Photo By John Salka
Photo 1: The tool can be placed in several ways to act as a substantial object. One way is when it is placed across the corner of the exit window.
Firefighter survival is a current and eternal priority for those of us who perform the dangerous work of interior structural firefighting. Many new tactics and procedures have been developed and instituted over the past several years such as rapid intervention team duties, firefighter self rescue procedures, saving our own tactics and many other more specific practices. Many times a new tactic or procedure will make the difference between a firefighter surviving or not. Sometimes just a small addition or modification to an existing tactic or tool can greatly enhance our survivability at a structural fire.
While teaching firefighter survival at various venues and conferences, I am often given ideas for new tools or tactics by firefighter's taking the course. One such tool modification is for use with the now familiar rope slide that firefighters can employ when trapped at a window and equipped with a bailout rope and tool. This tactic is based on the premise that a firefighter must be able to use his basic firefighting tools to get out of a deteriorating condition, tools that he is already carrying for his those duties.
In this case I am referring to a hand tool such as a halligan bar. Used in conjunction with an easily accessible bailout rope, the halligan can be used as a substantial object in several different configurations. Allowing the firefighter to exit a window where the environment is quickly deteriorating due to fire conditions. Many programs have taught how the rope can be either tied or looped over the shaft of the halligan so the firefighter can slide down the remaining length of the rope.
However, an important part of the equation is that the rope must be securely attached to the tool to ensure the firefighter's safety. Firefighters must be able to quickly connect the rope to the tool, place the tool, and exit the window in just a matter of seconds. Performing this maneuver in an ambient environment may seem easy, though we must take into account the conditions of an actual incident. (I.e. Smoke, heat, poor visibility etc.)
The tool can be placed in several ways to act as a substantial object. One way is when it is placed across the corner of the exit window (photo #1) and the other is when it is driven into the floor in the area adjacent to the window (photo #2). Both of these tactics have been used and many firefighters prefer one over the other based on their experience, building types and other factors.
The tool modification I am highlighting here, is the addition of a piece of hardware known as a shackle. The shackle is connected to the halligan that allows for an almost instantaneous attachment of a bailout rope to the tool. This hardware can be used for either type of tool placements, across the window or into the floor (Photo #3). When attached to the shaft of the halligan tool (photo #4) it becomes an instant connection point for a bailout rope that is equipped with a snap hook. This connection point is identical for both tool placement locations and when not being used for escape, does not detract from the basic function of the halligan tool during forcible entry or overhauling.
The simple addition to the basic halligan tool requires no cutting, welding, screwing or other physical tampering with the halligan tool which could comprise the tools integrity. Yet the shackle is strong enough to safely attach the firefighter's rope to the halligan bar rapidly and efficiently. This is a relatively small item, of minimal cost, of strong reliable construction that can greatly enhance a firefighter's ability to quickly and slide to safety from a dangerous environment.