Graphic footage of firefighters being trapped by closing doors, most notably a garage door (Example: USFA Technical Report 084-Entrapment in Garage Kills One Firefighter) has been shown by numerous Instructors across the fire service, yet we still fail to recognize the importance of chocking/securing doors as a means of egress. The modern firefighter must take nothing for granted; your life depends on your ability to escape.
The potential for entanglement on the fire ground has never been so great. The modern construction materials used to in HV/AC ductwork not to mention cable wires and electrical components present the firefighter with hidden (yet known) hazards on a daily basis. How will you the "modern" firefighter free yourself from this unforgiving entanglement hazard? Please spare me the thought?brut force, NOT! HV/AC spiral ductwork, cable wiring and electrical components have brought many a great firefighter to their knees (Example: 750 Adams - American Heat Video, October 1994). The modern firefighter should be adequately equipped with a quick and simple solution to this well-known hazard.
Yet another tool thought by many to be a minor detail. How do you secure utilities? How do you break that stubborn connection? How do you break that window for ventilation? The spanner wrench has been a tool used by the fire service since it's inception, yet the modern firefighter allows this tool to remain stowed on the apparatus to be used by the chauffer or during post-fire operations only. I for one will not begin to say I can identify all the specified uses of a spanner wrench, but I can say this, the spanner wrench can be used in a variety of ways to assist the modern firefighter in his/her job throughout nearly ever incident.
Talking to firefighters across the country you will undoubtedly hear a variety of ideas and thoughts on lengths, diameters, uses, etc. for personal ropes and/or webbing. Rope/webbing can be used to secure doorways, enhance search patterns and most importantly provide a traceable means of egress. From a survivability standpoint, the concept is quite simple, if you don't have it, you can't use it.
Personal escape ropes or webbing come in a number of lengths as sizes, all of which are good if combined with the proper training in their intended use. ALL members should carry a length of rope or webbing to provide himself/herself the opportunity to rapidly escape an environment that may become untenable. The choice is yours?
At a minimum we need to provide each working crew with a direct means of communication to the outside. Optimally, all crewmembers would be assigned a radio. One thing to keep in mind when issuing these radios; we must also provide these members with the necessary training in their use and the proper steps to follow in case of an emergency (i.e. Mayday policy, Emergency Traffic - request). An outstanding source/guide for solving your communication problems on the fire ground is the recently published SPECIAL REPORT put out by the United States Fire Administration (USFA - Technical Report-099) Improving Firefighter Communications.
The "Tools of the Trade" are nothing more then the bare essentials that every firefighter should have when operating on the fire ground. Through proper discipline and continuous training the many uses of these tools and many more will soon be incorporated as part of your routine actions on the fire ground; although these tools cannot guarantee your safety on the fire ground, the lack of them could certainly prove to be fatal.
As I conclude this article, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Greg Fleger and the brothers and sisters of the San Francisco and Memphis Fire Departments for sharing with us the many lessons learned and the tragic events that led to their injuries and/or loss through the aforementioned videos and investigative reports.