1. #1
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    Default fire poles...use it or lose it?

    We had an unusually slow day at the firehouse last shift and the subject came up about the use of fire poles. Only 1 of our 4 engine houses is 2 stories and has 1 pole from the bunk room the the apparatus floor. Some guys/gals avoid it like the plauge, while others use it as if it was the only way to get downstairs.

    I know there is a safety factor involved, but it is a 'tool' just like everything else we use. We actually have a 'training session' on its use about once a year.

    There is a nieghboring FD that just replaced an old 2 sty house with a huge 1 sty new one. The guys assigned there are already crabbing its like the size of a shopping mall and how long it takes to get to the apparatus floor if they were at a far end of the building.

    Just to throw it out there.......Whats your opionion of the fire pole??? Is it an obsolete antique like the steam engine or is it still a useful traditional tool of the fire service? If you're house has 1 is it used or do most take the stairs?

    Stay low/Stay safe


    fieldseng2

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    We have one. I would say about half of us use it. I think it's good. If you wanted to you could safety your self right out of firefighting if you wanted too.
    This space for rent

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    Originally posted by KyleWickman
    ....you could safety your self right out of firefighting....
    No-one moves, no-one gets hurt

    I agree that we all need to be as safe as possible, but common sense dictates that no matter how safe you are, fighting fires is still hazardous. Whether crawling down a smoke fill hallway, or sliding down a fire pole.

    We don't have a fire pole in our station. We've all talked about getting one because everyone expects there to be one. A fire station and fire pole go hand in hand like Dalmatians and Red Fire Trucks (not that I am saying there is anything wrong with trucks that aren't red, because that is an entirely different debate).

    In our situation, we are rarely if ever upstairs when a call comes in, so there isn't a big need to have one.
    "No one ever called the Fire Department for doing something smart..."

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    We are working on designs for 2 new stations...both will have fire poles.
    AKA: Mr. Whoo-Whoo

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    Both of our two story stations have poles, one built in the late '40s and one built in '97.
    No longer an explorer, but I didn't wanna lose my posts.

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    Brother,

    First let me suggest you do a search of these forums. This topic has been discussed at length many times.

    I personally also find this issue very interesting. I spent an entire year for my former FD producing a Firehouse design standard. While doing so this was one issue I also researched in conjunction within the larger study. I'll give you my opinion with research as my justification for my opinion.

    Here is the Short answer your question. Almost all (all but a few out of about 200) the firehouses in my dept have poles. Depending where you are in the house some take the stairs, some take the pole. If we didn't have the pole I guarantee you we'd get beat in to many 1st Due Boxes. Vast Majority of guys have no problem with the poles.

    Now the long answer:
    I collected all relevant trade journal articles and appropriate legal references from Fire law books. I traveled to or conducted a telephone interview with high-ranking chiefs and facility personnel in many large and small depts. Across the country. I'll give you a brief summary of what I found and what my opinion is based on my findings.

    Personally I've worked in single story, two story with stairs and two/three/four stories with poles. I've worked in single company firehouses with small floor plans and large multi company firehouses with large single floor plans.

    I am not a person who advocates poles just for the sake of having them. When and where needed, they provide a useful tool for providing safe and efficient turnouts in multi-story firehouses. I've worked in one where we had only stairs and not only was running down stairs difficult and unsafe it also led to the worst turnout times I've ever been present for. Remember that NFPA 1710 requires no more than 1 min, day or night for turnouts.

    There are many long and short-term benefits to building up rather than out in suburban or urban areas. Land acquisition costs, on going maintenance, utility costs, building mass and esthetics for the neighborhood, Enviromental concerns, distance to appartauts/turnout times etc...

    While a single company firehouse can be designed on a 1-floor plan, there are often limited space constraints. The building would be the classic Johnny and Roy firehouse or an "L" or "U"-wrap where the living areas surround the sides and/or rear. I know many depts. love drive through bays (that is a different discussion for a different day.) However considering the space needs of modern firehouses this often is difficult without creating excessive response distances.

    Many contemporary designs of multi company firehouses fall along of the lines of Single sided, single floor designs. These are the ones that are according to published papers and journal articles are best used for Volunteer houses as usually few persons sleep there and the parking lot will be as close to the apparatus as possible. All or most support areas are off to one side.

    These are probably the same ones fieldseng2 that you and your buddies are familiar with as the "shopping mall". Your experience with them is not unique. San Antonio, Indianapolis, Kansas City and many others saw the same results with these large sprawling houses. Indianapolis took their turnout time logs (they use MDTs that register when they are responding) They found the compact multi-story firehouses had better turnout times than those of the larger newer single floor plans. Since then most of their newer firehouses (about 7 or 8 of them if I recall) are two story.

