Submit Your Close Call / Near Miss
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
On Wednesday, July 14, 2010 the Collingswood Fire Department responded to several incidents due to flash flooding. We had assisted numerous stranded motorists that had been caught in the flooding. Our tactics were different depending on the situation.
During one of the assists we came across a female stranded in her vehicle in knee high water. We made verbal contact and determined the best way to remove her from the hazard was to manually push her vehicle approximately 20’ in reverse to higher ground. We had her place the vehicle in neutral with the ignition off. Three firefighters took placement on the hood of the vehicle and I placed my hand on the driver’s side ‘B’ post to push the car from that point. The vehicle was a 2009 Mitsubishi Galante. Due to the height of the vehicle this placed the left side of my head even with the opened window. We began to push the vehicle and almost immediately the driver’s steering wheel air bag had deployed. This created a loud noise and stunned me, which caused me to stumble back off of the vehicle. I immediately had ringing and hearing loss in my left ear. The driver of the vehicle was assessed and found to have no injuries by my crew. I was assessed at the ER and had a follow up with a specialist the following day. It was determined that I only had temporary hearing loss from the “explosion”, and it should return in a short period of time.
We, as emergency responders, go through countless hours of training on the new technology of vehicles for fires and extrication and the dangers present from unintentional airbag deployment. To date I have never heard of air bags deploying due to water damage and have not seen any information to the emergency services community. After this incident it has caused us to do some research to see why this airbag deployed. There was no impact onto the vehicle at any time.
Through our findings it was found that the Air Bag Control Unit (ABCU), which reads the air bag sensors and triggers the ignition of a gas generator propellant to rapidly inflate the airbags, is commonly located under the driver’s seat or floor boards. This places the unit at a very low point in the vehicle which subjects it to water damage. Once subjected to water the ABCU can trigger the pyrotechnic device and cause the air bags to activate. This can happen instantaneously or even days after the flooding. There have been several documented cases as to this happening.
The pyrotechnic device which causes the air bags to activate is commonly an electrical conductor wrapped in a combustible material. The conductor becomes hot and ignites the combustible material and initiates a gas generator. This causes a loud explosion that can reach 165 to 175dB. The air bag can deploy 3,000 to 4,000 lbs per square inch of force. This “explosion” has caused several injuries to occupants and emergency responders. There have been several documented cases of hearing injuries of passengers when the air bag deploys. Injuries include ruptured ear drums, inner ear damage and permanent hearing loss. This is most common in the passenger of the vehicle who is next to the air bag.
I felt compelled to share this incident with the emergency services community to hopefully avoid any further injuries or even worse. I was very fortunate not to be struck with the air bag and not sustain any permanent hearing damage. We were also fortunate that the occupant of the vehicle was not injured. Manufactures recommendations are that, any time a vehicle is involved in a flood or has significant water damage, the vehicle’s battery be disconnected and the vehicle towed. We are changing our Department Policy to avoid this incident from happening in the future. We will be following the manufactures recommendations with disconnecting the battery and having the vehicle towed and also removing the occupants from the vehicle as soon as possible.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Firefighters respond to an explosion in a motel parking lot. Police officers make a routine traffic stop for erratic driving. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) respond to a call for a man lying unconscious on the front lawn of a suburban home.
At face value, these scenarios are little more than the stuff of the everyday lives of first responders. But a closer look reveals a far more insidious reality; namely, the ever-increasing likelihood that firefighters, police officers, EMTs and others will stumble unwittingly upon a methamphetamine lab, and into very real danger.
As of August 2005, at least 12 million people in the United States had tried methamphetamine (meth, ice, crystal, speed, tina), according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The highly addictive stimulant can be smoked, snorted, injected or taken orally, and is manufactured in the form of a crystal-like powder or rocklike chunks.
Meth is both cheap and easy to manufacture in labs that are easily assembled, dissembled and established in nearly any type of setting. The B-movie depiction of the meth addict desperately cooking up batches of the drug has expanded far beyond the setting of the seedy motel room or run-down, back-woods shack. Today, manufacture of the drug (known as cooking) knows no geographic or socioeconomic boundaries. Methamphetamine labs can, and do, surface in virtually every kind of neighborhood across the country. Cooking takes place in everything from the house in suburbia, to high-priced hotel rooms, upscale apartments and condos, public storage facilities, abandoned buildings, wooded areas, alongside highways and even in vehicles such as campers, vans and recreational vehicles (mobile labs).
