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We all know that every roof is different and creates a new challenge. I thought I would post some more obvious challenges for us when we get on the roof.

The first two pictures show a flat roof of a hospital doctors building. This roof is a single story building and is at least 25 years old. As we can see, this roof has a top covering of gravel with an under layer of membrane and tar over metal decking.

This roof provides a challenge for ventilation because of obvious reasons. The built up membrane and tar with the layer of gravel will make this roof difficult to vent. Even if we can easily scrape away the gravel, the tar and membrane will challenge our saw technique and maintenance. If we are not prepared and not using the correct blades our saws will gum up and make cutting impossible.

The next few photos show skylights that we will mostly see on large, open span buildings. They allow natural lighting and are common in the “big box” buildings that we see in home improvement stores and large grocery and retail stores.

In some instances these vents/skylights can blend in with the roof surface and become difficult to distinguish from what it is in regards to the actual roof. These are especially dangerous during darkened and smokey conditions. Use caution and these are another reason for building familiarity.

These are not the only challenges that we face, but we will discuss more at another time in a future post.

Take some time and discuss how you would operate on these roofs with your crews.  Are there some experiences that you might have had on these types of roofs that you can share?

Stay safe, train hard and be careful.

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After doing a recent shift with the truck this is similar to the majority of our commercial buildings.  Small warehouse buildings with metal light weight truss construction.  On some of the buildings with membrane roofs you can feel every step you take without a fire load underneath.  The truck captain I talked to had a very similar tactic.  Get to the skylights; open them up, and get off the roof.  Our Home Depot has pull handles next to the skylights to quickly open them in a fire situation.


Here is a good roof vent video that goes along with your roof size up.  This vent job is done by by some highly trained firefighters on DCFD that do this regularly.  One of the biggest things i noticed from this video is obtaining a true assessment of how long this operation will take, and will your building construction / fire conditions support that much time on the roof.

Good post Jason.



-It has been my experience that many firefighters forget to heed Tom Brennan's advice when working on a roof. That advice was the same to roof work as interior work, "If you can't see, crawl. Firefighters fall from roofs because they walk off of roofs, they don't crawl around and fall."
-There are far to many trip hazards on a roof that are compounded by weather conditions. Snow hides trip and fall hazards while rain makes roofs slippery.
-Sky lights, vent pipes, various amounts of piping and the huge amounts of wiring that run around on roofs serve to make the roof a virtual obstacle course. This condition is further enhanced by poor lighting on a roof. Light is usually poor, especially during inclement weather and anything other than a nice sunny day only intensifies poor visibility. It is further exacerbated when companies on the ground try to "help" by shinning spot lights to the roof that, in reality, create more shadows and blind the roof crews.
-Some simple rules to follow.
1. never reach for a falling object.
2. have a hand tool to assist in arresting a fall.
3. always sound the roof. Not just when you first get there; always.
4. sound the roof when walking to your objective and when returning to your ladder.
5. sound the roof like you mean it, like you're trying to push the ax through the roof. This is not the time to be gentle.
6. never walk parallel to roof edges unless walking near the parapet of a flat roof.
7. finish your work and get off the roof quickly.
8. have multiple ways off the roof before committing personnel.
9. if you can't see then crawl.


  As always, great points and thanks for sharing your thoughts, experience and knowledge. There is no doubt you provide folks on here with some great ideas and thoughts that they can take back and apply on the job.

Thanks again,


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