    San Antonio, Columbia, SC and Kansas City firemen had the same experience. And for multi company firehouses they build two stories with poles. I know that I've seen many floor plans for new firehouses and it is clear that the architects and the Chiefs aren't paying attention to the design requirements of the firehouse. A firehouse serves no higher purpose than to expedite the turnout of the companies that inhabit it. Some today place the Bunkroom and Dayroom (living room, TV room) etc as far from the apparatus as possible!

    Now for the safety issue: Just as you note they are a tool and they are only as safe as the operator. Every one in my dept in Probie school is taught how to slide the poles properly. You don't use it if you are wet. And you slow yourself with your legs. I can stop on the pole if I want. Have persons got hurt and killed, sure but this can almost always be traced to a failure to have appropriate safeguards in place.

    San Antonio and Kansas City I know had issues with unintentional falls due to not having railing or cages in place. Now they place the poles in separate rooms. With doors and/or cages.

    Exhaust systems have removed a former problem that caused many poles to fall out of favor in the 70s and 80s.

    An excellent resource for looking at Architecture from a firm that really is one of the leading authorities on firehouse design is www.firestationdesign.com

    Another consideration is that many civilians don't want a sprawling shopping mall size firehouse next to their two story colonial. San Antonio No. 46 is prime example of this.

    Is it a perfect solution, no. Have injuries occurred, yes. But guys have cut off their toes using power saws, did we go back to axes? No; we created safety rules for their use. Just the same that the poles were developed to help improve the turnouts from multi story firehouses. The problems encountered often have simple solutions like fall protection, proper instruction and landing mats.

    Here is a brief list of depts. who have built two story firehouses with poles in the past 10-12 years. San Antonio, TX; Kansas City, MO; Brownsburg, IN; Columbia, SC; Phoenix, AZ; Castlerock, CO; DCFD; Glendale, AZ; Oakland, CA; All over California (look at firestationdesign.com) Columbus, OH; South Platte, MO; Indianapolis, IN; Metro West FD, MO; Springfield, MO....etc.

    Despite many beliefs Poles are actually much more common today in firehouse construction than they were during the 70s 80s and early 90s.

    This was a brief discussion on the subject. Believe me it can get much, much longer!

    FTM-PTB

    PS-Slides are also and option however they come with their advantages/disadvantages as well. But that is another issue altogether.
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    Default poles

    As long as everyone is trained in it's safe operation I don't see what the problem would be. My last Department however only had a few houses that had poles, and if you were transferred to one of those stations you could have problems. I used the steps in that case.

    I know I can walk a mile in about 16 minutes, so that is over 100 yards a minute. That is certainly enough time to get from most parts of a station safely. For this reason we walk to our apparatus. Not a free for all running downstairs.
    What is your response time requirement that saving 20 seconds would make you miss being 1st on scene.
    I find it hard to believe that on the average one or two story Firehouse that a pole would make that big of a difference in time.
    Worst case, one minute to the truck, one minute to don your gear. 2 minutes to get out the door should be plenty.
    Jester...

    "I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it left"

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    Default hey thats my house!

    "Another consideration is that many civilians don't want a sprawling shopping mall size firehouse next to their two story colonial. San Antonio No. 46 is prime example of this."

    Gee and I thought they made the house 2 stories because the land is so damn expensive on the northside.

    On the topic of pole use, we have 2 poles....most guys use 'em, some don't. I still think they have their place in the fire service and I love having them at our disposal, especially for those middle of the night runs.

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    Question To slide or not to slide, That is the question.

    jester12,

    I agree with you that proper instruction eliminates most problems.

    Also to answer your question:

    From the time the dispatcher receives the call to the time a company or chief arrives on scene in my dept is about 4:30min on average in the city. (It varries by type of call) for the last year available.

    As for is 20-30 seconds worth it? I wouldn't think I would have to provide that answer for that to another firefighter. I've personally been to plenty of boxes that 30 seconds later would have meant a total change in the outcome of the fire. How many Christmas tree fire videos or couch fire videos have you seen? Also remember NFPA 1710, regardless if you agree or not with it...it is there.

    I'm sure you've had plenty of those "30 seconds more and this would have been much different" jobs. Delayed alarms at night when a fire grows unchecked before discovery is blamed often for the damage caused by fire, I hope the same couldn't be said for the Fire Dept that took as much as 2 minutes to get out of the house.

