Brotherhood Instructors

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Kevin Legacy, co-owner of firefighter trainers and our partners Brotherhood Instructors, LLC, on the Fire Rescue Safety Blade

“Since September of 2009, Brotherhood Instructors, LLC has been using the (Fire Rescue Safety Blade) on our power saws. Working in the fire service and in construction throughout the years, myself and the staff of 50-plus instructors employed with us at (Brotherhood Instructors) have had the opportunity to use many different types of power saw blades, whether it is teaching a student to use a power saw for the first time or responding to an emergency on the fire apparatus. It gives me great peace of mind knowing the Safety Blade is on the equipment myself and my students will be using.

“As a co-owner of Brotherhood Instructors, our number one concern is the safety of the fire service and law enforcement professionals who work for and attend classes with our training company. I have seen abrasive blades have catastrophic failures causing injury to rescue personnel and civilians. I have witnessed shrapnel flying off a segmented diamond blade. I am proud to say that since we have been using the Desert Diamond Safety Blade on our power saws, there have been no injuries to staff or students due to a blade failure. During fire and rescue operations, power saws are used in situations that they were not primarily designed for. We pass on techniques that prepare our students for many different situations where a power saw may be used to affect a rescue or gain access to a fire or emergency. As with any type of hands-on training, we do have accidents when using the power saws. Saws being dropped or twisted while cutting and pieces of locks or material stuck in the blade guard are amongst the mishaps we have experienced, none of which have caused the one-piece, ruggedly designed Safety Blade to fail. The statement “Your Safety… Our Priority!!” that Desert Diamond uses has proven itself time and time again during our classes.

“The way the blade is constructed also makes it very easy to use. The diamonds are adhered to the main cutting surface in a way that makes it wider than the rest of the blade, which makes for quick cuts and reduces the risk of binding and slowing the saw. The abrasives on the sides keep the blade cutting even when the operator fails to hold the saw perfectly straight, greatly reducing kickback. The way the blade is vented keeps the blade cutting nicely instead of overheating and melting through material like other blades seem to do. We put these blades through a tremendous amount of use in our classes. That being said, each Safety Blade lasts us well over a year. For us, that is a huge yearly savings in equipment costs.

“A couple years ago, I was very pleased to learn the Special Operations Units of my primary job were getting the Safety Blade. We put it on our forcible entry saw and it lasted two years before we had to get a new one. Nowadays, a very common sight at a taxpayer fire or any prolonged forcible entry operation where power saws are used is a bunch of saws out of service on the sidewalk waiting for replacement abrasive blades. Meanwhile, the firefighters lucky enough to have the Safety Blade are still cutting away. In my area, we tell firefighters in the surrounding units, if we are on scene in a capacity where we are not using saws, that they can use the unit with the Safety Blade from our apparatus instead of using multiple abrasive blades or saws to complete one task.

“On scene at a fire/rescue operation or training a couple hundred students on power saw operations, the Safety Blade exceeds all expectations of any blade in its class. Operator and personal safety, ease of use, cost effectiveness, and great customer service along with an unbeatable warranty – what more could you ask for?”

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Pearl River, NY - Machinery Rescue Class

Pearl River, NY - Machinery Rescue Class

We would like to thank all those who attended our one day Machinery Rescue Class in Pearl River / Rockland County, NY

The hands-on-course gave students a look into machinery entrapments and extrications.  The first hour and a half was spent in the classroom reviewing case histories, lock-out/tag-out techniques and procedures, tool kits, and medical considerations.  

Following the classroom presentation, students were broken up into four groups to participate in the following rotations:

Morning Rotation 1: Tool Familiarization - Previous generations of firefighters brought a tremendous amount of trade experience and mechanical ability to the firehouse.  Modern firefighting recruits seldom possess the mechanical skills as those before.  This rotation allows students that are unfamiliar with hand, electric, and pneumatic tools to gain these skills and gives experienced students a refresher.  This rotation included: cutting with the wizzer saw, drilling and punching rivets, sheering rivet heads off with the air chisel and punching, removing bolts with an air chisel, cutting with a dremel tool in a confined area, impact gun use, and snap ring pliers use.  Each of these skills would be necessary to perform the simulated extrications later in the day.

