‘Tis the season for shopping, shopping and more shopping! Even with Black Friday, online stores and Cyber Monday thrown into the mix, the malls are still more crowded at this time of year than at any other.
Elbow to elbow, crowded.
Squeeze past the moms and dads in line for pictures with Santa, crowded.
Wait 30 minutes for a cold cup of coffee in the mall, crowded.
So much noise that you can’t hear the Muzak, crowded.
Unfortunately with the crowds, come a few pickpockets and pocketbook snatchers and package thieves. So, what can you do to cut down on the chances of getting robbed after you’ve slaved at your job to earn the Christmas money? Here are a few easy tips.
You’re done shopping and you’re home. What should you do to reduce the chances of getting burglarized?
Above all, use common sense, stay safe, and enjoy the holidays!
*Photo by Patti Phillips
Firefighters have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Walking into a house fire that could reach 1000 degrees in under a minute (that’s not a typo) or a chemical fire that may reach double or triple that temperature in seconds, while battling smoke inhalation as well, means a firefighter’s life depends on being supplied with the best equipment that money can buy. Without the proper gear, firefighters can’t stay inside a burning structure long enough to rescue victims or fight the fire successfully.
So, what is the right gear that keeps them safe and still allows them to do their jobs?
Tim Fitts, a veteran firefighter in North Carolina, and Coordinator of certification classes for firefighters and rescue squads at Guilford Technical Community College, demonstrated his gear on a 95 degree day in September. Fire isn’t selective about the weather, so it’s a good thing for us that firefighters train and work under all kinds of conditions.
The firefighter uniform is generally called ‘turnout gear’ by firefighters because they turn it inside out when not in use, so that they can step into it quickly and pull it on/up when the fire bell/siren sounds. Firefighters need to get completely dressed in about a minute, so any safe system that will speed up the process is used. Some guys pull on the boots and pants, grab the rest of the gear and finish getting dressed in the truck as it pulls out of the fire station.
The official name for the gear is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Parts of the firefighter uniform:
While on the job at a fire or rescue operation that might result in a fire, most firefighters will wear these pieces of clothing:
These three hoods are made of different fabrics: Kevlar blend, PBI/Kevlar, and Nomex.
Firefighters put a hood on before the jacket, so that it sits properly on the shoulders. They tend to wear two hoods to protect against a flashover, giving their heads the extra defense needed in the intense heat. If a flashover occurs, the firefighter will have about two seconds to get out of the building. If the hoods are not providing enough coverage, it will feel like 1000 bees stinging the ears at one time – it’s too hot to stand. It’s time to get out.
The helmets are made of thick, heat resistant plastic and often include Kevlar or Nomex flaps for the ears.
Firefighters are taught to fight fires on their knees (not while crawling) so the extra padding helps cushion the wear and tear on the knees.
In addition, the firefighters put on:
The PASS device (Personal Alert Safety System) is a personal safety device used by firefighters entering a hazardous environment – a burning building. When the firefighter does not move for 30 seconds, it makes a loud, shrill, really annoying sound, letting others in the area know that something is wrong.
The mask on the left is a newer model, the one on the right? Older. There has been an upgrade in technology for the plastic in the mask, developed because at high temperatures, the old plastic would fail (melt). It was the weakest part of the uniform. The new version will not fail as quickly.
Note that even the air tank is protected with a fire retardant fabric.
The idea is to be protected from the fire and to be able to breathe safely while he/she works. The positive pressure mask on the SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) gear keeps the toxic air out as much as possible by allowing the tank air to flow continuously, even if the firefighter is not inhaling. By the way, the tanks are full of compressed air, not oxygen.
Most of the clothes have reflective tape so that the firefighter can be seen more easily through the smoke and low light/darkness. Some departments are large enough that they use color-coded reflective tape in order to tell the full-time firefighters and the volunteers apart.
The uniforms are sized to the individual firefighters, so that when they bend over, there is at least a two-inch overlap with the fabric pieces, and no skin is exposed to the crippling, blistering heat.
