The topic of my article in "Firefighting" magazine February 2019 issue is window bailout. In this issue I am describing the foundation of any bailout technique – crawling out of the window on your belly head first and then locking yourself underneath the window sill using your arm and leg as hooks. Under the thermal load of a pre-flashover situation this is the only viable way out because it allows you to stay in the coolest portion of the window.
As the article is in Russian, I, as usual, will translate its most important points for my English-speaking readers.
- You only have 5-7 seconds to escape the flashover before your PPE is compromised.
- You must be able to escape regardless of the visibility – therefore always train in zero-viz.
- If heights are involved in training, professionally rigged and attended belay line is an absolute must!
- There are several methods of window bailout - onto the ground ladder, using personal escape system, using a rope (no longer considered safe), and bailout without any tools as a last resort. The choice will be dictated by what tools are available.
- Old methods of window escape that involved standing up or sitting on the window sill in order to transition simply do not work anymore in modern fires – temperature will not allow you to do that.
- Therefore, no matter what method you will end up using, your first step is always transitioning the window head first while crawling. I call it snaking out of the window. The heat of modern fires will not allow you to do anything else. You must be able to do this in zero visibility.
- Once you snake out, you must position yourself under the window sill with only one arm and one leg remaining in the window and working as a hook. The only correct way of doing this is using the rigidity of your bones, not the strength of your muscles to maintain your position. You can accomplish this by tucking the inside of your elbow and the side of knee joints into the sides of the window. This way your muscles only work to maintain the "hook" position of your leg and arm, instead of supporting your entire weight. This is the only way to maintain such position for up to 10 minutes in survival situation while waiting for help. You must be able to do this in zero visibility. I call this whole method a "spiderman".
- All specific methods of window bailout (ground ladder, bailout system, rope, tool-less) are based on snaking out and all but the ground ladder bailouts also involve doing a spiderman. So you must become proficient in zero-visibility execution of these two maneuvers first before you start learning specific methods.
- Speaking of specific methods, this is a topic for the next article.
- I do not advise using heights to train for the window bailouts in general, and specifically for snaking out and doing a spiderman. Instead, you should build a cheap and simple window prop similar to D. Pekel's design. This would allow you to practice these survival methods more frequently without having to gather a whole team to ensure belay lines.
- You can also design a makeshift prop out of what you already have. Here is an example of converting portion of a hose rack into a low-altitude window bailout prop:
- Don't forget: always full PPE and on air, always belay line if using heights and always with paper in the mask, including your first time. If you allow your students to do their first training bailout without an airpack, without mask on or in full visibility, their brains will remember exactly that and any other difficulties that you will be adding later will only be perceived as inconveniences. You are not doing them any favors by allowing them to bail without an airpack for the first time, in fact, you are rendering a disservice.
If you do understand Russian, you can either download and save a copy of the article in PDF format or you can view it right here on this page.