Morning Rotation 2:  Size-up - Size-up is one of the most important aspects of any firefighting operation and is especially important when dealing with machinery entrapments.  Students used a search camera to look inside this simulated machine to determine the associated hazards.  Inside they found electrical and chemical hazards that were evaluated using facility information and the HAZMAT emergency response guidebook. 

Morning Rotation 3:  Torch Use - The torch is a very quick and effective cutting tool in the hands of a skilled user, especially when working in close proximity to a patient.  At this rotation students discussed the pros and cons of using a torch as well as hazards that would preclude the use of a torch.  Each member was then afforded the opportunity to cut various pieces of metal using the torch under the supervision of an instructor. 

Morning Rotation 4:  Lock-out/Tag-out- One of the most important steps in machinery extrication is to ensure the machine will not operate while we are working on it.  Students practiced locking and tagging out various types of valves, switches, cords, hoses, and controllers. 

Afternoon Rotation 1:  Meat Grinder Entrapment - Supermarkets, delis, and butcher shops are all prime locations for a possible machinery entrapment.  Grinders, saws, and conveyors are just a few of the common items found in these facilities.  At this station students practice locking and tagging out the equipment before moving on to assessing the entrapment and beginning the extrication.  To disassemble the meat grinder, members had to drill or air chisel and punch several rivets, cut with the angle grinder, and use various allen wrenches, screwdrivers, wrenches, sockets, and prying tools.   

Afternoon Rotation 2: Fence Impalement & Auger Entrapment - While this may be a rare occurrence the tools and techniques can be applied to this and other impalement scenarios.  Students used both the torch and sawzall to cut sections of the fence while cooling the metal to prevent heat transmission to the patient.  Augers have many uses in farm and industrial settings.  Lose clothing or a misplaced limb can easily become entrapped in these devices.  Students practice stabilizing this heavy section of auger before beginning to cut it and continually support it as it is lifted.

Afternoon Rotation 3:  Hand & Finger Entrapment – Hand & Finger entrapments are one of the most common machinery rescue incidents emergency responders will encounter.  Individuals have been known to get their fingers stuck in rings, bottles, gas fill pipes, etc.  This rotation will allow students to practice cutting in close proximity to the patient’s hand or finger while taking precautions to protect the patient at all times.  Metal, glass, and plastic cutting options will be practiced.

Afternoon Rotation 4:  Real Machinery - This rotation uses a rescue manikin and some foam hands to recreate entrapments in real machinery.  Snow blowers, riding and push lawn mowers, a tilling machine, or other junk equipment provide the students an opportunity to use the tools and skills in complex scenarios.  Students work together to size-up the situation, stabilize the patient and machine, discontinue power, release or render stored energy safe, and extricate the patient. 

Brotherhood Instructors, LLC. owns all of the tools and props necessary to conduct this class.  This class can easily be brought to your firehouse or training facility.  Single portions of the class can also be offered as crew or company drills.

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Making a Difference in Quebec!


In April of 2011, Brotherhood Instructors conducted 3 days of "Beyond the Academy: Forcible Entry Operations" training at the IPIQ training facility in Laval Quebec.  The IPIQ is the province wide training facility for all career firefighters in Quebec and roughly translates to: "Institute for the Protection Against the Fires of Quebec".  After class last year we toured several City of Montreal firehouses and discovered that the forcible entry tools provided by the department were somewhat lacking - 3 piece pinned halligans and pick head axes.  After the three days of training we left feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment that we were able to share our forcible entry knowledge and experiences with firefighters that were so eager to learn and put these techniques to use.  

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 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. 

