Vacant Property Security Systems

A system being used to secure doorways and window openings in vacant structures and structures under construction may present a significant forcible-entry challenge to firefighters. This system, known as the Vacant Property Security System (VPS), is...


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From the exterior, the best way to remove the window covering is to use a partner saw with a metal cutting blade to cut the lower part of the window covering to the left or the right of center, about one-third of the way off center, cutting the bar holding the cover in place. If the bar is used on the top, cut it the same way and the cover will fall free. Use caution and be sure the area below is clear of personnel. On the top of the window covering, as stated, the steel cable is threaded through the small openings. Use the saw and shear the head off to release the top of the VPS covering. You may also use the irons, placing the hook of the halligan directly on the pin and forcing the bar to retract then pulling the cover from the window.

From the interior, you can easily remove the whole system by using the halligan and prying the tightening mechanism away from the steel channel. Once this is done, the entire channel can be turned sideways and the VPS cover removed and pulled into the building. When removing this device, remember that the cables are under tension; for that reason, it is easier to pull the device as opposed to cutting the cables, which may cause an adverse reaction. Once again, use caution if allowing the cover to free fall to the ground below.

One last variation of the VPS is an installation of this device in a basement window and a scuttle. The VPS cover is attached using long threaded steel rods. If we use a saw to cut the channels holding the cover in place, we should be able to open these windows too. Note that the covers may have been installed with glass windows in place to protect the windows while construction is completed.

Fighting fire in buildings with VPS systems will require us to use certain tactics and techniques to vent, force entry and search for workers or occupants. These buildings must be opened up to provide us with a secondary egress once we start operations. Opening these buildings is not difficult if, when we observe them in our neighborhoods, we look them over and plan our tactics. By pre-planning these buildings, we ensure that we will not be caught short. A saw with an aluminum oxide blade, a halligan and maybe a tower ladder to work from on the upper floors is all we will need to defeat this system.

TONY TRICARICO is a 29-year veteran of the fire service, 25 with the FDNY, and currently the captain of the Special Operations Unit, Squad Company 252 in Brooklyn. He can be reached at tonytric@optonline.net.