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  1. #1
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    Default When do you "break glass?"

    It seems that in more and more working fires in residential type structures that the old school of "taking out the windows" has fallen by the wayside for the more user friendly, "Let's just open the windows." I'm curious as to other departments written or unwritten procedures when it comes to ventilation and breaking windows to accomplish this task. Also, do you still have the "O.V.M." (Outside Ventilation Man)position in use?

    [ 11-19-2001: Message edited by: Station 171 ]

    [ 11-19-2001: Message edited by: Station 171 ]
    Marc Bicking
    Lieutenant
    Vincent Fire Company No. 1
    Vincentown, New Jersey


  2. #2
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    I am a volunteer with a combination department. Most of our working jobs are residential. We do opt to open windows the "customer focused" way when possible but if we have a working fire with heavy smoke and heat conditions, the windows are taken, especially the fire floor. We also open the roof if we have heavy smoke/heat conditions. Firefighter and trapped occupant safety first. I have seen idiots break windows un-necessarily but they are stopped!

    [ 11-19-2001: Message edited by: a36truckie ]

  3. #3
    NKF
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    I disagree with your statement to be more customer friendly you do not break and totaly clear the windows. Being customer friendly means doing all you can to minimize damage. If you only open half the window you are not venting the house and more smoke damage will occur. You risk the lives of your interior team by making their means of egress small by not clearing the window properly. I understand where you are comming from when you say people taking every window are causing way too much damage. I have also seen it. All you have to do is explain to the home owner that you have saved them more money by taking the window instead of having the entire house smoke damaged and how it helped in the safety of the fire fighters who were inside. That is why it is VERY important to take the home owner through the entire house(when safe) and show and explain what and why things were done. Now that is customer service.

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    NKF summed up my thoughts. If you don't pop them during heavy fire up comes heat/smoke damage, stress on inside crews and time to take out fire. And I also know of people taking windows that did not need to be taken not very progressive or professional.
    the truth never hides for long

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    Glass is the cheapest thing for the home owner to replace. If the conditions call for it, break out the glass!

  6. #6
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    Have you ever opened a window and left the screen. If not try it sometime notice how much more smoke comes out when you pull the screen out. That has holes, now think of what a half opened window does.

    In some situations I agree with just opening the window, but heavy smoke, Hey its their emergency not mine. Take the window.

    Besides its more fun to break it.
    Proud to be IACOJ Illinois Chapter--Deemed "Crustworthy" Jan, 2003

  7. #7
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    I just wanted to touch on a few statements made in previous replys:

    [ 11-29-2001: Message edited by: FDNYRES1CUE ]</p>

  8. #8
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    I have no idea where the idea of "opening the top 1/4 and the bottom 1/4" so as not to upset the thermal balance comes from. I have been taught by many and have taught many over the years, but that is a first. Almost as good as the idea of throwing a golf ball through an upper story window to ventilate! That small hole is not going to do much when it really maters!

    When do you take out a window? Do I worry about the home owner? Your decision making order should follow the incident priorities. First is life safety (both firefighters & trapped occupants). Ask yourself - will ventilating this window improve life safety on the scene? Second is incident stabilization. Ask yourself - by venting this window, will it help control/stabilize the fire? And third is property conservation. Ask yourself - by venting this window, will I be protecting any property from harm or further harm?

    If you are venting for life safety or incident stabilization, you will almost always be taking out the entire window. Glass, sash, frame - clean it out. Remove the screen, the blinds and the curtains if they are in the way. If you are venting to conserve property, you may or may not be taking out the entire window. Would you take out an entire window when Mrs. Smith burned the Thanksgiving turkey and smoked up the kitchen? I would hope not!

    Remember, your actions should be reflecting the strategic goals of the IC. Do your job, do it well, and do it safely and with proper intent and technique.

  9. #9
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    I too have heard of the i/4 window opening method. It is like FDNY said you open the bottom of window and the cool air comes in , then at the top the heated air and smoke come out. The only thing different that i have heard is that when using this natural vent the open bottom window must be downwind of the fire(ie: where the wind is blowing towards the house) and then the top window is in the smoke charged room. We have had this method taught in FF 1&2 vent classes

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    Firera, you are correct about opening windows for horizontal ventilation in that the window on the windward side is opened at the bottom half and on the leeward side the top half. That is taught in Essentials 4th ed, page 364. Opening the top and bottom of the same window 1/4 each is something I have never seen, heard of, or read about. In theroy it sounds good, but in reality, I don't think it would work.