Despite the fact that more than 50,000 clandestine meth labs have been dismantled by authorities since 2001, the manufacture, use and distribution of the drug is more mainstream than ever before. In a 2006 survey by the National Association of Counties, nearly half of county law enforcement officers cited methamphetamine as their primary drug problem, more than heroin, cocaine and marijuana combined.
Immediate Danger, Lasting Threat
Every aspect of the use and manufacture of methamphetamine poses extreme dangers to first responders, from confrontations with combative, agitated and unpredictable users, to the explosive potential of the cooking process, to the possible long-term health effects of chemical exposure.
The precursors for the manufacturing process are the ephedrine or psuedoephedrine found readily in many cold and allergy products. A trip to the local hardware store is all that’s required to obtain needed chemicals, such as acetone, hydrogen peroxide, salt iodine and sulfuric acid. The drug is then cooked using the most common of household equipment – stoves, camp stoves, hot plates, electric skillets, blow torches, pots, pans, coffee grinders, hand blenders, kitty litter, trash bags, plastic bottles, jars and plastic hoses and tubing. Easily obtained chemistry equipment completes the picture: beakers, graduated cylinders, funnels, condensers, flasks and disposable plastic ware.
The immediate result is a highly flammable and explosive setting. A methamphetamine cooking session gone wrong can engulf a home or other structure in flames in a matter of seconds, putting everyone in the vicinity at risk.
But the danger doesn’t end there, cautions John E. Snawder, PhD, DABT, Leader, Biomonitoring Research Team, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). “During the cook, toxic substances fill the atmosphere and residue settles throughout the area, creating the potential for injury through direct contact and through inhalation.”
The byproducts of methamphetamine processing are toxic and can be lethal, creating an insidious threat of hazardous waste sites in communities across the country. Every pound of methamphetamine that’s manufactured generates 5 to 6 pounds of hazardous waste. That waste turns affected areas into toxic dumping grounds, ending up in trash cans next to neighbors’ homes, and in alleys, along highways, in the back of vehicles, in parks and forests, and the list goes on.
Dangers to Responders
Exposure has the potential to put everyone who enters contaminated sites – often without personal protective equipment (PPE) – at risk for long-term health effects.
The danger to children, other family members and neighbors of methamphetamine “cookers” has been well-documented in the media. But far less attention has been devoted to the risk incurred by first responders and by others who might stumble upon the scene in the course of their jobs, or enter the area after a lab has been dismantled (social workers, building inspectors, code enforcement officers and others).
When a site has been under surveillance, it’s approached as a hazardous materials event. This, says Snawder, is the ideal situation; law enforcement personnel and other first responders know what they’re up against and take appropriate precautions and, after the lab is dismantled, bulk contaminants are methodically removed.
“But an EMT who responds to a call for a “meth cooker” overcome by fumes, or a police officer who responds to what’s described as an ammonia leak in a parking lot, may have no idea of the dangers that await,” Snawder explains.
Changing Hazards, New Means of Detection
The hazards of meth labs change – from the immediate dangers of fire and explosion, to those of airborne contaminants and, finally, surface contaminants (residue). “Everyone who enters the scene, from first responders to those collecting evidence to social workers, should operate on the assumption that everything in the area is contaminated,” says Snawder.
Fortunately, once a lab is dismantled, those who need to enter the structure can be protected from the remaining residue relatively easily. “Residue is likely to be found on surfaces that aren’t normally cleaned,” Snawder explains, “such as the top-side of a ceiling fan or in the ‘dust bunnies’ behind a refrigerator.”
But knowing when an area is truly safe to enter and what types of PPE-related decisions need to be made is critical. “The key is to approach the problem by sampling the dirtiest areas in an attempt to prove that they’re actually clean,” Snawder says.
To this end, Meth-Chek Kits, developed by NIOSH and sold by SKC, enable sampling of everything from clothing to counter tops to trash bags (see “Sampling for Safety”). And the benefits extend beyond the actual cook site. Snawder cites the example of the methamphetamine cook being taken into custody, and the ability to test his clothing and other personal belongings before exposing those with whom he’ll come into contact.
The Meth-Chek Kits, which are licensed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are currently commercially available, and NIOSH continues to recruit personnel for additional testing of the kits as research continues.
Heed the Signs
Awareness of the dangers associated with methamphetamine and its manufacture are on the rise. But a proactive approach is needed. The increasing popularity of meth, the ease with which it’s made and the continued appearance of labs in a wide range of unexpected locations across the country underscore this need on the part of every first responder.
An encounter with a meth lab should be viewed as a very real – and likely – possibility, regardless of the area of patrol or response. The people and the environment encountered by first responders can, and should, put first responders on high alert to that possibility, as outlined below. (See http://wwww.policeone.com/writers/columnists/ScottBuhrmaster/articles/80897 for more information).
