Biddle's Corner

Year Round Dangers

Written by L. James Biddle Monday, 10 July 2017 07:21

When a Delaware County-fire pager shared an alert message telling of Carbon Monoxide alert, a passerby hearing this report commented, “Why can there be a “CO” alert this time of the year. Who has their home heater working in 90-degree weather?”

What is Carbon Monoxide “CO”?

This colorless, odorless gas is produced by burning any material that contains carbon. Examples of these fuels are those of wood, natural or bottled gas, and oil. This CO gas cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. Also, its poison traits can cause brain damage and death.

Source of CO are often forgotten

The comment calmly shared by the Newtown Square firefighter shed some enlightening information about the odder-less, killer product of many forms of combustion.  The local firefighter explained that in some homes, the domestic water heating is done by a water heater connected to the oil-fired home heating system.  In the summer, while the furnace part of the combination is dormant, the oil-heated home water is heated by a portion of this combination system.

The key concept in the production of this killer gas is many forms of combustion. These fumes can come from a gas or oil fuel water heater, an indoor cooking appliance, a gas fueled clothes dryer, or on a chilly night, an improperly vented fireplace being used to reduce a seasonal chill.

Other possible warm weather causes of CO

There are other seasonal projects that create this killer gas.  A poorly placed gas or charcoal cooker, or any non-electric home heating system can become a source of carbon monoxide if used with no pre-seasonal, preventative inspection.

Also, there have been instances when a quick stop at home becomes interrupted by a telephone call.  This type of phone call can distract the driver; instead of returning to the car with its engine running, the car remains unattended and Carbon Monoxide can make its way into the living area of the home.  This collection of the possible fatal gas is a danger to all forms of life within the structure.


The symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning




Flu-like symptoms and fatigue


What to do if Carbon Monoxide is suspected

Leave the suspected trouble areas.   Make sure any persons who many need evacuation help are provided this assistance.  Cordless or cell phones must be used to contact 9 1 1 from a preplanned external, safe location. This report to seek help will tell of the possible problem and the meeting location of the evacuated occupants of the structure.


The Newtown Square Fire Company has a collection of special safety equipment used to locate the sources of Carbon Monoxide and other dangerous fumes. In additional to these special safety tools, they also wear protective firefighting gear that is another form of protection for these skilled, community protectors.

Chief Doug Everlof has shared some simple, but wise thoughts,  “Avoid the temptation to return to any area that has experienced Carbon Monoxide.  Only when the dangers have been corrected, follow the instructions of the safety personnel before any return.”


Follow the Message

Written by L. James Biddle Friday, 07 July 2017 07:57

As many workers were driving to work or when travelling later Wednesday, July 5, they learned the news telling of a preventable fatality in a Bensalem, Bucks County fire.   In the broadcast of this morning news story and carry-over coverage in the midday television and daytime news, there was a special message often heard by Delaware County residents.

The message shared by the Bensalem fire official duplicated a life-safety suggestion offered many times by Newtown Square Fire Company Chief Doug Everlof.   The life of the 39-year-old, Bucks County resident was lost in the fire because she re-entered the burning home to rescue a pet.

Chief Everlof has many times volunteered, “Please remember the important saying in any kind of fire—Get Out, Call Out, and Stay Out.

Once out of a fire area, everyone must avoid the temptation to return to a burning area.  Many lives have been lost in attempts to rescue lives of family members, friends, or pets.  It is common to learn the feared-lost people or pets will have made their way out of the building.

A companion reminder has again been shared by Chief Everlof.  He volunteered, “Whenever the above safety message is shared, always go and stay at an established, reinforced safe, special, and four-season meeting location.”



Training Displays Firefighter Rescue Skills

Written by L. James Biddle Friday, 07 July 2017 07:53

The targets of the ongoing training of the Newtown Square Fire Company are traditionally focused on all members of the local 100-plus year community life- and property-saving organization.  This was demonstrated by a recent educational exercise. As both a challenge for upcoming training evaluations for current students attending a current Rescue Intervention Team (RIT) training program as well as the remainder of the Newtown Square Fire Company members

The background for details about this potential, life-saving RIT process and some specifics behind the RIT-member’s skills and activities are included in an earlier feature provided by the Newtown Square Fire Company

This recent RIT training was directed by Engine Captain Chris Young. This realistic education session was held within the local fire station located on North Newtown Street Road. Every part of the exercise duplicated similar events in a typical fire, with one exception.

That single exception was the sound of a telltale, warning sound from a Personal Alert Safety System (PASS Device).  This lifesaving, alert tool is assigned to the portable breathing apparatus used by local fire fighters.  This current safety device senses when the firefighter is not able or capable of moving.  A very identifiable sound from changes both the mood of the other firefighters as well as beginning a special rescue focus by a set of firefighters—crew members of the RIT.