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Beyond the Academy: Video Training Series - Forcing Slide Bolts & Drop Bars

Beyond the Academy: Video Training Series - Forcing Slide Bolts & Drop Bars

Here is the latest addition to our Beyond the Academy: Video Training Series.  This clip includes some tips and tricks for forcing slide bolts and drop bars on outward opening doors.  Feel free to add your comments, questions, or suggestions!  As always - no framing square needed!





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Another Rex Tool Modification - By: Andrew Brassard


Ever since my first blog on modifying a standard rex tool to be able to carry it in your pocket I have received lots of emails and had lots of questions about which modification (the pipe or the adz bracket). The reason why there is a debate about which one is better or more applicable is because I tend to like the adz bracket modification better because it allows you to rock the tool side to side and "walk" tough cylinders out off the door, with the pipe modification you loose the ability for the side to side movement.

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.

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Slide Bolt Forcible Entry: Part 2

Click on the image to view or download the PDV version.

Slide Bolts - Exterior PDF

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Slide Bolt Forcible Entry

Feel free to print it out and post it in the firehouse.
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Forcible Entry - The Bam Bam Tool - By: Paul Hoekema

There are numerous ways to manipulate an American Series 2000 type lock to force entry (hockey puck locks with the key way on the rim of the lock not the face).
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Forcing Doors In Zero Visibility - By: Andrew Brassard

Anyone who has ever forced a challenging door in zero visibility knows it can be one of the most difficult forcible entry challenges a crew will ever face, for those of you that have not... This challenge still awaits you.

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.

Size Up

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!

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Come Along - By: Mike Tesarski

During my initial training as a firefighter in Michigan I was shown the benefits of using a come along.  This training included a “steering column pull” for auto extrication that would pull the steering column and the dash away from the patient freeing them from their entrapments.  I was even shown an example where we literally folded a car in half to show how powerful the come along was. 

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.

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Beyond the Academy Video Training Series - Engine Operations: Hydraulic Ventilation

Check out the newest Beyond the Academy Video Training Series. This one is entitled "Engine Company Operations: Hydraulic Ventilation with a Smooth-bore/Solid Stream Nozzle.

Many fire service members believe that a fog nozzle is the only nozzle that can be used for ventilation, and "prefer" a fog nozzle for that reason. These techniques show that a solid stream nozzle can be used as a hydraulic ventilation tool as well.  We do not entertain the "Smooth-bore vs. Fog" nozzle debate, but we do have our preference.

As Tom Brennan stated when asked about his preference: "A smooth-bore nozzle doesn't make a terrible engine company a good engine company, and a fog nozzle doesn't make a good engine company a terrible engine company!"

Regardless of which one you use, know your tools, the capabilities and the drawbacks. 

Feel free to discuss on this blog.

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Through the Lock - Pivoting Deadbolt & Hookbolt

Through the lock forcible entry is a quick and easy method of gaining entry into doors locked with pivoting deadbolts and pivoting hookbolts.  This skill is easier than many believe.  Click on this through the lock info sheet to download a PDF version.  Feel free to use it, print it, and share it with your crews. 


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Coordinated Ventilation - Part II by Nate DeMarse

I stumbled upon a couple videos that drive home points made in the earlier Coordinated Ventilation post. These videos clearly show answers to previously asked questions, and bring up some new discussion tips as well. This is precisely how we should be training at drills and training burns. I don't know where this department is, but they are a class act in training!

Video #1 - The OV Position:

In the first video, we see an Outside Ventilation (OV) firefighter in the correct position to horizontally vent the building opposite the attack line's advance. Note that at the very beginning of the video, the Nozzle Team is advancing the hose line THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR and to the seat of the fire. The door is forced, and they are moving in when the windows are taken.

The firefighter is off to one side of the window, and takes the window located furthest from him first. This assures that he will be able to vent both windows without delay. If the window closest to the firefighter is vented first, and fire vents from the opening the second (furthest window) may have to be abandoned. This is especially true if operating on a portable ladder or fire escape. 

