Archive For February 24, 2015

Parapet Practices

Parapet Practices

backsideThe back of a commercial occupancy typically provides the best roof access for aerial ladders. Less customer parking (obstruction), fewer windows and doors to work around and parapet walls are not as common. Most commercial signage and aesthetic architecture is in the front of the structure allowing for simple access to the roof in the back.

The back side of a commercial structure can also have limited access for apparatus due to an alley, loading docks, or even just trash receptacles. Newer commercial construction in neighborhoods is being held to higher standards and parapet walls may wrap the entire structure to hide the sight and sound of roof top units from neighboring residential communities


IMG_9401In short I am setting you up; there are just as many reasons the back of an occupancy will provide good access as there are reasons it will hinder operations. With that said, if we don’t prepare for the unexpected, the unexpected is what we will find when the time comes so try hitting your commercial occupancies with ground ladders in training.

When aerial access is limited at a commercial structure ground ladders are consumed quickly. Larger occupancies with built up roofs will demand more resources pure and simple. Even if a commercial occupancy has good aerial access, an aerial ladder is still only one ladder. With more resources operating on a roof with a larger footprint, the more means of access and egress must be provided. It is here is where we are seeing some of the greatest short comings in ground laddering.

Roof1Truck 1 arrives and is assigned to go to the roof on a commercial occupancy. The crew is trained to use the aerial for this operation and as the driver is setting up the stick or the bucket, the rest of the crew is assembling tools and planning for a potential flat roof vent.

With the stick up, the crew is headed up as not to delay the ventilation but when they reach the top of the wall they find a 6′ parapet and need to drop a roof ladder into place to access the deck. The already busy truck officer now makes a request to the IC to have the next in company throw a secondary means of egress for them but the parapet information is not relayed. E4 arrives, throws a 35′ from the truck to the roof and walks away. Did they improve the situation for Truck 1 with the 1 ladder?

IMG_9399 The answer is NO! In the presence of a substantial parapet wall on a flat roof, every single access/egress point will need 2 ladders to serve any purpose. One from the ground to the wall and one to transition to the roof. If you are in a department with just a couple, or no truck companies this message needs to be communicated out to all crews who may find themselves with an assignment to support roof operations by providing secondary means of egress ladders. As a whole the fire service has really latched on to roof ladders being a peaked roof tool because of the hooks. It is frustrating to see how often they can be utilized as a straight ladder on the fire ground but aren’t. It is even more frustrating when “roof” ladders are not going to flat roofs. To avoid some frustration here is a simple drill and way to proactively address it.

Find a commercial structure in your area with a parapet wall that is at least the height of a firefighter so a ladder is required to transition in full gear with tools. Park the rig and leave it so you are only accessing with ground ladders. Part one of the drill is gathering equipment; just working through how the 2, 3 or 4 of you are going to carry the 2 ladders, let alone tools needed for a ventilation operation will spark some good discussion.


Roof3Part two of the drill is the laddering. For the most part this is a text book operation with one simple change. When using a roof ladder to transition on to a flat roof throw it tip down, butt up.

IMG_9381With the roof ladder thrown butt up the firefighter climbing the ladder doesn’t have to spin the ladder at the roof to wall transition.


Given the opportunity you should get out in your districts and pre-practice not just pre-plan at these locations. Look for scuppers or other visual clues that might key you in on parapet wall height or identify locations or sides of the structure where the the parapet wall is non existent or low enough that a ladder is not required


Attack Over Supply

Attack Over Supply

Attention to detail is possibly one of the most under utilized tools in the fire service. This holds especially true when the masses begin to talk about Dragging hose, Forcing doors or Throwing ladders. The root words are pure work, not finesse. The unfortunate part is that in most cases technique, not power is the difference. In our rush to “Get’er dun” we run right past simple opportunities to make things more efficient, safer, and easier.

The idea of maintaining your forward moving line over all other line is a prime example. Just as with water moving through the line, the line moving through a building has friction loss. Floors, corners and doors can conspire against your advance, working and fatiguing you, potentially bringing it to a halt. The more hose we can get off the ground, walls and corners the easier it will move as these are those friction points.

IMG_5239                 corner

We tend to be more cognizant of this when we are working inside; positioning ourselves to keep hose to the outside of a corner and off of the wall. Before we move inside, up stairs or off a landing this same focus provides the chance to take a few seconds to save us potentially minutes of work.

Loading hose with the forward moving attack line over the supply will create a hose roller effect, drastically reducing the friction of the advance.

IMG_9371Not only do you gain from the roll of hose passing over hose, the attack hose being raised just 2 or 3 inches at that point takes several feet of hose over all out of contact with the ground.

IMG_9372For the bigger line like a 2 1/2″ a simple pretzel style set up essentially pre-loads 75′ of hose in about a 25′ space and as you can see in this picture on the initial advance about 40′ of that first length will be riding on top of other hose or out of contact with the ground.

IMG_9369The 1 3/4″ hose allows for even greater manipulation and as you can see in the picture above 100 feet of hose is preloaded and less than 2″ of elevation at a single point has about 7′ of hose out of contact with the ground and moving forward on that supply “slider”.

5Some of you may have been taught to use loops of hose to achieve the same result and in many cases they are helpful however when using lower pressure lines associated with 50psi nozzles vertical loops have the potential to collapse and become kinks if they are not being tended.

4The same loops can serve the same benefit flat on the ground without as great of the kink risk as long as you ensure the attack is running over the supply and as the line is moved forward it slides over the top of other loops and pops it self out of the kink as the diameter collapses.

1This firefighter is loading down the advancing line while he is loading the hallway putting all his advancing hose in contact with the carpet and adding the weight of all his stocked hose on top of it. A simple message on a small detail that could be a big help on your next stretch. Keep your attack over your supply!


Go Top