Tactical Safety: Hallway Hints
There are two types of hallways: one is public, the other private. Public hallways are common to apartment houses and other types of multiple occupancy dwellings. The style of public hallway and the amount and location of occupancy doors can yield hints as to layout of the unit. Just like the interior hallway of a house, hallways yield information on room positioning; you must study these hallways as they relate to the occupancy to see what information they can reveal.
In apartment houses, not all floors have the same layouts. With some apartment houses, you may find stores occupying a portion of first or ground floor. This variation of first floor layouts is common to buildings that are in commercially-zoned areas. Above the first floor, in apartment houses, is where layouts tend to follow a set pattern: room configurations may vary, however kitchens and baths are usually stacked above each other simplifying reference points.
Buildings that have their stairway located only a short distance inside the building – directly in line with the main entrance and hallway – often have floor layouts that remain constant on all floors, including the first floor. Buildings that have a center hallway on the first floor, with the stairway at the rear, will usually have a different hallway layout above the lobby floor. This will often change the shape and number of occupancies above the first floor. With this type of layout, the units above the first floor typically remain consistent.
If entering a residential building lobby and the elevator is located between two wings of the building, it is more than likely that the hallway above covers the width of the building – and provides access to all the occupancies on the floors above. In some homes, there may only be a dedicated hallway on the second floor adjacent to the stairway leading to all rooms on that floor and any stairs going above. In some apartment buildings, adjacent doors lead to occupancies that are mirror-images of each other.
Interior hallways are usually the ‘guide post’ to the additional portions of the occupancy, especially bedrooms. The common hallway in a residential occupancy can be your best friend or your worst enemy if you do not pay attention to a few details: Is the first doorway off the hallway to an open room or is there a door to that space? Is the hallway passable for firefighters in two directions? Is the first area (of refuge) out of the hallway very far away? Is there a clear path or are large obstructions such as stacked objects or furniture lining the hallway?
When we enter the occupancy, we truly have no idea what is ahead of us. All we can do is to get low, hope for a bit of smoke lift and proceed toward the origin of the fire. Part of the way firefighters locate recognition objects is by prior hallway layout knowledge. Whether in an apartment buildings or a private home, hallways can provide hints that help us along our dark journey and assist us in being tactically safe.
Tactical Safety will resume in late January 2011. Thank you for your readership and support.
Sincerely, Ray McCormack
Keep Fire in Your Life
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