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I know that in our region/state it is common practice for new recruit firefighters to be taught to crawl in low visibility situations.  "If you can't see your feet, you should crawl."


In todays environment of MethLabs, drugs/needles and Hazardous materials, are our methods of crawling outdated?  Should we instead be practicing the art of "duck walking"?  We know that we should not stand upright in low visibility to prevent falling hazards but there is something to be said for the chemical and puncture protection offered by our boots versus those offered by merely our turnout gear.

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Good point

Perhaps turnout gear could have some reinforcement in the knees/shins/gloves to protect against such things?

The method we teach is simple: monitor conditions. If you can walk safely, walk. If conditions are such that you must crawl, then crawl. With this being said, firefighters must be able to read conditions and anticipate what the is going to happen by recognizing indicators like the change in smoke conditions, flame and heat conditions. It all comes down to training, experience and situational awareness.

What Mr. Hoevelmann said...

I think some may be missing the point, several departments in our area have responded to and extinguished structure fires only to find out after the fact that it the cause of the fire was the production of Meth.  Situational awareness is extremely important but sometimes no matter how aware you are, there are somethings that you can not know or would not expect.  At least one of these Meth Labs was in very nice neighborhood.  No one would have suspected that the high school kid was cooking Meth while mom and dad were at work.  I know that there are times that we will have to crawl possibly even on our bellies but the concern of what we may be crawling through or on should be also be concern.

Is occasionally sweeping the floor with your hose stream an option?  I've seen that published a number of times.

I agree totally and we teach the same concept.
 
Jason Hoevelmann said:

The method we teach is simple: monitor conditions. If you can walk safely, walk. If conditions are such that you must crawl, then crawl. With this being said, firefighters must be able to read conditions and anticipate what the is going to happen by recognizing indicators like the change in smoke conditions, flame and heat conditions. It all comes down to training, experience and situational awareness.

Doug hit the nail on the head for this particular instance.

Sweeping the floor is VITAL to safe advancement of the interior hoseline. Sweeping the floor with the fire stream does a multitude of things to protect the crews.

#1 it pushes dangerous debris out of the path of travel. Glass, needles, lab waste, human waste, and anything else we have all seen on the floors of most houses we respond to.

#2 it cools any burning materials on the floor so we do not burn our knees or hands while making the push. burning melted carpets and rubber flooring can stick to your knees and gloves after you've passed that area causing burns through our protective gear.

#3 the fire stream acts as a sounding tool. Just as we use the stream on walls and ceilings out in front of us to identify windows, doors, and ceiling voids, we must use the sound of the stream to identify any hazards out in from of us on the floor. A change in sound could mean a h*** in the floor, a stairway down to a basement or any change in elevation, natural or otherwise.

I know this kind of went sideways from the original question so allow me to bring it back.

We teach in the academy and other venues that if you can see you feet you should be ok to walk (usually). If you can not see your feet you should either crawl or do the tripod style duck walk. One foot out in front of you as a sounding tool and the weight of your body back on the other leg which is kneeling. The reason for this isn't just heat, but visibility. And this doesn't just mean IN the fire building. If you are on a roof and you can't see, you had better be on your hands and knees so you don't walk of the edge of the roof!

Many of the Old timers (60's and 70's firefighters) used to preach crawling in on your belly to attack a fire. Why did they advocate this? I believe it was two fold. #1 the items burning in those days were primarily wood, cotton, and wool. The fire temps were significantly lower for an average room and contents fire than a comparable size fire today.Most only wore hip boots and turnout coats. Some with little to no thermal protection. #2 is thats where the clean air was. Most of the firefighters in that generation did not where SCBA. And if they did, it was new to them so they stuck (like we all do) with their initial training.

Today, we have state of the art SCBA and PPE that can withstand and protect us from much greater temperatures. Is this a good thing? Sure if we get ourselves in to a bad spot and get trapped, we must have all of the protection possible. Look at the tragic events that happened two days ago in Brooklyn. If the Brothers from Rescue 2 had been wearing turnouts from the 60's or 70's, there is no doubt in my mind they would both have been burned to death. (side note, Prayers to our injured FDNY Brothers as they all continue to heal we hope for the best)

So with the above beliefs, when is it ok to crawl in a burning building? I say we should not crawl unless the heat becomes unbearable to stay in a semi crouched position. If the heat DRIVES us to the floor, we must take drastic countermeasures. Open the hoseline? Get behind a door or wall? Retreat? Each situation will dictate something a little different. The one constant that I feel is true however is we must not CONTINUE OUR ADVANCE until conditions improve. Perhaps the trucks get a h*** in the roof or vent some windows allowing the building to lift enough to get back into our attack stance. Once this occurs, make the push and GO GET IT!

So to recap, If you can see your feet, WALK. If you cannot see you feet CRAWL, and only go to your belly if the HEAT drives you there. If this occurs DO NOT continue your advance forward until you or another crew changes the conditions.

Thanks for the opportunity to participate!

Hankins

I agree with Jason. I teach the samething, we have to be mobile and if conditions allow for us get up then do so to get to the seat of the fire quicker. Use the smoke line as a gauge, if it's low then you are low, and if it's high then you are high as well.

 

Ron,

I must agree with the majority of opinions offered up thus far. I generally determine height of advancement by the amount of heat I encounter. Absolutely we must be concerned about what we are crawling through and the materials, chemicals, and any other hazardous conditions on the floor in front of us. Sweeping the floor is a fairly new technique for me and I have only implemented it during the last two fires I have entered on and it seems to work well. Judge your conditions and go off of that.

I think Jason and Eric said it best.

However as an Officer Ive been to a couple of grow labs and from the extrerior I coulndnt tell what the inside was like so I need my Nozzle and Search crew to give feed back as to what they are incountering.

With a heavy smoke condition even the interior  crews may not be aware of what they are going into.  We have had a couple in our area and no one knew it was a Lab until overhaul was ready to start.  If we know that we are going into a chemical situation we obviously would not crawl but the unknown seems to be a more common event.

Wayne Benner Jr (Casper) said:

I think Jason and Eric said it best.

However as an Officer Ive been to a couple of grow labs and from the extrerior I coulndnt tell what the inside was like so I need my Nozzle and Search crew to give feed back as to what they are incountering.

Another thing that we train our members to do is that if there is an Engine Co at the ready then have the nozzleman sweep the floor ahead of the team with a brief straight stream.  God willing, this will move any hazardous debris away from the members crawling in as well as act as a sounding device for low visibility conditions.

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