Hip boots of years ago, are now old school because of the area of the body they left unprotected from heat. Now the boots have steel toes and shanks and are calf high or knee high in length.
When fully dressed, the firefighter is wearing about 70 pounds of equipment. Add more weight for the tools they have to carry – picks, axes, etc – needed to fight the fire.
After ten years, all turnout gear must be thrown away. It wears out because of repeated exposure to the intense heat and toxic elements. Many large, active fire departments dispose of the clothing after only five years, because of their more frequent use and improvements in technology.
Firefighting gear is not fireproof. It is fire retardant.
Some of the clothing has 3 layers, each layer performing a different function. People can only tolerate temperatures to 135 degrees, so the specialized fabrics extend the time available to do the job. Firefighters get very uncomfortable at 250 degrees, and the time limit for the firefighter at that point is about 30 seconds to reach someone and get out. One of the firefighters at Command keeps track of the men/women – where they are in the structure and how long they’ve been working the fire.
Nomex degrades at 400 degrees, so needs to be used in addition to other fabrics if fighting a structural fire. It tends to split when the wearer is running. When combined with Kevlar, it becomes more flexible and the fabric breathes a bit better.
PBI degrades at 1100 degrees, allowing a much better chance for the firefighter to stay safe while fighting a house blaze. It stays intact in the extreme temperatures and allows the firefighter extra time to get to a victim and then get out.
Gortex helps shed water.
Heat goes through each layer a bit at a time. Each layer is a necessary barrier, in its place to protect the firefighter and keep his body from getting hotter than is safe.
After fires, all of the clothing needs to be taken apart and washed, because everything in a fire is carcinogenic. Hmm…that means that the entire time a firefighter is working the fire, his equipment has to protect him from the flames and the smoke, as well as anything else thrown into the air, both in the active fire and in the area outside the building.
Some fire Captains insist that the clothing be stored away from the sleeping area at the station, because it may still contain toxins even after being washed. If you get a chance to visit a Fire Station, you might be able to tell where the gear is kept, before you ever reach the room. The smoky odor is sharp and unforgettable.
Cost of Basic Turnout Gear (approximate)
Tim Fitts told us about the testing going on at NC State’s College of Textiles, in the search for better, more effective, fire retardant fabrics.
To see a demonstration of how a firefighter’s uniform reacts to fire, click here for NC State’s PyroMan video:
For a demonstration of how quickly heat from a flame penetrates protective layers before reaching the skin, click here for NC State’s PyroMan animation:
Every second counts when rescuing you or your pets in a fire. We know that a simple house fire can fully engulf an 8’x10’ room in 90 seconds. That’s not a typo. If the firefighters are on the scene before that happens to the entire house, they need as much lead time as possible in order to keep a rescue operation from becoming a recovery operation. That’s when the best turnout gear on the market is worth every dime.
*Photos by Patti Phillips, taken at Guilford Technical Community College, NC, during The 2014 Writers’ Police Academy.
Thanks to Tim Fitts for generously sharing his knowledge and expertise. As of this writing, in 2014, Tim, a veteran firefighter and Fire Occupational Extension Coordinator at GTCC, was in charge of all Con Ed certification and non-certification classes in Fire and Rescue subjects to members of NC fire departments and rescue squads. Any errors in fact are mine, not his.
If you’re curious about what it takes to qualify for Firefighter Training, read “How do you become a firefighter?”
Are you a recreational shooter or do you use your firearm for self-defense? There is some disagreement even among gun enthusiasts about how often a firearm should be cleaned – anywhere from after every single use to only after 1000 rounds. But, the reason for cleaning doesn’t change: the gun should work when we need it to.
Every time the gun is fired, a pin (or hammer) strikes the primer in the bullet and causes a spark. This spark ignites the powder in the bullet and causes an explosion, which moves the bullet down the barrel of the gun. Minute bits of gunpowder and lead residue are left behind in and outside the firearm and builds up over time. Gunpowder dust? Bullet dust? A bit of both. If left on and in the firearm and ignored, the handgun will most likely lose efficiency and reliability.