Captain Young replicated the blinding of the RIT members would experience in a smoke-filled area.  By covering the by covering the face masks of the combined RIT members, this team was required to do a thorough search for the source of the alerting device.

This combination of the response to an immediate alerting sound “screaming” through blinding conditions that parrot what would be experienced in a realistic search for a “downed” firefighter.  Using their individual experiences in firefighting, several investigations were used as these RIT members found a louder path to the missing sound source

Controlling their adrenaline demands, these dedicated, specially-skilled firefighters continued to move in their quest for this “missing person’s warning sound source.  This goal found the stranded pseudo firefighter, a 180-pound stuffed training dummy.  He was located under a bunk in the upper floor sleeping area of the fire station.

The successful radio message alerting the training commander of this discovery and rescue was welcomed information shared by all the attendees at the evening training.   Chief Doug Everlof added, “This location, and ‘life saving effort’ is a reward for team training and RIT efforts”

Knowing the Meaning of Signs

Written by L. James Biddle Wednesday, 05 July 2017 12:08

As the summer months become a time for driving vacations or other travels, it is a common practice that s local-based driver may be faced with some roadside signs that are not instantly determined. The Newtown Square Fire Company advises, “If these travels are outside the United States, there will possibly including metric measures and speed indications.”

Triangular signs are commonly used to draw attention to special warnings and indications of possible hazards or nearby threats.



Highly Flammable Liquid Sign

Danger Highly Flammable Gases Sign

Danger Solvents Sign

Sulfuric Acid Sign

Danger Highly Flammable LPG Sign

Highly Flammable Store Sign

Danger Caustic Sign

Dangerous Chemicals Sign

In addition to the signs, above, in this listing, there are other Informative Signs available.

Flammable Gas Sign

Corrosive Sign Risk Sign

Danger Highly Flammable Material Sign

Danger Acid Sign Dangerous When Wet Sign

Entering a hazardous area Sign

Flammable Sign

Risk of Corrosion Sign

Ammonia Sign

Hazardous area Sign

Biological Hazard Sign

Danger Corrosive Sign

Compressed Gas Sign

Danger Toxic Sign

Hazardous Waste Sign

Dangerous Fumes Sign

What began as a symbol for poisons — the Skull and Crossed Bones — was viewed by many as being ineffective.  An alternative Poison signage has become very informative

The facial image of Mr. Yuk promptly tells the proper message.




Rescue Skill Training Explained

Written by L. James Biddle Monday, 03 July 2017 11:22

The Newtown Square Fire Company has been undergoing multiple purpose training sessions that were spawned by social and living style changes.  This life-saving training has had its growth in these constantly changing life styles


As the commercial, residential, and vehicular, activities busy Newtown Square fire and rescue personnel find the increased materials in each emergency calls are synthetic products.  They have replaced a onetime dependence upon natural materials. These newer, manufactured materials have created new safety challenges, as well as new forms of operations.

The initial sound. The smoke in early steps of today’s fires activates building’s fire alerting devices.  The telltale wail of the alerting sound from a structural Smoke Detector is a welcome sound that initiates the saving of lives.

There is also a second sound—one that may be heard later in a fire. This unwanted warning sound has a differing function, one that alerts of a second type of an emergency.  This alerting sound may have its origins in a special, alerting device that be activated by an injured, immobile, or unconscious firefighter/rescuer working in a search for a non-located occupant or trapped person or extinguishing the fire.

The source of this second, emergency sound comes from the special PASS Device. This four-letter abbreviation describes a valuable alerting device—Personal Alerting Safety System.  This alert source aids locating a trapped, injured, or otherwise disoriented or immobilized firefighter or rescuer.

This device in its more recent application has become a traditional part of the Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) that provides a safe, source of compressed air which permits firefighters to work in a normally unsafe and often a dangerous environment.


It is a common practice for firefighters to find themselves working in specific tasks that can quickly grow into unexpected levels of risk.  The secret that promises a hoped for a wanted, positive outcome is having an on-call rescue team— the Rapid Intervention Team (RIT).  These special firefighters are skilled, properly equipped and trained to locate and remove the trapped/injured firefighters.  There are pre-determined events when a is placed in service   RIT should be placed in service when requested by the emergency’s Incident Commander when it is considered this team is neede

Also, any time firefighters are ”on air” (using a compressed air system, a.k.a. SCBA) inside a structure or a hazard area there should be an RIT in service.  The RIT is to remain in service until released by the Incident Commander.

RIT members must be guide by the AWARE concept:

Air separate air supply for victim

Water supply to protect the rescue and withdrawal

A Radio frequency established for the victim

Extrication tools needed to withdraw the victim

RIT members will be expected to operate under well established, determined rules. They must be under direction of the Incident Commander or an alternately determined leader.  Without rules there would be chaos.