    20-30 seconds can mean the difference between a can job for the Truck and a hand line stretch for the Engine. It can mean the difference between one floor of fire and two floors of fire. Fire spreads fast and kills even faster, 1 minute should be the most time it takes to get out of the house. I think most would be in agreement of this issue.

    As for walking everywhere here is my view on that...no one is taking a full sprint to the rigs, just a brisk walk or jog... Take the time on the road to safely and properly get to the fire so you don't get in an accident, but save time where you can...and you can save time in the firehouse with a quick and efficent turnout.

    The firehouses that have poles that drop us down next to the rigs are much more efficent than the single story firehouses I used to work in. And in the Multi-story ones we don't have to run because no matter where you are (Kitchen, weightroom, Bunkroom, 3rd Floor, etc...) You are no more than a few feet from the apparatus or a pole. Without a doubt I can tell you there is a signifigant difference.

    SAFD46Truck-
    I don't think the cost issue was lost on your Chiefs either

    Here is a familar pic you might recognize. I just found it burried deep in my computer.

    FTM-PTB
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    Default

    Just to throw it out there.......Whats your opionion of the fire pole??? Is it an obsolete antique like the steam engine or is it still a useful traditional tool of the fire service? If you're house has 1 is it used or do most take the stairs?
    We do not have a pole. Our meeting room, Officer’s office, and weight room are upstairs at the station and the stairs are very steep and narrow. This creates a problem on meeting nights if we have an alarm. Fortunately, no injuries have been reported from these stairs in recent memory.

    FFFRED

    Another consideration is that many civilians don't want a sprawling shopping mall size firehouse next to their two story colonial.
    Agreed, but as with anything being designed or purchased, the architects or salespersons will tell you that every square inch of space, or every little trinket or gizmo ( on items purchased) is needed.

    Many new fire houses that are paid for by taxpayer dollars become excessive due to the luxuries included in the design. Volunteer Departments, that fund their own buildings do not have that luxury to have all the toys.

    Despite many beliefs Poles are actually much more common today in firehouse construction than they were during the 70s 80s and early 90s.
    Tradition!

    If we didn't have the pole I guarantee you we'd get beat in to many 1st Due Boxes.
    Are we in a race to be 1st due?
    "The uniform is supposed to say something about you. You get it for nothing, but it comes with a history, so do the right thing when you're in it."
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    from 'Report from Ground Zero' pg 149
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    Im sure this topic has come up more than a dozen times..

    This discussion came up at the house Im currently assisnged which is no more than rectangular block buliding (1 floor)..the total size for the living quarters is about 75 x 10! There are 4 FFs assinged to each shift at this house, so you could imagine how cramped this place is not to even mention it's a deep freeze in the winter and an oven in the summer. Just a horrible design for career house.

    My opinion and observation is right on with FFFRED. I have close ties to the Indy FD and familiar with thier houses. (Their crummiest and smallest is still better than the pit Im currently in).

    However, the topic came up when we were discussing the hopes and dreams of a new firehouse. An old uneducated captain tried to argue that OSHA now banned firepoles. I happened to have at the time the standard that covered firepoles and it mentioned nothing about them being forbidden. All it said was they SHALL be properly labled and guarded.

    No disrespect, but I can't believe someone other than a politician would say a few seconds or minutes matters when turning out! We dont sprint to the rigs, but 2+ minutes to get out the door?!?! WOW.

    As FFFRED states; NFPA 1710 says no more than 1 minute (60 seconds) for turnout time. After the standard came out we tested the (not validated)time it took to get from the bunkroom to the rigs via stairs and pole. It took crews 60-120 seconds longer when they took the stairs. So it wasnt biased, everyone walked at a safe pace down the stairs and to the rigs.

    I didnt bring this up to offend anyone. Im a historical fireservice buff especially the old multi story engine houses. I too have studied the subject in detail. Every FD website I check out the 1st page I go to is the photos of the firehouses.

    Again, it is a tool. And a tool is as only as good as the operator. I just read another thread in this forum about the use of chin straps on helemets. If not used propery any tool can hurt or kill you.

    I believe in preserving fire service tradition and heritage, but not at the expense of our safety or progress. The pole dates back to the late 1800's invented in a Chicago firehouse that no longer exists. It is a token that many civilians relate to the fire service. When children tour our firehouse its the first thing they ask about next the the dalmation (animals have already been banned from our firehouses!)!