    Anyone who has been on their belly with zero visiblilty knows that when it is "hot and tight", the best relief is a fully cleared and cleaned out window. With those conditions, the pressure of the room is going to push the smoke/heat out any opening, and the bigger the better. Clearing and cleaning that window also allows for rapid egress if conditions continue to deteriorate.

    My ideas, thanks for listening.

  11. #11
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    I response to the argument on opening a opening the top 1/4 & bottom 1/4 of a window. If the room is cool enough that you can fiddle with opening both the top and the bottom if the window, you are probably not going to upset the thermal balance enough to effect operations in that room. Even if you do upset the thermal balance, remember that most of the heat will try to escape from the new opening, making conditions better than what they were.

    I believe in taking the whole window out. If you need to “UN-*****” the building, you will not have to spend time taking the rest of the window out.

    To “FDNYRES1CUE”

    1. Show me any proof that you were a firefighter with the FDNY

    2. This forum is no place to attack the opinions of other members.
    "Honor Above Thyself"

    Patrick Harper

    NOTE: THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY ME IN THIS FORUM DO NOT REFLECT THE VIEWS OF MY EMPLOYER.

  12. #12
    Forum Member LACAPT's Avatar
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    One thing for sure is that I am not going to fiddle fart around opening 1/4 of the top and bottom of a window unless its 10 feet high and has these opening already in it. Take the whole damn thing out then you don't worry about glass left behind to cut your throat with when you try and exit the building in a hurry. Like Staylow says glass is cheap and is nothing but a hinderance when tying to vent in an emergency.

  13. #13
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    Re. STATION 171
    Opening a window at top and bottom would be used for a minor fire,food on the stove,
    trash can ,a small isolated fire with no heat
    build up.
    To keep venting simple from the OVM position
    (non highrise building). Fire vented it self
    before your arival, pick your window by your dept.sop ,take out the whole window enter
    and search . keep in mind if you have a heavy
    wind condition at your back you might want to hold up to the line is in place so you wont make it worse on the inside team.
    Fire not showing on arival (heavy smoke)
    pick your entry window and wait to you hear
    start water and vent windows in reach as much
    as can be taken out, but the window you will enter through remove compltely, enter and search.In this situation after I arived at my
    entry point I would take off my glove feel the window for heat and with no wind problems
    I would take out the window and go for it.
    Its all about saving lives and looking out
    for the inside team . The rest of the windows would be taken from the inside as you search and from inside team or ladder.
    Yes when you take a window try to clean it out. Thats my two cents on windows.

  14. #14
    EuroFirefighter.com PaulGRIMWOOD's Avatar
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    Many firefighters will prefer to utilise window ventilation options in an attempt to relieve heat conditions within the compartment and release dangerous fire gases to the outside. The effect is to raise the smoke interface and improve conditions in general, but how safe is this option?

    There has been little research into this approach although practical experience suggests that this action may, on occasions, actually cause conditions to worsen. An excellent report from Richard Chitty (UK) posed the potential of a 'flashover' being induced by an increase in compartmental ventilation where the heat loss rate increases as additional heat is convected through the opening (window). He described how there is a point beyond stability where ventilation may cause more energy to be released in the compartment than can be lost and this condition of 'thermal runaway' may lead to 'flashover'. Another report by Daniel Gojkovic from Lund University in Sweden integrated theoretical Computational Fluid Dynamic CFD calculations with practical fire-fighting tactics used in Sweden at the under-ventilated fire. Mr Gojkovic's (Bengtsson's) work demonstrates that CFD has great potential in creating a wider understanding of tactical firefighting options. It can be seen through this CFD 3-roomed scenario that a tactical venting action at the window has created a gravity current of about 2 m/s throughout the apartment with a flammable fire gas layer forming in the overhead within the first few seconds and expanding right through to 40 seconds and more. If an ignition source (say a burning brand) enters this gas layer it is most likely there will be an ignition! However, in Flashover & Nozzle Techniques I describe a situation where a developing ventilation-controlled fire was successfully vented by removing the compartment window, although this particular fire was clearly not in an under-ventilated environment. A major consideration in any window venting action should be the likely effects of exterior winds which could possibly initiate an ignition of accumulated gases within the compartment or direct super-heated gases towards advancing firefighters.