Video #2 - Points & Pointers:

I am not certain, but I think the video below is another angle of the same video above (a very rare occurance in our profession). If it is not the same fire, we are going to use it like it is for the purposes of driving home a point.

As I stated in the comments in Part I, "We should also wait if the line is delayed in getting into position, charged and READY TO MAKE THE PUSH on the fire. There is a vast difference in a line being there, a line being charged, and all of the members masked up and ready to push in." This video starts with a charged attack line, but the door hasn't been forced. If the OV takes the windows prematurely, this fire will continue to spread and grow as the line is not ready to advance. After entry is gained, you can hear the officer telling the OV to "take that glass".

Entering the Building Side-Note:  At the :35 second mark, you will see the camera move to the front stoop of the house. Note the visibility at the floor level! You can see nearly ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE HOUSE. Yet nearly every single firefighter that entered the building entered either standing or slight crouched with their head in the smoke, unable to see ANYTHING! I will reiterate at this point that I am not beating up on this department, THIS HAPPENS EVERYWHERE!!

Take a second after the door is forced to put your face piece directly on the floor and look UNDER the smoke. This requires you to get on your knees to accomplish. The nice thing about taking a look at the floor level is that you have to physically, consciously make a decision to stand-up to enter after you look.

Here are a few other benefits that stem from taking a few seconds to get low and take a look:

  • You allow the heat and super-heated gases that have built up in the sealed building a few seconds to "blow" and push over your head. This in turn will cause the smoke to lift off of the floor, and allow for the following:

    • You will be able to see a victim lying on the floor 10 feet or further inside the doorway, at that point you can say you conducted a rescue instead of tripping over someone and pretending that you rescued them! The Medal Ceremony will sound supurb, but you will know the truth!

    • You will be able to get a room, floor or apartment layout.

    • You will be able to see the glow of the fire on the floor, or the fire itself. You will know that it is on the right side of the hall, three doorways down.

    • You wlll see the large hole in the floor five feet inside the house and not fall into the basement and promptly call a "Mayday" within seconds of entering the building.

You will know all of this information at the front door, without walking (not searching) blindly. Then, because you are already on your knees conducting this vital size-up skill, you will enter the building safely on your knees, crawling towards your objective(s). When we couple the skills listed in this side-note with the OV performing those tasks in the correct position and the correct time, you will have the opportunity to gather vital information before entering.


(and yes, those words can be used together)!

Forcible Entry Side-Note: The Forcible Entry team did a good job on the door. If you look closely, on the fourth swing the Striking FF nearly misses high with the axe. With hand placement so close to the axe-head, just a little more of a miss could have caused a crush injury. Believe it or not, in our travels this is the most common cause of injury in forcible entry (almost always resulting in at least one broken finger). To remedy that concern, This video (one of our first created nearly 2 years ago) shows safe striking techniques. Additionally, Brotherhood Instructors, LLC axes now have our company markings (colored electrical tape) 6"-7" below the head of the axe. Any firefighter using our axes know that if they place their top hand where the tape is, their hands are in the safe zone. Again, this is a very common injury and very rarely do we get a chance to catch forcible entry tools and members practicing their craft.

I think this fire department is doing a great job in getting their training done as we operate. Far too may training burns just walk members through the motions, leaving them with a false sense of security of what a real fire will be like (i.e: setting themselves up for failure). This department has their members on the radio, and conducting coordinated ventilation and fire attack. These videos left some open some great discussion points using realistic training and errors that occur on EVERY fireground!

Feel free to post comments, questions or concerns. We are all here to learn so let the learning commence!


Nate DeMarse

Co-Owner, Brotherhood Instructors, LLC.


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Duckbill Lock Breaker - By: Andrew Brassard

Nowadays firefighters tend to become over reliant on saws during forcible entry operations and often forget some of the most basic of fireground tools. The Duckbill Lock Breaker is one such a tool that has become a forgotten tool that tends to sit in a compartment on the truck. But what about the times when, the saw does not start? Or you have to change the blade? Or you have to remove locks inside of a building where the saw will be choked out by the smoke? The duckbill is a tremendous secondary tool for these situations.

