Thread: Breakin' Glass

  1. #1
    phyrngn
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    Question Breakin' Glass

    Recently, our department began taking steps to increase RIT presence at fires. This was good, because having two people standing by with a hoseline and calling them a RIT was a joke (just my opinion). Anyway, one part of our lesson involved having part of the 4-6 person crew assist with setting up safety functions on the scene, such as laddering the second floor. One older officer said to ladder the second floor. When I asked the seemingly commonsense question of "where do you want to put the ladders, " and "you want me to break out all of the windows, right?, " he looked at me and said "break the windows only if I tell you to." My point is that windows should be broken with the sash removed in order for firefighters to be able to bail out quickly (otherwise, what's the point of raising ladders?) His point was that we "don't want to cause too much damage" and we "might draw flames away from the firefighter and to the point of escape." What do you all think? Am I right, or is he right? Or, better yet, what's a good way to ladder a building to prepare for RIT?

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    You are asking a very difficult question. Likewise, the answer is just as difficult. Without getting pulled into a finger pointing match, you need to approach this on a "per situation" basis. Your Chief is correct about "not wanting to cause too much damage" but so are you in preparing for RIT. There will be too extremes in this situation: One, break no windows until an immediate need calls for it, or two, break every window and take every door just in case the entire house goes bad. I hope your Chief or yourself are neither.

    Example: Basement fire. Truck confirms location and it does not appear to be extending up the walls into the attic because your truck has performed their search and has began to pull 1st and 2nd floor walls to check. Would you start smashing the 1st and 2nd floor windows!? I hope not. You would vent the basement windows opposite the attack line and pop any basement/cellar door as a possible means of egrees, but removing 2nd floor windows at this point would be "Excessive".

    Now, the fact you are throwing ground ladders signifies a need for two things: VES or firefighter/victim egress. Either way, ladder = removal of window. The two go hand in hand (unless you are throwing the ladder to the roof or to to inspection in the awning, siding, etc).

    Your Chief may have had good reason for delaying the removal of windows. I do not know enough about your situation to make an informed opinion, but he may have been waiting for more information on the location and extent of the fire before deciding which windows to take. Because taking the wrong window(s) or not taking a window(s) can be disasterous.
    "Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply beacuse it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachs and elders. Do not belive in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conductive to the good and beneift of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."

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    Ditto on the "depends on the situation" clause as with anything else.
    We also attempt to reduce the amount of unnecessary damage as a general rule of thumb. Its just plain good business and common sense to do such. In regards to throwing ladders to upper floors there are a few things that can be done and may depend on the person making the decisions. For example, if there is a room & content fire on the second floor, I would have my truck company or RIT if I was commander get a ladder to a window that is in the hallway of that floor and take it out, if they are going to bail they may need it there if they don't make the stairs, but only after the
    window(s) of the involved room were taken out. I would then have the other sides of the buildings laddered with the ladders resting against the sides in the middle of the walls. In the event something goes wrong the ladder is able to be quickly put in place in either direction. There is no need to break out windows in a room on the opposite side of the fire if the attack crew is making progress on the fire. If I'm on a floor and have to get out a window, pane or no pane I'll be going out of it. The key is to monitor conditions and a good strong size up.
    _____________________________________
    I.A.C.O.J. Bureau of EMS Chairman

  4. #4
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    Definitely depends on the actual scene. Why do more damage than is needed?

    I have the same outlook on cutting a roof. Why vent the roof for a BS fire call? By saying BS, I am talking a garbage can on fire in the kitchen. Yes, it happens, and it happens all to frequently.

    If the scene requires a window be taken out, then it should be done. Firefighter safety is always #1, but what/when/how/why should answer this. This is actually a very good topic that will have multiple opinions.

    So, my final answer is: Depends on the scene.
    John Williams
    NRFF1
    City of Clairton
    Fire / EMS

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    I hope all of you don't mind me throwing these questions in here, I don't mean to take away from the original topic, just expand on it a little.

    Would venting by breaking a window, although creating a secondary means of egress, not open the possibility of a flashover or backdraft in certain situations?

    Would the proximity of exposures facing the window(s) have anything to do with the timing in when they would or would not be broken?

    If a window were taken out at the wrong time, could that cause evidence that would be used in arson investigation to be consumed, destroyed and or otherwise damaged?
    Last edited by Temptaker; 08-27-2002 at 12:15 AM.

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    I feel the damage is secondary, I would avoid just breaking windows because of its affect in the fire. This is one of those questions that is hard to answer because we can't see the building and fire conditions.
    If we are aggressivly attacking this fire then ventilation should be preformed with the attack. Nothing makes an engine crew happier then well placed appropriate ventilation. If we haven't opened up yet and the rit crew takes a window at a possible avenue of egress, it is possible that the conditions will get much worse for the interior crew. The products of combustion, heat, steam etc will be drawn over the crews head and behind them. (to the broken window) That condition could cause problems to develop and may lead to you needing the rit crew. The rit team should be a back up or insurance policy not create work for themselves.

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