    My next question was gonna be brass or steel, but i see this is a hot topic so better let it be!


    stay low, stay safe


    fieldseng2

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    fieldseng2,

    Great topic, I think as you have found with your misguided Captain there is much confusion and misinformation out there on this subject. There is one State (I think Oregon) that banned them altogether. I've worked with many who also out of ignorance claimed that NFPA, OSHA, some obscure federal agency...etc.. ban all poles and they have been removed or are forbiden for use in firehouses, etc... All incorrect. As you note OSHA has regulations for fall protection and also they don't consider the pole as a secondary means of egress however that is about it in regards to poles.

    Vistors to my firehouse (civilians and firefighters alike) always ask if we still use the pole. I'm not sure why as it is as effective today as it was when Capt. Kenyon and Engine 21 in Chicago made the first wooden one. It isn't there just for show, it is there to serve the purpose of getting us out the door quickly.

    My comments are about career staffed firehouses supported by taxpayer funds. I've heard of only a few volly stations that have a pole. For a volly station there really is no need for one in most cases, or at least from my perspective. I don't have much experience in the vol area.

    AFD368, As for your question: Are we in a race to be 1st due?

    No, If the ticket says you are 1st due, you should show up 1st due, the pride and profesionalism of your company is reflected in that. Not to mention the lives and property that hang in the balance. While on the road one should take the proper precautions when responding, however in the house the design of the structure can faclilitate a prompt and efficent turnout.

    In my former dept I was a member of a company in a very small single company house. We were very close to the apparatus and when fires would come in we would be on the road so fast that we'd beat the other companies who had large single floor plans easily, In fact well into what was their 1st due district. We made no extra effort to get there or drove any faster than usuall. All computer models showed that when leaving at the same time they would arrive 1st. However reality was much different. This shouldn't be the case under most circumstances and it was a direct result of the design of the firehouse from which each company responded from.

    You bring up an interesting issue:
    Agreed, but as with anything being designed or purchased, the architects or salespersons will tell you that every square inch of space, or every little trinket or gizmo ( on items purchased) is needed.
    I can understand your argument and many other firefighters could too, however I know firehouses that were delayed years due to lawsuits from civilians that didn't want a large and "unsightly" firehouse in thier neighborhood. The FDs and cities didn't include the taxpayers in the development process. Many today demand such input from everthing from street expansions to even firehouse design. They don't want anything that will take away from their property values and if you can get the same space in a more agreeable arangment (two story, residentail looking) then you should work with the taxpayers.

    Two examples of this are the previously mentioned San Antonio FD and also Indianapolis FD, and Columbia, SC which delt with placing replacement firehouses in established neighborhoods. There was some resitance to placing what the civilians regarded as large modern boxes with all the noise and lights associated with them. However after showing them the compact "residential" styled firehouses they
    enthusiasticly welcomed the new firehouses.

    As for Brass or Steel, we have both in the dept and other than estetics and perhaps cost I don't notice any difference between the two.

    Great discussion guys.

    FTM-PTB
    Last edited by FFFRED; 01-08-2004 at 08:00 PM.

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    Thanks FFFRED....

    I was told the reason why our house has a steel pole instead of brass was cost and brass was not readily available because it was built in the early 70's when the Vietnam War was going on.....Im not sure the validity on that, but like you said it works....

    I have a friend on the St. Louis Fire Department. Several years ago they obtained a bond to remodel their firehouses. Some had major renovations as they were built during the turn of the century, designed for horse drawn engines. I believe all but 5 of their 30 houses are 2 story with poles. With all the renovations they did, they made sure the poles were up to par as well. O dont think it was even an issue of replacing them. The few houses that are not 2 story are similar to the design of the Indy houses. They must have been built during the same time.

    If all goes well, Ill be joining the ranks of the STL FD before years end!! Keeping my fingers crossed!

    Great discussion fellas......

    Stay Low/Stay Safe

    fieldsengine2

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    My station is a full-service public safety building. It houses a fire station, a police station, our emergency dispatch center and the courts division. It's been added on to and modified so many times that our bunk room is now the furthest of any room from the apparatus bay.

    The living quarters are on the second story, but we have no pole. We have a pair of staircases, but the most direct of the two is a spiral staircase. Forget a big fire or a heart attack, the spiral staircase will probably be the death of me. There are some nights when I think a pole might be safer than those stairs.

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    Arrow Spiralling out of control!!!

    cozmosis,

    Thats funny you mention spiral staircases. I've worked in a one that had spiral staircase.(There are a few around the job) However it was only for going up, the poles were for going down(on alarms).