The Duckbill Lock Breaker works by driving the lock shackle off the body of the lock. The lock breaker will remove an American 700 Series Lock with no problem, in fact there are very few locks that can not be defeated by the lock breaker. One lock the can withstand the forces that can be applied with the lock breaker is the disc type lock. If a disc type lock is present a different forcible entry method should be utilized.


The Duckbill Lock Breaker is a single functioning tool, meaning it's only function is to force entry into padlocks.

The duckbill is made of soft metal, usually brass. The reason for making it out of soft metal is so that as it is driven down in between the padlock body and the shackle the lock will "bite" into the soft metal of the wedge and hold it's position until it is struck again. Every time the lock breaker is struck it is driven down a little further into the lock, this places more and more pressure on the lock until it finally fails. If the wedge was made out of a hardened metal it would simply bounce out every time it was struck.  

To use the Duckbill Lock Breaker, simply place the wedge into the lock. This is where mistakes get made! The only way the duckbill will work is with the top edge of the wedge on the shackle and the bottom edge of the duckbill on the body of the lock, do not put the duckbill into the lock with the top and bottom rails on both side of  the shackle! Once the lock breaker is in place use the 8 lbs forcible entry axe or a 12 lbs Maul to drive the duckbill into the lock, continue driving it in until the lock fails. It is that simple!

So dust off the duckbill lock breaker, dig it out from the compartment, or buy one to include to your forcible entry arsenal. It is a great tool that can prove to be extremely valuable on the fireground.





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Coordinated Ventilation

Take a look at these two videos for a great example of coordinated ventilation.  The outside vent (OV) firefighter on the fire escape waits until the line is putting water on the fire to take the windows.  Doing so helps the engine make the advance into the fire area a little easier.  Waiting until the line is ready will ensure that you do not prematurely feed the fire additional oxygen and possibly trap firefighters searching ahead of the line. 



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Pressure Reducing Valves - By: Chris Collier

Lack of water on the fire is a fire ground problem that seldom stands alone.  When water is not being applied to the fire at the proper rate we can all agree that things get worse on the fire ground.  When we look at fires where maydays or firefighter fatalities occurred we can often find reference to water loss or water problems.  One such fire is the one Meridian Plaza fire which occurred in Philadelphia PA on February 23, 1991.  This fire took the lives of three Philadelphia Firefighters.  One (of several) issues that plagued firefighters at this fire was improperly set pressure reducing valves.  These valves were set to allow 60 psi discharge pressure which was inadequate to operate the fire department's 1 3/4" hoselines and combination nozzles. 

Pressure reducing valves are found on many standpipe systems and there are dozens of types of these valves.  This blog post will show only a few so be sure to familiarize yourself with the ones found in your response area.  Pressure reducing valves are designed to regulate the pressure at a given standpipe outlet.  Pressures can be very high when dealing with fire pumps or gravity tanks.  These valves are intended to prevent over pressurization of components after the valve.  By reducing pressure flow is also reduced. 

The best and easiest way to deal with a pressure reducing valve is to remove it completely.  One style of pressure reducing valve threads onto the standpipe outlet.  When this type of valve is found, remove it with a spanner or pipe wrench and proceed as normal.  If the valve can not be removed you may have to go to the floor two floors below the fire and hook up there.  If you are unable to remove any of the pressure reducing valves, ensure the valve is in the full open position and proceed with caution. 

Some standpipe outlet valves have a pressure reducing device built into them.  Some of them can be adjusted with a screwdriver or allen wrench and others require disassembly of the valve and special tools.  These are the pressure reducing valves that firefighters must be intimately acquainted with before the fire to ensure a successful operation. 

Once we remove the pressure reducing valve we can control the pressure ourselves using the outlet valve and our inline pressure gauge.

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Electric Roll Up Gates - By: Andrew Brassard

Not all forcible entry has to be forcible, in some cases a little knowledge and some finesse will get the job done quicker than some more traditional methods.

