Firefighters and the Risk of Asbestos Exposure
Firefighters, policemen, emergency medical service workers and all other public servants put their lives at risk each day to protect and serve their local residents. For firefighters, certain risks and hazards exist that are often unknown, unseen and unexpected. One such risk is asbestos exposure.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring yet hazardous mineral that is found in thousands of industrial materials and products used in homes, buildings and consumer items. When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed, asbestos fibers become airborne and are easily inhaled because they are microscopic.
Exposure to this material has been linked to respiratory diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer, often taking years to develop. Those who work around asbestos for many years are most at risk of developing a related disease. As a result of the duties associated with their work, firefighters are put at a higher risk of interacting with asbestos. Surprisingly, an exposure risk has even included their protective gear.
How and Where Exposure Occurs
The most intense moments of a firefighter's job involves eliminating fires and rescuing those in danger. When fires occur within homes, buildings and other structures, asbestos-containing materials can get damaged, increasing the likelihood that the fibers will be released.
The following is a list of household products could contain asbestos, endangering firefighters in the event of a fire:
The same threats from homes are applied to commercial buildings. One of the more well-known instances of asbestos exposure involving firefighters is the rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Dust from the destroyed buildings contained asbestos and other hazardous substances. Respiratory issues among public servants continue to linger as a result, including cases of mesothelioma.
Unfortunately for firefighters, the risk of asbestos exposure isn’t just limited to the location of the fire. In some cases, the risk follows them around. Fire equipment contained asbestos in earlier decades because of the material's heat-resistant characteristics. Equipment items included gloves, helmets and coats, all of which are considered staples of the firefighter uniform. Some of these items are still produced with asbestos, so be sure to ask your employer for information on the contents of your protective gear and how to keep the gear in good condition.
Firefighters, in addition to all first-responders, are encouraged to always wear protective gear during any hazardous environment. This should begin with ensuring that safety equipment is free of asbestos. Researching the materials and the manufacturer can help verify the status of the equipment.
Finally, it is highly recommended that all public servants conduct regular health checkups and screening for respiratory disease. Receiving X-Rays and communicating your occupational dangers can help your doctor detect the development of life-changing diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Bio: Mark Hall is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. Between his interests in environmental health and his writing experience, Mark is committed to communicating relevant news and information regarding the dangers of asbestos exposure and breakthroughs in mesothelioma treatments.]]>
We began to realize that we had made an impact when we received this photo from Captain Mart Corriveau of the Montreal Fire Department!
Shortly after receiving the above photo we came across this photo from a fire in Montreal. 1 piece halligan, flat head axe, and the gap and cut technique that we review in our course! The member on the right in the blue helmet had attended the class. Thanks to www.coderouge.com for the use of the picture.
We were in invited back this year to conduct our "Beyond the Academy: Advanced Forcible Entry Ops" course for the academy staff as well as an open enrollment forcible entry weekend course. We were pleased to hear that since our course last year, the City of Montreal has equipped each of its companies with a 1 piece drop forged halligan and flat head axe. The instructors at the IPIQ facility have also begun integrating hands-on forcible entry training into their recruit school. The academy purchased two door props from H & R Machine and now teaches students to force inward and outward opening doors. Forcible entry scenarios are then integrated in everything from EMS training to RIT scenarios.
We would like to thank the IPIQ for having us out to teach their academy staff We are extremely proud that our teachings will now be passed along to every firefighter in the province of Quebec. We hope that these techniques serve you well on the fireground and improve your abilities to serve your communities.
The owners of Brotherhood Instructors, LLC. would like to thank the following members of our staff for their service to their respective countries:
Tom Dalton, United States Marine Corps – FDNY
Mark Becica, United States Army – Baltimore City FD
Matt Black, United States Coast Guard – Kansas City MO FD
Chris Overpeck, United States Navy – Elkhart IN FD
Ken Pagurek, United States Air Force – Philladelphia FD
Bruno Lamare, Canadian Forces & British Army – Mississauga FD
The main reason that some guys like the pipe modification better is because in their company they utilise the wide adz halligan. So my latest project was to come up with a way to use either the pike or the adz to pull the cylinders. I have also seen on different blogs and websites several other modifications by other people to give the ability to use both, this was usually accomplished by welding a pipe on the top of the adz bracket. This modification made the tool extremely heavy and awkward. Remember that this is a tool that you want to carry in your pocket most of the time, it should not look like something that a gas station should have the rest room keys attached to!