Identifying a user: The behavior and appearance of the people initially encountered at a suspected site can be reliable indicators that a first responder has happened upon a meth lab. Specifically, methamphetamine users typically display the following:
Friday, May 21, 2010
Recently my crew went out inspecting on a inspection of a building that has been under renovation for approximately 2+ years. This was the first time that I was in the building in the last 3 1/2 years that I worked for this department. As we walked through the door, I immediately asked one of the guys to go back to the truck to retrieve the digital camera.
As you can see from the pictures the sprinkler system runs through the trusses on half of the building and under the trusses of the building which supports the second floor.
The large concrete pad that is supported by the 4 columns is what really caught my eye. Upon a closer inspection, one of the 5 original concrete columns had been removed. I don't think we would have ever expected this to be in a building such as this. This could create a huge problem for us if we were to ever enter the building under fire conditions.
New stairwells have been added approximately a 12" void space between the wall and the staircase.After a little further investigation in the building, it was found that all of the walls have been constructed this way.
From the interior of the second floor it, appears that the building at one time had a flat roof, due to the span-crete above the second floor. However from the outside, all we see is a pitched roof.
The ladder on the three pieces of wood over the stairwell really seem to add to this inspection.
We though we would pass this on. Even though this building may be one of a kind, there is that chance that someone else may have something similar in their area and prevent them from getting hurt.
Monday, February 1, 2010
At 18:45 on 1/22/10, Friendswood, TX VFD and EMS was dispatched to a major accident on one of our main thoroughfares at the county line. Here is what happened, per our observations and the PD investigation: A DWI driver in a white Chevy cargo van had stopped to turn left into a business. A lady in a 2008 Mercedes CL63 hit the back of the van at a high rate of speed, causing the van to flip onto its passenger side. The driver of the van was assisted out by a witness and then fled the scene on foot. The female driver was treated at the scene and released.
Engine 24 was the first pumper on scene, with a crew of five. Two secured hazards on the van, and myself and another FF secured hazards on the Mercedes. I used a pair of bolt cutters to cut atleast five cables around the battery, but the flashers on the vehicle were still working. One of the medics on scene said they had had a wreck with a similar car and found the cables in the rocker panel on the passenger side. We ended up popping the trunk and we found a ground wire sticking up on the right side of the trunk. Snipped it, and the lights stopped flashing.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
We responded to a odor of fuel oil in this residential structure. The first picture shows a typical door way. Check out the second picture !!! No staircase to the basement…. The pictures aren’t that great (took them with my Blackberry) but if you look closely you can see that a firefighter could be seriously injured just investigating a “routine” alarm.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Recently we had a crew of firefighters on State Street working to wash the bridge down. In preparation for this operation, they tagged a hydrant nearby. Once the rig was set up the hydrant was opened. A very short time later firefighters looked down the block to see water freely running out of the other 2.5” connection! After shutting the hydrant down they inspected and found the end of the cap had completely broken off. That end was found down the block. No one was injured.
We always teach our new people to stand behind the hydrant once they wrap it to keep away from moving or bursting hose, traffic, and other obstacles. This is another one of those reasons why it is best to stand at the back to open the hydrant.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I was literally holding your article and reading it when an alarm of structure fire came in. It was a small fire but during a 360 S/U I found that the chimney was ready to slough off. A working fire at night might have had a different outcome. Not as dramatic as Defiance, OH, but lesson learned nonetheless. Our safety empowerment program has been extended to include first crew 360. There is always time...ya neva know.
Friday, September 25, 2009
As we all know, with post frame construction, the void space between the supporting posts is not load bearing and can be just about any material can be used between these supports. This enterprising builder apparently had an abundance of let over metal entry doors and used them to build the walls for this 80 by 190 foot building. Not a single door visible in any of the attached pictures actually opens! All are welded together to form a series of solid walls with no windows. The unusual construction is reason enough to adopt a 'defensive only' posture, but the current occupant repairs furniture and makes counter tops. The fire load includes large quantities of flammable / combustible materials and adhesives, so any fire here will be intense and spread quickly. This building should serve as a reminder that it is vital for fire fighters to know the buildings in their response area as well as the businesses that occupy them.
Friday, September 25, 2009
While we were out doing inspections, we an HVAC unit over the top of a stair well.by two pipes. Just remember it is always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and what is above you. This could pose many threats to us if the supports would fail
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
A Reno, Nev., company is promoting the idea of shrink-wrapping vacant homes in South Florida, according to a story on The Real Deal Miami.
