Friday, April 29, 2011

Safest, Most Effective Path of Least Resistance - Attack and Forcible entry issues


It is interesting to note that many of the paths of least resistance for fire spread are also the main routes of attack / egress. This is where the major focus of the firefight is often concentrated. If these common (for lack of a better term) areas are surrendered to the fire, both egress and attack routes will be blocked and need to be altered, complicating the issue. This may turn evacuations into rescues, and delay attack as lines are either abandoned for the need of more water (bigger lines) or re-routed (to alternate routes of attack or to exterior attack positions). Operational modifications take time and place more life in danger, both firefighter and civilian. For this reason, the Incident Commander must be prepared to do whatever is necessary to win the battle for the paths of least resistance in the building.


Forcible entry is an operation where the more common paths of least resistance may be unavailable for one reason or another either due to barriers or safety concerns. Often, the Entry team will have to improvise. Utilizing the mantra of the safest, most effective path of least resistance can often lead to the best (and safest) decision on how to enter a building. For instance, the front door is usually the path of least resistance both into and out of the building. If that door is heavily fortified and the situation is minor, it may be easier and less damaging to enter via a window than to try to defeat the door. Reconnaissance may even reveal a less heavily fortified door at the rear or sides. Although this may not be the closest door to the street, it may still be the most effective path of least resistance. It is easier and quicker to force a wood side or rear door than to waste time and manpower trying to force an impenetrable front door. By the time, the door is forced, it may be the only thing left standing. In the hallways of fire resistive buildings, the door may be steel set in a steel frame, but the wall may be sheetrock or even concrete block. In many cases, especially if a hydraulic forcible entry (rabbit) tool is not available, it is easier and less time consuming to breach the wall, reach in and unlock the door. Be flexible in your decision-making. At a residential high-rise fire in North Bergen, New Jersey, oxygen cylinders that were used for medicinal purposes were exposed to a fire that originated on a couch. When a cylinder exploded, it blew out the sheetrock hallway wall and the glass balcony doors. The steel apartment door was left intact. The explosion took the paths of least resistance.

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