    I think Kevin makes some most valid points. Perhaps this thread should be entitled 'when do you NOT break glass'.........That I believe is how firefighters should approach this topic. http://www.firetactics.com/TACTICAL-FIREFIGHTING.htm

  15. #15
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    Although I am not completely familiar with Mr. Grimwood's cited research, I must say that the points he makes are well taken. I have no doubt that ill-timed or improper location of ventilation can lead to flashover of the compartment. One of the best examples that I have seen that has been caught on video is a segment in the NFA Incident Safety Officer class. In this video segment, a crew is on the front porch, donning SCBA facepieces getting ready to make entry. The video shows another FF venting (exterior) a Side B window. The resultant flashover drives several members from the porch. Fairly obvious that the flashover occured immediately following the ventilation.

    Ventilation from the interior needs to be coordinated with fire attack. Haphazard opening of fire compartments is known to cause potential increase in the intensity. That requires a coordinated effort. Hopefully, we are all taught and practicing this tactical approach.

    For the FF who finds himself/herself without hoseline protection and increasing heat build-up (pre-flashover conditions), I think the only hope is to aggressively vent the entire window and expect that the relief of the superheated gases will reduce the likelihod of flashover. What other choice in that situation?

    I agree that a better question might be "when not to break the glass". In answering that, I would say, again, that attaining the benchmarks for the incident priorities would be a good place to start!

  16. #16
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    You have to look at the reasons why you are ventilating in the first place. The primary reason to ventilate is to 1.Initially improve visibility and reduce heat to quickly find and extinguish the seat of the fire, and 2.Remove heat and smoke from the building once the fire is extinguished. In both phases, unless doing vertical ventilation, maintaining positive pressure in the building is necessary to optimize the physics involved. If you break out too many windows, you lose the ability to maintain positive pressure, and ventilation in hindered. Keeping the windows intact also makes the second phase much easier, because you can more easily vent each room one at a time by opening and closing windows. Smoke damage is a lesser concern, because unless the fire is very small, the smoke damage will have to be remediated by a restoration service anyway, and the windows won't have to be replaced, don't have to worry about weather getting in and doing more damage, or people for that matter, etc. etc.
    These are my opinions and not those of the organizations for which I work and/or volunteer.

  17. #17
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    Break the glass or open the window? There are times when one is preferred over another.

    First you need to know if you are venting, or just removing smoke. Conditions upon arrival will let you know which one.

    If you are an OVM and you are assigned to vent go to the window nearest the fire and take it (glass, screen, sash, etc). Depending on the fire you may need to take one or two more. If vertical venting is being performed, it will give the inside crew some relief until the roof crew is finished.

    Now if you arrive and Mrs. Smith burned something on the stove and all you have is a small “can” fire, or the fire is out, you probably want to open the windows for smoke removal.

    Be Safe

  18. #18
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    when the fire is working i take the entire windows including the sash, so firefighters can get out fast if they have to, after the fire is knocked i just open them, we dont have an SOP on it so it is the trucks better judgement

  19. #19
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    Regarding window ventilation,

    ...Indeed we all like to 'break stuff' in our business since it isn't ours to replace... HOWEVER<br />We are all professionals being paid to use our BETTER JUDGEMENT. <br />We have all been trained to effectively and efficiently secure a scene as soon as possible without furthering the endangerment of our fellow brothers as well as possible occupants. There are obvious determinants/factors at a fire scene which would call for a complete window ventilation operation(i.e.: taking entire window) as well as a simple and reasonably effective window operation which would conserve property damage and H/A for the homeowner(i.e.: partial window opening). The simple act of using GOOD PROFESSIONAL JUDGEMENT in such a case is warranted....lets face it...its easy to just remove the obstruction when called for...to what extent its complete removal is neccessary is with the one performing the task. We should be responsible for our duties as professionals and simply use our best judgement when called for in such a situation.
    ' Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you '...Carl Jung

  20. #20
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    I do not agree with the comment by mioqp174 that " Indeed we all like to 'break stuff' in our business since it isn't ours to replace". I think that anyone who gets his jolly's destroying others property is in the wrong business. Anyone who has personally experienced losing everything in a house fire can appreciate the efforts a fire department (paid or volunteer)takes to shore up a badly fire damaged home. Not only do you do the least amount of damage you have to but it also makes the fire departments life easier when it comes to overhaul. The comment "We are all professionals being paid to use our BETTER JUDGEMENT" does not apply to every career staff I have every worked with. It also negates the volunteer service which protects a large part of the U.S. today. You make good comments but try to include everyone in your definition and remember that people who are not necessarily fire department oriented read message boards too. Saying we like to break stuff is not a very professional comment.

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