One such instance is Electric Roll Up Doors and Gates.  With a little bit of knowledge and a screwdriver entry into these gates can be very fast with very little force. Electric Roll up Gates are most commonly found in my area on loading docks, garbage rooms, and on the occasional roll up gate. These electric door openers are usually found mounted around 4' off the ground directly beside the door that it opens. There is a key way on the control panel.  This key way controls the door going up and down. The key way is often a standard mortise lock cylinder, on the back side of the cylinder. A large pivoting arm is bolted to the key way. When the key is inserted and turned the pivoting arm will twist and hit a limiter switch to either roll the door up or down.




Forcing entry

Forcing entry into the door usually does not require very much force at all, the only tool that you need is a screwdriver in most cases. The first thing you want to do is undo the screws in the four corners of the face plate. I have been told by friends that they have encountered security screws in these from time to time, I have never encountered these security screws. Most of the time standard Philips, Robertson, or Slot headed screws hold the face plate on. Once the screws have been removed the face plate will need to be pried off with a halligan or Rex Tool. The reason for this is that the pivoting arm on the back side of the cylinder hits small tabs on the  edges of the electrical box. The tabs are why it says on the front of the lock face that you must have the key in order to open the lock, when the key is inserted into the key way and it is turned the pivoting arm turns and is able to fit past the tabs on the electrical box. To pry the face plate off is not difficult, these tabs on the electrical box are light gauge galvanized metal that will bend quite easily with a little pressure with a prying tool.

Operating the gate

Once the face plate has been removed and pried out you can operate the gate. Directly behind the pivoting arm is a limiting switch with a simple button to operate the gate up and down, there is one button on each side of the lock cylinder. You can simply use your finger (or a pencil if it makes you feel more comfortable) to push the button and activate the door. If you look at the face plate you may be able to tell what side the limiter switch is for "Up" and what one is for "Down" by the words on both sides of the lock cylinder. If no words indicating what side is "Up" are present simply try pushing one side, if it does not work it means that it is the other side. Keep in mind that you are dealing with live electrical wires so extreme caution must be taken not to touch any wires, if you use the proper techniques and give any electrical component the respect it deserves than that should not be a problem.

Also remember to take a thorough look at the gate and properly size it up. If there are additional locks on the door such as traditional pin, hasp, and padlock assemblies, then these locks must be removed before this entry method can be performed.

In some instances these gates are also locked from the inside or the electrical switch no longer works, in these instances the gate or door will have to be cut with a power saw.

Also be sure to check with your departmental SOP's and SOG's before performing this entry method, some departments have policies against members touching an electrical equipment such as this.

This is an extremely quick and effective method for forcing entry and it causes very little damage. The best way to prepare for these types of forcible entry situations is to pay a visit to the company in your city or town that install these electric gate openers, ask them to run you through the most common types that they install in your area.

Till next time, stay safe!

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Modular Cribbing - By: Mike Tesarski

One thing I've always liked about the Fire Service is the ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome problems. If you give a firefighter a problem you can be assured they will come up with an answer. I have always found it interesting to visit firehouses across North America and see different tools and equipment that have been modified or made “in-house” to solve a specific problem that the department or crew faced.

One such homegrown invention that firefighters have come up with is known as modular cribbing.  This invention came from the Mississauga Extrication Team in 1997, when the need for speedy vehicle stabilization was needed with limited manpower.

After trying a few versions of this cribbing the final product was perfected.  Modular cribbing is 6 4x4 wood cribs that are divided into two separate modules and screwed together firmly on two rubber mats (conveyor belt). Using a more solid piece of rubber allows the crib to be slid into space and rotated with ease. Each 4x4 is spaced 4 inches apart. This allows two tiers of 3 4x4 box cribbing to be stacked. This also allows for the two sheets of cribbing to be stored as one solid piece. Both pieces are held together with a metal bar slid through the middle where holes are drilled.  A handle made of a piece of seatbelt nailed to the end makes this easy to take off a truck shelf and carried to the scene.

