One of the most precarious moments in vertical ventilation operations is the transition on or off the roof from/to the ladder that got you there. Loss of balance, disorientation due to smoke/fire conditions, wet/icy roofs, movement of the ladder, and fatigue all come into play as potential hazards. Here are a few thoughts on making these transitions successful:
- Recognize the hazard. Don’t get too focused on what you’re going to do when you get there that you miss the hazard of getting there. It's like driving: you can’t fight fire if you don’t get there in one piece. Stay focused.
- Work as a team. If at all possible this should be a two firefighter activity, with one grounding the ladder from below or above to maintain a stable platform and assist with the transition.
- If you CAN’T work as a team due to staffing or arriving late to the party (in this video), consider the following: A, make sure your ladder is properly footed. Sunk into the ground, concrete seam, something to make sure it's not going to move on you. B, as you approach the roof line, make a plan. Look for the most stable side to transition to. C, get rid of any tools you can or secure them. In this case I had a super awkward transition onto a peak section leading to a flat roof. I threw my hook, had my axe in a truck belt, and my saw secured with a strap over my shoulder. D, make your move deliberately. The equipment will want to throw off your balance and equilibrium, so make sure your momentum is toward a point of stability. E, regroup away from the edge.
- To transition OFF the roof when the work is complete, remember point #1. You’re tired. The physiological effects of adrenaline dump are in full swing. TAKE YOUR TIME. I’m also a big fan of lowering saws off the roof with a rope so you don’t have to carry them down. Do whatever you can to minimize the hazards. There should be no excuse for making the journey alone at this point, so wait for help from below or the rest of the roof team.