Additional slack in the line will be pulled up from behind the hole and extended in to the hole to the floor below. A member that is going to initiate the rescue will slide the hose, just like sliding a pole, in to the hole This is an extremely dangerous operation and a lot of variables will have to be taken in to account.
"BEEEEEP! Attention Engine 42, Engine 50, Engine 55, Ladder 19, Ladder 57 and the 56 Battalion, respond to a phone alarm, Box 817 for a reported structural fire at the address 61 Rogers Ave., between Monroe and Washington. Battalion 56 be advised we are getting multiple calls on this... we are assigning Rescue 1 and Squad 2 on the initial box. Sounds like you're going to work."
As all units are acknowledging the dispatcher you are trying to place the address in your head. This neighborhood has mostly single family dwellings, ranch types splattered with two-story split ranches. Your chauffeur makes the turn going south on Monroe and you can make out the smoke. You turn to your people on the "back step" and let them know, it is indeed a working fire. Turning on to Rogers Avenue, you pick up the microphone and transmit to the dispatcher.
"Engine 42 to central dispatch, we are on scene with a working fire. We have a one-story, wood-frame building with fire showing out two windows on the exposure one/four side of the building."
The engine comes to a stop and you're off the rig, the building is about 50 feet by 25 feet and you bark out some orders, (not that you need to, the crew is stretching already), and make a quick 360 degree survey around the building. As you're coming back around the front of the building Engine 50 is arriving and deploying to help get the first line in operation. The nozzle and back-up men are ready and you call for water with a "10-4" reply from your chauffeur. The line is charged, the door is forced and you start your advance. As a team you move in about 10 feet and can see the fire around the other side of the wall. The nozzle man opens the line and using the reach of the stream starts to knock the fire down and advance. All is going as it should. It seems as though you will have this fire out in short order when the nozzle man falls sideways and has to back down on the bail to control the nozzle. What's going on here? The back up man is hanging on to the line and climbing out of a hole in the floor. A small section of the floor collapsed under the weight of the back up man and the can man from the first due truck, and now the can man has been pitched into the basement of this dwelling.
"MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, Engine 42 to the Battalion with a MAYDAY."
All seems to have gone eerily quiet. The battalion is calling, you still have fire in front of you and at least one member, maybe more, have fallen through a hole in the floor. Is everyone in position? Are all of the companies on scene? Do we have fire below us? Is there a Rescue, Squad or RIT on scene?
When a member goes down on the fireground, it seems that mayhem erupts. This is not an intentional action, but...it is really the fault of the members and officers. Most of us are type "A" personalities and helping people is what we have been trained to do. The first thing that needs to be done by officers and members on the scene that are not already assigned a duty on the fireground is stand fast. Yep. Do nothing. Have some self control. That may be the hardest thing to do at this time but by self deploying and getting "in to the mix" you may be complicating an already complicated and stressful situation. We all have assigned teams to go and rescue our people in distress. In addition we have rescue and squad companies that train on this evolution every day. By adding more firefighters, it could very well cause additional complications.
If I may, I would like to relay a story of a member that ran out of air in a basement. He transmitted the mayday as he was taught when his air supply started to run low and the vibralert activated. He was disorientated and ran out of air while trying to find a way out. Another member found the lost member and transmitted the information to the incident commander. Once the rescue and the squad breached a wall and removed the member to the basement stairs, it took them a really long time to get the now unconscious member up the stairs. Why, you ask? Because there was a throng of members at the top of the stairs trying to help but, unknowingly, hindering the process of removal. The member was removed and lived, but to watch the video of the one or two officers trying to get the firefighters back and maintain order, well, you get the idea.
The other thing I would like to transmit to you is, when an event like this occurs and you do have an assignment you must not abandon your position. Your position may be the critical link in preventing fire extension, further collapse, or additional injuries. The technique I will tell you about today is not a new idea, but if it is practiced you can get a member out of a hole in as little as 45 seconds under premium conditions.