To deploy the modular cribbing is a simple process. The cribbing point is selected and then the metal pin can be pulled, this separates the 2 individual modules allowing them to be stacked in opposite directions in place underneath the vehicle or what ever is going to be lifted. 

Another tremendous advantage of the modular cribbing is that because the cribs are tied together with the rubber matting it helps prevent the cribbing stack from slipping or inadvertently moving during extrication or lifting operations. The belting also provides a fantastic and stable platform for air bag operations

One point of contact on a 4x4 crib will hold approximately 6,000 pounds of force. With nine points of contact this cribbing will support up to 54,000 pounds which is ideal for stabilization of large vehicles or heavy machinery. Airbags can be used on top of the modular cribbing with ease and stability.

Having used this type of crib in competition and in "real life" scene I can tell you that it is extremely useful and quick.

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More About Nozzles - By: Mike Kirby

This is a debate that plagues the fire service. Most of the personal "experience" or "knowledge" from this debate stems from lack of knowledge or understanding of the simple principle that GPM (properly applied) puts out fires. Some believe that pressure is what we should be concentrating on. Firefighters start out in their "firefighter" schools, where ever that may be, and learn about the nozzle they have there and then go to work somewhere and only learn about the nozzle they use there or the one that that person tells them is the end-all-be-all of the fire service. Few firefighters are aware of what is available to them, what each one actually flows under live conditions, heat absorption characteristics, etc. If all you have ever used is a combination nozzle, you have probably never flowed a smooth bore hooked to a GPM gauge to see the flow and experience the difference in pull back pressure.


The problems with all new tools / nozzles / methods of going to work is that it is change and fire fighters have to be more resistant to change than any other culture or group of people on this planet.

We need to make sure we educate all of our fire fighters on what they are carrying and how much water it puts out at varying pressures and with various lengths of hose. I'm not a personal fan of the adjustable or combination nozzle whether its a fixed gallonage or automatic. This nozzle has been used in the 5 fire departments I have worked for. Its generally not the tool, but how you use it I always say. Fires still go out in these 5 places. Some maybe not as effectively as others due primarily to GPM delivered. I personally prefer the smooth bore nozzle. It is simple, won't clog and is inexpensive. Next I prefer the vindicator. Both the smooth bore and vindicator can put out a very high GPM flow from an 1-3/4" fire line. One costs about $150 and the other around $800. The CFD recently has started phasing in an Elkhart Chief 250 gpm @ 50 psi to replace the outdated Task Force Tips. The TFT's were automatic type nozzles with a complicated pressure control mechanism. These nozzles just don't work right anymore due to the age, wear and lack of maintenance on the internal pressure control mechanism. The Chief nozzle selected flows comparable to the Vindicator, but gives the "hard head" fire fighter the option to have a fog or straight stream. The reasons the "hard heads" don't like the vindicator ring true for a smooth bore as well. "I need the "fog" stream to ventilate". We made sure we found a combination nozzle that allowed them to have fog for ventilation and other scenarios that also flowed a lot of GPM from a 1-3/4" fire line.


I'm an advocate of I don't care what you or your department uses, just know its limitations, how much water it can put out with it in GPM and how it reacts to line kinks, long lays, reduced pressure situations, etc. You need to do this with a flow meter. If you cant get a flow meter, ask a sales representative to bring a nozzle out for you to demo and flow and while flowing that nozzle, flow your current nozzle alongside of it.

GPM properly and rapidly applied puts out fires. There is no greater live saving action on the fire ground than to put out the fire and stop all the bad things going on inside the building. (sorry truckers....)


Mike Kirby- Cinncinati Fire Department Engine Co. 12

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Never Forget

Please take time today to remember the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City, Washington DC, and Shanksville PA.  Also, take a moment to remember and thank the members of our Armed Forces that have been working since that day to keep us safe. 


FDNY 343

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