The first thing I did was cut the handle off a standard Rex Tool with a band saw. The next thing was I cut the length of the head down by 1'' to decrease the weight and size of lock puller, the head was now ready for the new staple. The new staple had to be made to accommodate the pike and the adz, the answer was far simpler than you might think. With the help of Jamie Hiller at H and R Machine I used a shop press to bow the centre of a piece of 1/4'' plate, the ends were then bent to fit the width of the lock puller. A MIG welder was then used to attach the bracket to the lock puller.
This modification gives you the best of both worlds, it allows you to be able to perform through the lock using either the pike or the adz. This new modification gives you a tremendous and light weight lock pulling option that you can keep in your pocket.]]>
Slide Bolts – Exterior PDF]]>
Slide Bolts – Interior]]>
To force the lock using the Bam Bam tool you need to place the screw in the center of the key way and begin to screw the tool into place. It may take a few seconds to get the screw to bite into the cylinder, but once it does you want to screw it in about 3/16ths to ¼ of an inch into the cylinder. It is about 4 or 5 threads deep into the cylinder. You want to screw it in this deep so that you don’t strip the threads when you go to force the lock. It is important to keep the Bam Bam tool as strait as possible while you are screwing it into position, so that the screw bites into the cylinder evenly giving it a better bite into the cylinder. Once the screw is set you need to hold the Bam Bam tool with one hand while the other slides the handle back and forth along the shaft of the tool to force the cylinder and the pin of the lock out. After the cylinder and pin is pulled out remove the lock. Don't forget to pull the pins after forcing the locks!
Using the Bam Bam tool would not be my first option for forcing American 2000 series type locks, but is something good to have in your bag of tricks when other methods of forcible entry can’t be used or are not available. This method will not work on the American Lock 2500 Series.
Weather it is an apartment door on the fire floor of a garden apartment, the illegal basement apartment door in a private dwelling, or the door in a SRO on the floor above the fire the potential to need to force some tough door under arduous conditions is always present. The fact is that we as a fire service typically don't get much practice or direction on forcible entry techniques under favorable conditions let alone under zero or diminished visibility conditions. In this blog we are going to look at several different techniques for forcing entry under zero visibility conditions.
Since we are unable to see size up is going to be tougher and normal and is going to be accomplished primarily by feel, both with your hands and the way the tool reacts on the door.
The first step is to feel the door with a gloved hand for any primary and secondary locks, bolt patterns, heat, etc. This will help establish a game plan of attack on the door. Remember you want to start with the highest lock first and work your way down so any heat or smoke behind the door will vent up and away from you.
After a rapid and thorough size up is complete you can begin forcing the door. You are going to GAP, SET, FORCE just like any other forcible entry operation, the only real difference comes from the setting the tool and more specifically the hitting techniques. We are going to look at 3 different hitting techniques that you can utilize to help you drive the halligan into the SET position.
Double Tap Method
The double tap is more than just Rule 2 in Zombieland, it is a great method for forcing doors in smoky conditions. The double tap method works well in limited visibility situations but it allows a little to much margin of error for zero visibility operations to be an effective option. To perform this technique the axe firefighter lines up the axe with the halligan, he then taps the halligan lightly followed up right after by a more powerful hit. This small tap does a couple of things for both the firefighter holding the halligan and the firefighter hitting. First, it provides a small "practice" swing for the axe firefighter allowing him to build some muscle memory. Second, it gives warning to the firefighter on the halligan not to move because a more powerful hit is coming. Some firefighters like to use the double tap method all the time while forcing doors regardless of the conditions, it really comes down to preference.
Squared Off Shoulder
Most firefighters I talk to about the topic of zero visibility forcible entry say that they square the shoulders on their halligan forks off so that it will provide a striking surface without having the possibility of missing and striking the firefighter who is holding the halligan. This modification is not new to the fire service and I see firefighters modifying their tools like this all over North America, the problem is that if you are going to modify you halligan like this and then not practice the technique often and in realistic conditions then you might as well not even bother performing the modification in the first place. It can be challenging to perform this method and can take a tremendous amount of practice and patience. After the shoulders have been squared off the firefighter with the halligan can place the forks in between the door and the frame, with both hands on the back of the halligan the axe can be placed on the halligan shaft and slide it down to make contact with the squared off shoulder. Ensure that you keep a open palm grip on the back of halligan, if you have a firm grip on the adz or pike and the axe is brought back to far the blade of the axe could severely injury a finger… So keep a open palm grip. I like to keep the squared off shoulders for tight spaces or narrow hallways where you cannot stand behind the halligan to hit it.
