Basement Self Rescue

The importance of having a tool with you can’t be stressed enough.  Besides using it for forcible entry and venting windows or other operational functions, it can save your life.

It should be a habit that every time you come off of the truck for an alarm there should be a tool in your hand.  And take a tool that you can do something with.  Some of the most common tools are the Halligan and a flat head ax. You can take a pick headed ax and/or a sledge hammer, depending on what your function or task is.

One thing that you might want to consider is what are going to do with that tool?  Everyone has their favorite, but can you use each tool on your truck efficiently and successfully if needed? You should.  One tool that I am not a big fan of is the closet hook or a short hook.  We have these on our trucks and they are about 2 1/2 to 3 feet long and have a fiberglass handle.

Your not going to be able to force much with that tool. In addition, if you need to start busting stuff up to save your a#$, it has limited potential.  Choose your tool wisely.

One instance that your tool may become very handy is in a situation that you might get jammed up in a basement.  Several scenarios could play out that finds you in a basement on your own and needing to get out.  For those of you that don’t have basements in your jurisdiction, you may need to get through a wall or debris.

Most of the basement windows in our area are above head level.  The exterior of the window is at ground level.  This creates a challenge for us trying to get out of these windows, which are narrow and rectangular in dimension, in full gear and SCBA.  You can use different techniques and you would want to call for help.  But, your tool selection may be very important during this crisis.

A few months back we held a bailout class that included ladder bailouts, window bailouts with personal harnesses and basement bailouts.  One of our deputy chiefs built a prop for the basement bailout that simulated the need to get yourself out of the basement quickly.  (Thanks to Dale Pekel for assistance with the plans for the prop.)

In this drill the firefighter, wearing full PPE, used a halligan to step on to get purchase to lift himself up to the window and pushing through.  It sounded a lot easier to the guys doing it than what it was.  It is not easy to squeeze that tank and self through the small opening.  We emphasized the use of the tool and having the appropriate one for the job.

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Some thought that they would be able to pull themselves up like doing a pull up. Well, it became painfully obvious that even the most fit guy would be lucky to do that with full gear on. Even if he got up to the sill, it was impossible to get through the window without losing your grip.  The tool is crucial.

It was a great learning experience and hit home the point about taking a tool every time.  They understood the different roles and functions that one tool can provide, including saving themselves.

This all boils down to mastering the basics.  Take a tool, take a tool.  It is simple, basic firefighting.  When we master the basics it all becomes habit and we don’t have to think about the basic stuff when we need to use some advanced skills.  It just comes naturally.

Stay safe and train hard!

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Jason Hoevelmann

Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal with the Sullivan Fire Protection District, a combination department, and a career firefighter/paramedic with the Florissant Valley Fire Protection District in North St. Louis County.

AFFOWE Calandar

January 2011
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