Imagine driving your car for a while without getting the plugs replaced, the filters changed or the oil changed. It might still run, but not as well as if you did the regular maintenance. And, it might even stall (or not start at all) for no apparent reason when you need it the most.
Cops on TV and in the movies do have occasional scenes where their guns don’t work and a partner has to come to the rescue. There may be lots of reasons for a handgun to misfire – lousy ammo, worn parts, dirty/rusty mechanisms, blocked barrel, cheaply made – but checking the gun on a regular basis can help avoid some of the common malfunctions.
There are three basic rules for safe handling of a firearm, whether you are showing it to someone, shooting it, putting it away, or you are about to clean it, and it’s good to practice them even when you think it’s unnecessary. There are too many accidental deaths caused by people cleaning their firearms, so please take note:
1 – always point the gun in a safe direction
2 – keep your finger OFF the trigger until you’re ready to shoot
3 – keep the gun UNLOADED unless and until you’re going to shoot
When you buy the gun, pick up a cleaning kit at the same time. Cleaning kits are not expensive – $20.00 will get you a basic kit that includes the metal rods and brushes you need to clean your handgun, along with cleaning patches and patch holders. There are several types of brushes to use, but most gun owners say that a toothbrush will work to do the overall initial cleaning, and twisted bronze brushes will work best for cleaning the bore. The bore brushes come in different sizes to fit the different caliber guns. A bore brush for a .45 won’t fit a .22, etc. Check the manufacturers catalog to see which brushes you need, if you don’t already know.
An interesting tool for cleaning a firearm is a Bore Snake.
Because of its construction, it is possible to combine a couple of cleaning steps into one. The two ends (of what is essentially a very fat shoelace) are softer, with bronze bristles in the center. As the Bore Snake is pulled through (from back to front) of the bore, the soft end removes loose residue, the bronze wire on the Bore Snake loosens the more resistant grit, then the softer floss at the end pulls away the rest. It can be used with solvent, or pulled through dry.
The Bore Snake can also double as a safe storage and transport aid. If the Bore Snake is in the bore, there’s no possibility that a bullet is in the chamber.
Steps to cleaning the firearm:
1. Check to make sure that the gun is unloaded.
2. Take apart the gun.
3. Wipe down all the parts to be cleaned, using cloth rags.
4. Apply a solvent recommended by your gun’s manufacturer to the dirty areas and let it sit for 2-3 minutes.
5. Scrub the entire gun, inside and out, with a soft brush to loosen the grime.
6. Wipe the gun clean with a solvent-soaked rag and repeat if necessary.
7. Use a bore brush (or the Bore Snake) to clean the bore, being careful to start at the back and move forward through the bore, without reversing direction while inside the barrel.
8. Use the solvent to clean the bore with a cotton patch or the Bore Snake.
9. After cleaning the gun, lubricate it.
10. Grease the sliding parts of the handgun.
There are different oils and greases used during extreme weather (hot or cold) as well as in wet, humid conditions, so check with the gun manufacturer to see which product(s) will work best for your firearm.
Some military rifles are built so that cleaning supplies can be stowed in a special compartment in the stock.
We hear every once in a while about people shooting themselves while cleaning their firearms, sometimes with deadly consequences. It would seem impossible for these tragedies to occur if following standard gun safety rules, but sadly, people don’t always do that.
The best policy is to assume the gun is loaded and check each and every time before you clean it, to make sure you don’t shoot yourself or somebody else.
*First photo – (disassembled Glock) – from Wikipedia
Other photos by Patti Phillips
Photo of Glock with Bore Snake taken at Freedom Firearms Training, in Carthage, NC. Many thanks to Steve Jones and his staff for allowing me to visit during one of his concealed/carry permit classes.
Steve Jones is an experienced NRA firearms instructor and is the owner/operator of Freedom Firearms Training.