Operational Safety on Fire Escapes

Operational Safety on Fire Escapes

Lessons from the Fireground: August 09, 2010- NIOSH F2010-25  Report

Fire Fighter Dies from Fall off Fire Escape Ladder – Illinois

 

Make some time today to read the Lessons from the Fireground from NIOSH Report F2010-25 related to operations from fire escapes. Get your company out into the streets today or this evening and take a look at some of your buildings and the material condition of existing building features and fire escape platforms, connections, counterweights, drop ladders, treads etc. Discuss with your company or station the various conditions to look for both during day and night operations and during times in which smoke may obscure critical safety conditions and impact operational integrity. Think about loading considerations. from operating personnel as well as from charged hose lines and added civilians. Lots to discuss, learn and share; all at the same time taking pause with remembrance and honor for Firefighter Christopher D. Wheatley, Chicago Fire Department (IL)

Firefighter Christopher Wheatley, CFD

 

Firefighter Christopher D. Wheatley, Chicago Fire Department (IL)

Firefighter Wheatley and his ladder company were dispatched to a structural fire in a four-story commercial and residential structure.

Upon their arrival, firefighters observed smoke and sparks coming from a cooking exhaust fan chute.

Firefighter Wheatley ascended a ladder attached to the side of the building to gain access to the roof.

He was wearing full structural firefighting protective clothing, including a SCBA.

He also carried a water fire extinguisher with him as he climbed.

When Firefighter Wheatley reached the roof, he lost his grip and fell 53 feet to the ground.

Firefighter Wheatley landed on his feet and immediately dropped to the ground.

Firefighter Wheatley was treated by firefighters and transported to the hospital. He was pronounced dead at the hospital due to multiple injuries.

Please take the time to review the Lessons from the Fireground of this LODD and apply them to your company, battalion, division or organization.

 

View form the street- NIOSH Photo

View form the street- NIOSH Photo

 

 

 

Alpha-Delta Side with Upper Straight Ladder to Roof

 

Contributing Factors from NIOSH Report

  • Using a fire escape to access the roof rather than a safer means such as an aerial ladder or interior stairway
  • Victim unable to maintain contact with the vertical portion of  fire escape due to carrying the hand pump.

Key NIOSH Recommendations

  • Ensure that standard operating guidelines (SOGs) on the use of fire escapes are developed, implemented, and enforced
  • Ensure that tactical level accountability is implemented and enforced
  • Ensure that companies are rigorously trained in safe procedures for roof operations and climbing ladders of any type
  • Ensure that fire fighters are rigorously trained in safe procedures for carrying and/or hoisting equipment when ascending or descending elevations
  • Evaluate the fire prevention inspection guidelines and process to  ensure that they address high hazard occupancies, such as restaurant, and incorporate operational crew participation.

 

Take the necessary precautions while utilizing these building features to enhance operational flexibility and fire and rescue effectiveness. Photo CJ Naum

 

Operational Considerations from FiregroundLeadership.com

  • IF the fire escape looks unstable, is deteriorated or has evidence of being unsound: Use alternative access means-Don’t use the exterior fire escape for access or operations
  • Based on building use and condition, some cast-iron, wrought-iron and steel fire escapes may have weathered deteriorated or missing components and parts. Use care and implement effective situational awareness while ascending or working from landing platforms.     
  • The presence of deteriorated or  compromised attachment and fastening hardware, brackets, angle iron and connectors is highly probable.
  • Use caution when pulling down a drop ladder from above.
  • Be cautious of loose steel  components, grating, stringers, treads, rails, counterbalances as well  as façade building materials that may drop downward when initially pulling a ladder or accessing a stairs.
  • Use caution when initially accessing and placing body weight onto ladder steps and rungs, landings and rails. Be prepared for unexpected conditions and reactions.
  • The placement of charged handlines will add significant weight to the fire escape system that may already be load stressed. DonÂ’t overload with personnel or handlines.
  • Be aware of added live and dead loads and their combined effect on the system integrity.   
  • Be aware of the horizontal forces  and loads that a charged handline may apply to railings.
  • Look for tenant furniture or other materials that may have been placed or stored on upper escape landings. Watch for and anticipate potential for dropped objects.
  • Well-holes  may be deteriorated leading to successive grated balconies and provide limited space to pass through with PPE and carried equipment.
  • When ascending stairs or exterior attached ladders and goose neck transitions over roof parapets, edges onto the roof deck, keep both hands free: utilize equipment bags, slings, harness or drop ropes to carry, secure or obtain required tools, equipment or appliances.
  • Weather and environmental conditions will change operational risks: slippery walking/ working surfaces, platforms and railings, falling ice, and added loads will increase risk and diminish safety margins.
  • Be extra vigilant and cautious during night operations, since the lack of visibility may not identify weakness or hazards; use personal flashlights  and lamps and when time permits, have apparatus mounted spot lights directed to the fire escape and building façade.       
  • Fire escapes can be readily found on numerous buildings of heritage and legacy construction. They provide indispensable life safety for their occupants and ready accessibility for fire companies.  
  • Take the necessary precautions while utilizing these building features to enhance operational flexibility and fire and rescue effectiveness.

 

The presence of deteriorated or compromised attachment and fastening hardware, brackets, angle iron and connectors is highly probable. Use caution when pulling down a drop ladder from above. Photo CJ Naum

 

 

Fire Escapes come in all sizes. Photo CJ Naum

 

Additionally, the following NIOSH LODD is provided related to roof operations and transitioning from tactical positions for task assignments.

Career Fire Fighter Dies in Fall from Roof at Apartment Building Fire – New York

  • F2007-19 http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/pdfs/face200719.pdf

SUMMARY

On June 21, 2007, a 23-year-old male career fire fighter (the victim) died after falling from the roof at a four-story apartment building fire. When fire fighters arrived on scene, light smoke and fire was showing from a 4th floor window. The victim had just climbed the truck ladder to the roof bulkhead and was attempting to lower himself to the main roof when he fell. The roof saw (slung on the victim’s back) shifted causing the victim to lose his balance and fall to the ground. Fire fighters had been on scene less than 3 minutes when the victim fell. The victim was transported to a metropolitan hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. Key contributing factors to this incident include: judgment of the fire fighter in deciding on a riskier means of moving from the roof bulkhead to the main roof, the placement of the ladder against the roof bulkhead rather than the main roof which introduced additional fall risks for fire fighters, the hazardous task of climbing a ladder while laden with tools and equipment, and the method in which the saw was carried which allowed the shifting saw to put the fire fighter off balance.

NIOSH has concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should:

  • stress to fire fighters the importance of exercising caution when working at elevation
  • consider the location and placement of aerial ladders to prevent fire fighters from climbing from different elevations during fireground operations
  • consider the use of portable scissor ladders to facilitate access from an aerial ladder to the roof
  • ensure that fire fighters communicate any potential hazards to one another and ensure that team continuity is maintained during roof operations
  • evaluate the manner in which equipment is harnessed or carried by fire fighters to prevent loss of balance
  • consider reducing the amount of equipment that fire fighters must carry while climbing ladders

Manufacturers of fire service saws should:

  • consider ergonomic design principles to reduce the weight of ventilation saws
  • consider developing improved carrying slings

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