One Handed Method
This technique in my opinion is the best method for forcing entry in zero visibility. The halligan firefighter takes their normal stance and hand position on the halligan with the exception of their hand closest to the adz, slide the hand closet to the adz more towards the middle of the halligan. The axe firefighter is going to take a kneeling position behind the halligan firefighter, the bottom hand on the axe is taken off and placed onto the halligan directly behind the adz. This hand is placed on the halligan to provide a point of reference for each swing of the axe. Remember to keep a loose grip on the halligan, your mission is not to impede or steer the halligan but to simple provide that point of reference. The next thing the axe firefighter can do to make life easier for them is to place the butt-end of the axe between their knees, this with help there swings tremendously by making the axe into a large pendulum. This pendulum action will help you deliver even and steady hits on target each time. Sometime with higher locks the firefighter will have to stand to swing the axe, the same steps are repeated with the exception of placing the axe between their knees.
How do you know when the halligan is in the set position? When you can see, we know that you want to drive it in until the crotch of the forks is level with the door stop but when we can't see we have to perform this by feel. An easy way to tell is by placing your thumb on the shoulder of the halligan then place three fingers along the side of the forks, the finger furthest away from your thumb should be level with the door stop. Slide your top finger forward and feel for the halligans orientation to the door stop. Not having the halligan set deep enough before prying is one of the biggest problems I see with zero visibility forcible entry, if the halligan is not driven in far enough it may pop out when it is pushed to the door.
The key to being able to force doors effectively in zero visibility and challenging conditions is to prepare for them through aggressive and realistic training. I recently talked to a close friend from a extremely busy urban department that just experienced a close call at a fire, one of the major problems that they experienced on the fireground was a delay of getting water on the fire due to a drawn out forcible entry operation. Crews were faced with a very difficult door in fairly horrendous smoke and heat conditions. After the fire crews talked about how they had never really been shown how to perform forcible entry operations under such strenuous and difficult conditions, the problem is that lots of firefighters tend to feel they don't need this type of training because they have never needed to force a real tough door under these conditions before. I use the analogy of RIT training, you only ever have to use it once on the fireground to make the training worth while.
I often get asked about injury while performing this type of training. I taught a recruit class for my department recently and I had the 10 recruits force hundreds of doors in zero visibility and in live fire conditions and never once did we even hurt anyones feelings. You need to ask yourself "what is the potential for a fireground injury if we DON'T do this training!"
Till next time stay safe!]]>
A few years later I was hired by a large city in Canada that taught us this same technique, the only problem was that steering columns were now adjustable and this created a hazard as the rack and pinion system is broken up into two, three, or even four parts. When applying force on these parts the rack and pinion system is the weak area that could snap off and injure the patient or rescuers. As soon as it was realized that the rack and pinion system was on most cars the come along tool took a back seat in the auto extrication toolbox.
The come-along is a hand operated ratchet lever winch. The lever is used to pull the cable into the wench and the ratchet is the brake that keeps the wire from unwinding (similar to those seen on boat winches). It is light and compact that can be deployed in many situations. The only problem with this tool is the ignorance that surrounds it.
I myself used to say to my coworkers, that if you wanted to look like you had no idea what you were doing then take out the Come Along tool and that would prove it. Funny, the more education and training I get with such tools, the more apt I am to use hand tools over the gas powered hydraulic option. This is a great example of why I always say, “you don’t know what you don’t know”.
This brings up the point of training on the equipment that is carried on our trucks. I’m guilty of thinking that some of our tools that we carry are useless, again I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Recently myself and a couple other instructors from Brotherhood Instructors, LLC. attended a course put on by Michigan State University about industrial machinery entrapments. We used the come along in a few scenarios and it worked great. The come along was used to lift devices, shore equipment, and binding heavy objects in place. Keep in mind when using this that it is either a whole “click” on the ratchet or none. It does not have the capabilities of moving smaller distances.
With the most standard come along assemblies it has the pulling power of 3000 lbs if used with the pulley, or it has 1500 lbs of pulling force without using the pulley. There are of course, larger and smaller models.
Pull the come along off your truck with your crew and go over the pros and cons of using this device. If you realize the potential of this piece of equipment it may go from your “plan D” to part of your “plan A” during your initial actions.]]>