chord is light weight, easy to carry and easy to use even with the heavy fire gloves we are used to. The bungee chord may also be used to secure a flashlight, rescue knife, or any small hand tool to a loop on a turn out jacket. This gives you easy access to the item you need and greatly reduces the chance of losing the item in a fire.
I have seen other firefighters use the bungee chord as a means to secure a radio to their gear. It is a great means to make items very accessible and approachable. Another aspect of the bungee chord that makes it idea for use with the fire service is it is affordable. A package of 6 chords can be found at Big lots for around 2 dollars. Being cheap makes a big difference for firefighters because we often lose things to the fire and losing a buck or two is not all that drastic of a loss.
THe Webbing Drag
Not to be confused with Spider-man’s webbing, nylon webbing is an amazing tool for those in the fire service. While not the same webbing as Spider-man it can still be the difference in life and death on a fire scene. Webbing has a number of uses. I find it most useful to develop a harness for dragging a victim to safety. Let’s face it some people are just out of our size range to safely pick up and carry. Webbing allows us to simply develop a harness around the person’s arms and shoulders and use it to drag them to safety. It is also useful to remove downed firefighters who may not have a drag rescue device in their bunker gear. Webbing is tough and durable.
Webbing can also be used to develop a safety harness for lowering people, pets and equipment out of a window to a lower destination. While it will not meet the demands and standards of high quality harnesses designed specificly for dragging and lowering it will do the trick in the heat of the moment. Webbing is light and ultra easy to carry. I find it best to curl it in my bunker jacket pocket with just enough hanging out for me to get a hold of but not enough to get snagged on anything. This gives me easy access and idea time for the webbing to be utilized. Webbing is not quite as inexpensive as bungee chords but is still rather affordable. It is also easily modified to fit our specific needs and requirements. I have a friend who has three pieces sewn together. This acts as a dragging system. He simply loops each arm and the center loop is used as the drag part of the harness. It can also act as a safety ladder in the event he needs to escape a window. (Although this individual has been known to repel with a firehouse magazine as the anchor point)
Webbing is easy to find. I have spoken with other firefighters who have actually taken the webbing out of the heavy duty ratchet straps that are used to secure heavy objects to trucks. These straps are built to last and work very well. Usually a firefighter can find webbing for around 5 bucks a piece
Spring Loaded Clamp
These clips or clamps as they may be known are remarkably resourceful, especially to the firefighter on the go. The idea use is to use the clamps to hold a door open during search and rescue operations or to make an exterior attack through a door. A door chock can be used but it is not to uncommon to discover doors constructed that are to far off the ground to utilize a standard door chock. The clip comes in to save the day.
The clip works by either clamping it to the side of the door at the hinges which prevents the door from closing or clamping it directly over the hinges of the door which also keep the door in the open position. This is great when the door chock fails to work. Nothing is worse than having a door continuously close on you when you need it to remain open. It get be rather frustrating.
I use either heavy duty rubber, or metal clamps with rubber tips. They hold well and are very resistant to heat and flame. The clips vary in price but most are available for under a buck. The price usually depends on the size. I buy my metal clips for a buck or so and the rubber ones usually run me around 75 cents. As always cheap is a great thing for us firefighters.
The clips fit easily into a bunker pocket or can be clamped to turn out gear or even a helmet strap. The best part of the clips is that they generally will work on any type of door construction. Preference wise I prefer the metal clamp as it seems to be more durable and a lot more structurally sound in the vicinity of live flame. I have seen firefighters use these clips to adhere items such as flashlights to their turn out gear or even attach rope to their sides. The clips are very useful and easily utilized even with gloves on.
Right about now you are scratching your head and thinking are these for a firefighter rave or party? I guess they could work for that, to be honest I am sure they could, but they have a much more useful ability than setting the moodfor a party. Glo-sticks are amazingly luminescent, some to the point where they can be seen for miles and miles. This grants them the application of becoming spotters. By spotter I mean something they makes you more viable in the dark of a smoke filled room. Being easy to find makes us easier to rescue. In the event you become lost in a smoke filled room you can simply pop a glo-stick and your chances of rescue are greatly increased.
Glo-sticks are cheap and usually two high quality sticks will set you back a low $187 at the local Wal-Mart. Most of these glo-sticks have hooks on their outer sections that allow you to hook them to a loop or clasp on your turnout jacket. I generally carry two sticks in each turnout jacket and one in each pair of bunker pants. (I have a set of gear on each of my departments two trucks) One awesome feature these sticks have is some are actually rechargeable by simply placing the spent stick in the freezer.
Glo-sticks also afford the firefighter the open of tagging a buddy. When we enter the structure we go two in two out. It is easy to attach a glo-stick to our buddies back as he leads the way and we will have a visual even if we become separated from each other.
I say small but remember that a maglite is bright, ultra bright actually. You don’t need a maglite per say, just a small light with high lumens. As firefighters we know how important it is to keep a quality flashlight on us at all times. In fact most of us keep several of them on us. This light is not as important to light your way forward as to light your way back.
One of the most common fears a firefighter may face is the thought of being trapped inside a structure with no means of egress. This is a situation that really sparks a need for better ways to remove ourself from the danger. My friend from a department was down south gave me a great idea to make this a little less stressful of a situation to deal with. You simply lay the high lumen light at the entrance to the structure with the light aimed inside. The beam needs to be focused as a point that way it cuts through the smoke.
This light acts as a lighthouse. When we are in the structure we will have that pinpoint of lightthat we can see that shows us the exact point we came in at. It is our bread crumbs if you will. I really like this idea and feel it can be a life saving technique.
The catch here is these types of lights are not cheap. My mini-mag cost me just over 20 bucks but it is ultra bright and very durable. The light also uses battery life at a very slow rate. Even if you are not the person going into the structure you can provide that safety light for other members of the staff that may be entering the building. The light also makes a great standard flashlight for other jobs such as car wrecksor search missions. I suggest buying a belt sheath or even a clip on attachment so you can keep up with your light easily and efficiently.
In conclusion we must always maintain an open mind and address every situation as a new experience and than adjust how we think to make the outcome the idea one. Not only does the need to make our jobs easier exist but the need to make a scene safer needs to be addressed. While it may seem odd to see a firefighter walking around with door stops in his helmet, or one clamping a flashlight to their her gear with a spring loaded clamp, we must understand that what ever makes the job run smoother for that firefighter is a good thing.
I would love to hear from my readers to some of the creative ways they have dealt with issues and the items they use they seem unconventional for the fire service. Please leave some comments and links if applicable. Until next time learn from the past for survival in the future.