There is one thing we can all agree on: There are a million ways to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (I prefer smooth PB, strawberry jam, wheat bread, cut into 4 squares), and at the end of the day it still tastes great. In terms of fire service tactics, we have a lot of tools and options at our disposal as well. Yes, we must save viable victims. Yes, we must locate and extinguish the fire. Yes, we must protect the exposures and limit further damage to the structure/property. More importantly, we must learn and do our job in a manner that is most conducive to reaching all of these goals while being effective and efficient from an organizational perspective.
In this article, I’ll discuss a door control (flow path) “recipe” that “keeps it simple, stupid” and that can be used for either search and rescue efforts or fire suppression. The end product will have the same “taste” as any number of other methods you might be familiar with; however, this approach can be more cost effective and easier to perform when the latest and greatest tools are not available and the staffing levels are limited.
EQUIPMENT/TOOL: Large Spring Clamp
This basic large spring clamp can be purchased at any local big box home improvement store for just a few dollars. While this wouldn’t normally be considered a fire service tool, a lot of the equipment we use today was purposed for another task and adopted into our field. With the spring clamp being small in nature, it can easily be stored on your person without taking up a lot of room or adding to your profile. I tend to keep one (1) in the right exterior pocket of my bunker coat, and I clamp another to the right-side bottom of my coat as well.
DOOR CONTROL: FLOW PATH
Once the fortified door has been compromised, place the spring clamp above the locking mechanism or door knob and use it as a makeshift handle to control the outward swinging door until the attack line and/or rescue team is in place and ready to enter the compartment.
MAKING ENTRY: STRETCHING IN
With the clamp in position, the firefighter assigned to control the door can now maintain position and protection behind the door as he/she controls the door.
The door firefighter can now remove the clamp and use it to capture the hinged side of the door to prop the door in the fixed open position while he/she backs up the hose team. An advantage of capturing the door above the middle hinge is that it is less likely to become dislodged by an advancing line, thus allowing the door to close and pinch the line.
MAKING ENTRY: CONDUCTING A SEARCH
By controlling the door in the same manner discussed above, a search team can also use the spring clamp to conduct a more effective and efficient search. With the door forced, the clamp in place, and the search team ready, the door firefighter can now control the door while the search team makes entry. With the door in the open position, the door firefighter can now secure it in the open position by capturing the door on the hinged side (above the middle hinge) and stage at the doorway with a thermal imaging camera (TIC) to help clear the compartment faster, allowing for his/her crew to cover more ground and a rapid pace.
Whichever task you feel should take the priority, using the standard spring clamp could prove to be vital in increasing the chances for a desirable outcome. The next time you are using a tool or piece of equipment from outside of the fire service, analyze its intended purpose and adapt it to the work we do on a daily basis. You never know when your take on the next trick of the trade could make the difference for another firefighter or victim.
AB Turenne is an 18-year veteran of the fire service in Eastern Connecticut and is currently employed as a Firefighter/EMT-B with the Electric Boat Fire Department in the Submarine Capital of the World in Groton, Connecticut. He is a Certified Level II Fire Service Instructor and recent graduate from the Masters of Public Administration program at Anna Maria College, and is a frequent contributor the Fire Engineering Training Community.