The assumption is we have a member that has fallen through a floor and is down below us. We have a hoseline in place and we are going to use this line to remove the member. The nozzle man and the back up man must maintain their position to defend the rescuing members from any fire impinging in to the rescue work area and keep the line secure. Additional slack in the line will be pulled up from behind the hole and extended in to the hole to the floor below. A member that is going to initiate the rescue will slide the hose, just like sliding a pole, in to the hole. This is an extremely dangerous operation and a lot of variables will have to be taken in to account. For instance, what are the fire conditions below? Is the downed firefighter conscious? What is the distance from the floor you are operating on and the floor below? What is the condition of the floor that has just collapsed and you will be using as a work platform? These are just some of the considerations you will have to use to make the decision on whether or not you will use this method.
Once the rescue firefighter has descended into the hole, he will take his webbing or a piece of rope and tie a handcuff knot and slip it over the downed firefighters wrists and tighten the knot. The firefighter will now put the hoseline on the downed members stomach and raise him to a seated position from behind, threading the webbing under the hose line. Pull the webbing as tight as possible, pulling the downed members hands to his stomach and tying the webbing off to the SCBA bottle neck. Or using a carabiner, tie a knot in the webbing and attach in to the SCBA wire harness. It is important that the webbing is secured as tight as you can get it, to keep the hoseline under the arm pits of the downed firefighter. If the hoseline is allowed to move out from under the arm pits area the weight of the firefighter being lifted will be on the upper arm in the brachial area and cause quite a bit of discomfort. Once the downed member is secure, the rescue firefighter will call out for the members above to lift. When lifting, be aware that once the firefighter is lifted to the edge of the hole you must take in to consideration his position on the line to avoid striking his head and hyper extending his neck. We do not want to cause any further injuries.
When the downed firefighter is to a point that he is far enough out of the hole and will be removed, move the hoseline to one side laying the member off to the side and cut the webbing to release him from the hose.
While other members are removing the downed firefighter from the IDLH area, the same firefighters that pulled him from the hole will send the line back down for the rescue firefighter. Once the line is far enough down the hole, the rescue firefighter will straddle the hose line and give the command to haul. He will be removed in short order and the operation can continue forward.
An alternative to the use of a hose line would be to use a rope. The last several pictures of the slide presentation will show you how a rope can be used for a member wearing a harness. If the member is not wearing a harness, using a life belt will work the same. Using a length of rope, find the middle. Snap the life belt hook over the rope so that you will have two members holding the actual middle of the rope and two other members holding the rest of the rope. The second two members will lower the rescuing member in to the hole using a body belay to control the descent. Once the rescuing member reaches the downed member he can attach an additional life belt to him, turn his SCBA in to a harness and attach that to the rope using a carabineer or use the harness, if the member is wearing one. Once the members above hear the command to haul, four members using each leg of the rope will raise the downed member up and out of the hole. Once member is above the hole he is moved to one side and the evolution is replayed for the rescuing member.
Please note one more time that when practicing this evolution you MUST always be aware of the member’s position in relation to the hole. We do not want to catch his head on the edge of the hole, or for that matter, any part of the body that may exasperate an injury.
This is a sure fire method of removal that can be accomplished in under a minute once it is practiced and mastered. The down side is that it can be a very dangerous action dependant upon existing conditions. Remember, we are not doing this as a routine operation, a member is in trouble and we have to go and get them. No guts, no glory. Risk a lot to gain a lot. Practice this and become proficient using this method, it is another tool for your box. Another Tric of the Trade.
Captain Tony Tricarico has been a member of the fire service since 1977 and was hired by the FDNY in 1981. Tony has served in the South Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan. Since 2002 he has been assigned to the Special Operations Command and currently serves as Captain of Squad 252.
Tony is a nationally certified instructor as well as a New York State Certified Fire Instructor, is an adjunct instructor at the FDNY Technical Rescue School, a Deputy Chief Instructor at the Suffolk County Fire Academy, and additionally instructs and lectures throughout the country on a Engine, Truck, RIT and Special Operations tactics and procedures. He has been featured in FETN and American Heat training video's on collapse, elevator operations and SCBA emergencies. He is an active member of the Mount Sinai Volunteer Fire Department on Long Island and a former Chief of Department. You can reach Tony by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org