Fast Wrap promotes shrink-wrapping as protection and weatherization for such things as boats, motor homes, furniture and shipping containers.
The process could protect unfinished South Florida construction projects from molding wood and rusting metal in the subtropical climate, according to the story, which said Fast Wrap recently opened a branch in Dania Beach, "conveniently close to a slew of foreclosed homes."
"It has the same shape of a house -- we have heat inhibitors, UV inhibitors -- it looks like a plastic house," Fast Wrap's Mike Enos said in the story. "Once it's wrapped, not only do we keep the neighborhood out of it, we keep any undesirables out of it as well -- an uninhabited residence attracts a lot of nuisances."
Enos told The Real Deal that his company has wrapped three homes in the past several months and is working with a group in Pennsylvania to begin wrapping 240 homes in the Northeast.
As for the appearance issue, Enos asserted a wrapped house would look better than a deteriorating, abandoned one, and most of those wrapped would be incomplete homes in construction developments.
Hat tip to the Wall Street Journal's Developments blog.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
-- Honda Motor Co. said on Friday that it is recalling another 440,000 vehicles -- including some of its best-selling Accord and Civic models -- for a potentially lethal airbag defect.
Honda said that the airbag inflators in some of its top-selling sedans can rupture because of too much air pressure causing metal fragments to shoot through the airbag and strike vehicle occupants.
One fatality and a number of injuries have been linked to the defect, Honda spokesman Sage Marie said.
The recall covers certain 2001 and 2002 Accords, 2001 Civics and some 2002 and 2003 model Acura TL sedans. The driver's side airbag is the defective component on the affected vehicles.
Honda said owners of those models can check to see if their vehicle is covered by the recall by checking the automaker's Web site at www.owners.honda.com/recalls.
The Japanese automaker said it was encouraging owners to wait until they received a recall notice to go to a dealership and have the inflator for the steering-wheel airbag replaced.
Honda had originally announced that it would recall some 2001 Accord and Civic sedans for the defect last November.
The notice issued on Friday added another 440,000 vehicles to the recall.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Not even under fire conditions and look at the shape of this lightweight construction.
The Building is your enemy - Know your enemy - Francis Brannigan
No Building is worth the life of a firefighter - Vincent Dunn
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Under the headng of 'you can't make this up' a FF snapped these priceless pictures. This guy filled this 55 gallon drum with gasoline in his van. (Notice the secure rope holding the drum in place). Next time you pull up to a vehicle incident of any kind, remember these pics. (gasoline produces 126,000 BTU's/gallon!!!!) Thanks to Dave W at SUNY Dutchess for these.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Our Fire Dept. responded to a call of a possible house explosion. The residents in the area all stated that there was a loud explosion and they thought for sure that it was a house explosion. After driving up and down the roads for what seemed to be 15 minutes, an ambulance crew from came across something unusual and asked us to take a look at it. We had a State Trooper with us, both he and I figured out that it was firework related and we called separate contacts on bomb teams. His contact told him about the use of sparklers to make bombs. We used the Trooper's cell phone to go online and look it up on Google. Sure enough it is exactly what we had. I have included several photos for your viewing. This one was fairly harmless since it was lit in a open field. They had placed it in a plastic bag of packing peanuts and lit it off, and it blew the debris over a 20'+ diameter, but remember the sound was extremely loud. I would encourage you to Google sparkler bombs and view some of these videos. Some of them have included placing the bomb in a washer machine and blowing it to pieces. They take sparklers and wrap them tightly with tape and then use one sparkler for a fuse. The more sparklers they use the more damage it creates. I thought it might be helpful to share my experience with everyone.
Friday, July 10, 2009
STUTTGART, GERMANY - In addition to the PRE-SAFE crash detection system on the Mercedes-Benz ESF 2009 S400 Hybrid experimental safety vehicle and the car's "inflatable metal" structure, there's also a full range of bags and bolsters to protect passengers in the event of a crash.
Among the more interesting ones highlighted in the video below: the ESF's "braking bag."
The braking bag is exactly what it sounds like: a specially designed airbag that lives on the underside of the vehicle and deploys when the PRE-SAFE system determines that a collision is imminent. Located just forward of the front axle, the braking bag serves a couple of important functions--namely:
* Providing friction to slow the vehicle even further.
* Stabilizing the vehicle by providing more contact with the road.
* Minimizing the car's "dive" as it brakes, which, according to Daimler, "improves geometrical compatibility with the other party in an accident."
According to Daimler, it'll be a while before the braking bag becomes available to the public, but from what we've seen in the video it's pretty promising technology indeed.
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