    As a side note I've seen a firehouse in St. Joseph, MO that had a spiral staircase that at the top started spiraling downward clockwise...then at the 180 degree mark(where the turret met the wall of the firehouse) it turned counterclockwise. It had poles however at the time they weren't using them.(it is my understanding that has changed since my visit) They called the staircase "The ankle breaker!" because of its odd and dangerous change in turn.

    I don't have any pics with me otherwise I would post them here. Hands down one of the most original and unique features I've ever seen in a firehouse.

    FTM-PTB

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    Default poles

    FFFred,

    Sorry to give you the impression that time is of no importance. I was responding to your comment of "I've worked in one where we had only stairs and not only was running down stairs difficult and unsafe it also led to the worst turnout times I've ever been present for."

    I have been to too many houses that people have been on a rampage to get to the truck. I was trying to get across was that you can walk (quickly), and still make it in plenty of time, safely.

    The one minute to don gear, and get to the truck was an outrageous example, never wanted it considered it as a standard, or goal.
    The 20 to 30 seconds I mentioned was in reference to arriving betweeen first and second on scene, not in turnout time.
    Sorry for the confusion.

    Stay Safe
    Jester...

    "I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it left"

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    FFFRED,

    Where'd you get that first pic you posted? That's from our Station #5. We built two stations in the last ten years, both are two stories and both have 4 poles each. Without a doubt poles speed up turnout time vs. the stairs. I'm at a multi-company house and all 9 guys use the poles for an alarm. Matter of fact, they'll form a line to use the pole rather than use the stairs and still get out quick.

    The pole I use in the bunk room drops me 3 feet from my bunkers and the front seat of the Rescue. Gotta love the poles! Oh yeah, all 8 of our poles are brass! Looks great, sucks to clean.

    Steve
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    "Leather Forever"
    FTM-PTB-EGH-RFB

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    Jester, I see what you are saying now.

    resqcapt,

    While visiting some friends in St. Louis a few years back I stopped in as I was conducting a project for my suburban FD on firehouse design and I wanted to see some that had been built recently in other parts of the country. I saw No. 1 and I was told of No. 5 and went over there as well. The guys there were most helpfull and accomidating. They pointed out the good and bad (like poor ventilation in the watchdesk area) Very nice and very large as I remember them, especially the bunk rooms. Thanks again.

    FTM-PTB

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    at peas air force base, the fire department has a slide next to the stairs...
    I havent failed, I've found 10,000 ways that don't work.

    - Thomas Edison

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    Most of the problems you mentioned were supposed to be resolved in STL since thier renovations, but its been years since Ive been in the 1's, and I dont recall ever going to the 5's. Been to the 2's, 10's, 17's, 28's, 29's, 32's, and 35's (do i sound like a fire geek yet?). All have seen major renovations or are in the process. They have enclosed most of the watch desks and installed exhaust systems for the rigs. They are all good houses. I do recall even in the older houses the bunk rooms being quite large than what Im used to. Of course they do have flaws, but I havent seen the perfect house yet!

    Currently I live near Chicago. After 130+ years of active service they are replacing their oldest active firehouse, Engine 18. Its going to be a 1 story multi company house. Ive seen a few pics man does it look huge!

    fieldseng2

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    FFFRED,

    Glad to hear the brothers treated you well when you visited. I'm currently at Station #1 which is almost identical to #5, just bigger.



    They have enclosed most of the watch desks and installed exhaust systems for the rigs. They are all good houses. I do recall even in the older houses the bunk rooms being quite large than what Im used to.
    fieldseng2,
    I think he was refering to my post about our stations which are in St. Louis County, not St. Louis City. By the way, good luck with the hiring process for StLFD. Applying for Medic or FF?

    Later all,
    Steve
    IAFF Local 2665
    "Leather Forever"
    FTM-PTB-EGH-RFB

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    I tested for FF. All finished...I did very well. If they hire the numbers they want this year I'll get the call. Probably the second class of the year. Thanks resqcap..


    What county fd are you with? I have a few friends in the county.


    fieldseng2

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    fieldseng2,

    Metro West in Western St. Louis County. E-mail me if you get the chance, maybe we know the same people. Keep my fingers crossed for you, I've got several friends on the job with StLFD.

    Later,
    Steve

    IAFF Local 2665
    "Leather Forever"
    FTM-PTB-EGH-RFB

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    koool..

    my brother lives in Ballwin....I believe thats west county jurisdiction isnt? keep him safe...

    fieldseng2

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