Firefighter training nearing completion

By Mitchell Spence

The DeKalb Fire Department plans to complete firefighter training on use of the Sterling F4 Personal Safety Device within the next two weeks.

The Sterling F4 Personal Safety Device is a piece of equipment that is assembled before an emergency and clips to a firefighter’s belt. This allows the device to be used quickly and effectively to help save a firefighter’s life.

To prep, a firefighter attaches one end of the system to a firmly secured point in a room and the other to his belt. He can then climb out a window.

Jeffrey McMaster, assistant chief of administration and training, said the equipment is used to help firefighters in extreme situations by allowing them to exit buildings 30 to 40 feet from the ground through a window and repel on a rope to the ground safely.

“We’ve gotten great feedback about [the Sterling F4 Device]. The firefighters feel very confident with it,” McMaster said.

McMaster estimated the equipment cost about $4,000 to purchase the devices, but it is a one-time purchase. McMaster said previously, a firefighter tied a Munter hitch on the scene and climbed out a window using one arm. McMaster said this method was dangerous because if the hitch was tied incorrectly or the firefighter dropped the rope there could be deadly results.

“[Using the device] is a last ditch procedure to get out of a burning building,” McMaster said. “In the past we had to use a Munter hitch. Iif you don’t tie it right you fall right out of the building.”

Firefighter Christian Dagenais said in those emergency situations little details could slip a firefighter’s mind and this new device is much safer since it is ready to go at a moment’s notice.

“If you accidently let go of the F4, you stop your descent, unlike the Munter hitch,” Dagenais said. “By not having to worry about [letting go of the rope], it’s definitely comforting.”

Fire Captain Tom Murphy said the device will mostly be used when a firefighter is trying to get out of a building but all of his or her exits are gone and he or she is backed into a corner.

“Either you burn up or go out of the window,” Murphy said. “You’re on your hands and knees. All you need to do is clip onto an anchor point and to your belt.”