Every activity and responsibility of RIT team members is to locate and stabilize in any appropriate ways that will aid in a prompt and safe removal of a trapped or injured emergency service member.

These members will not do any firefighting, except any needed to aid and transport the emergency service member.  RIT teams traditionally have a minimum of two members of the team, with more if required.  No one leaves this responsibility until relieved.

When available, the RIT will obtain a safety-firefighting water hose from a pumping source not used in primary firefighting. This assures a constant, emergency source of water.   A collection of specific RIT tools should be carried to a safe location that is near the incident

To help assure uninterrupted emergency communications during an RIT activity, a separate radio frequency should be established for this RIT operation; an assurance of emergency communications is a primary tool.

Newtown Square firefighters have been trained to provide a collection of trained RIT specialists.  Currently, additional firefighters are being schooled to increase the local pool of RIT-qualified service providers.  The current methods used in safe firefighting are not all the once-traditional tools—they now are adding advanced concepts and skills.


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Danger To Be Avoided

Written by L. James Biddle Saturday, 01 July 2017 17:07

In addition to the dangers from fires and damages that have their origins from non-professional fireworks are injuries felt by children “playing” with the seemingly innocent handheld sparklers.  Why do the young eyes enjoy the enhancing, glowing vision?  The curious children, as well as their family, are not aware these dangerous, burning temperatures of these dangerous “sparks” of hot, burning metal particles of sparkler’s glowing material have serious dangers..

A burning sparkler produces injuring, hot materials that have temperatures in the same ranges of a burning candle or a ignited match.  These glowing “sparks” can cause painful, possible long-lasting skin burns. Equally dangerous is the igniting of clothing.

The simple safety slogan taught to school-age students has hopefully been either remembered by parents from their own school days or more recently shared by school-age children.  This safety message, “Stop!  Drop! And Roll!” Is a wise safety tool that works for people of any age..

A secondary safety tool that should wisely accompany any type of fireworks is a bucket of water.  The wet contents can provide cooling and extinguishing of small, nearby burns. Also, at the end of any use of sparklers, use this water bucket to cool and extinguish any remaining burning temperatures.

Using a nearby cell phone, immediately call 9 1 1.   This form of immediate help that is provided by on-location, medical providers is a wise, emergency step.  Never attempt to use any alternative, home-provided hospital transport for any burns or injuries.

When making any determinations about the use of sparklers, the Newtown Square Fire Company has a safe alternative.  Chief Doug Everlof offered an alternative too for holiday type fun when he suggested, “Avoid using sparklers and wisely use the long lasting ‘glow sticks.’  They don’t use fire and they last for hours.”


Changes in the Fire-Rescue World

Written by L. James Biddle Friday, 12 May 2017 21:23

As America’s lifestyles have changed, these new ways of work, transportation, recreation and play everyone has experienced new activities in safety, exercising, and living styles.  These changes have also fostered many forms of different training, education, and working practices for Newtown Square Fire and Rescue activities.

Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof commented the local fire and emergency services must learn from differing and various safety sources.  These lessons come from new changes in America’s lifestyle, play, recreational activities, and new hobby and work experiences.

These life- and property-protecting services must learn from differing and various safety sources.  These lessons come from firefighting history, reviews from current events, and advances of fire-science. Also, safety has come from discoveries of stranded citizens or trapped firefighters, as well as general firefighting advance.

Before: In the 1950 era, the common footwear worn by firefighters was very like the continuing and current wader boots worm by stream-wading people fishing.  The legs and feet were kept dry.  One early advance in this era of footwear and several later generations of footwear used in fires was an insert that prevented foot puncturing piercings of the sole of the boot.

Current: The modern footwear is both supportive and protective. It appearance may look like a builder type boots, but their design and construction provides both a modern form of a sturdy method of walking on various types of construction and debris as well as general safety.

Before: In that same era, the firefighting gear was more like a rain coat and with some later changes, there were vest-like inserts that helped become a warming help in after-fire, winter temperatures.

Current: Today protective outer wear used by firefighters is a very distant cousin of that used in the mid last century.  No longer is the firefighting outerwear “just like a raincoat.” Its construction is the product of modern science.  Through extensive research, both the fabric used and its weaving pattern found in ‘bunker coats,’ the name of the top, outer wear used in fighting fires, is resistant to burning.

Some modern firefighting gear also has incorporated another fabric which permits the firefighter to crawl on floors to escape from the heat and fire in a firefighting area.  This near-floor posture is used by searching firefighters as they look for stranded occupants, as well as fighting fires.

The interior of today’s firefighting gear has insulation that remains in place both summer and winter.  In the summer, this insulation helps prevent the firefighter from being over-heated in fires.

Before: Early methods of firefighting would not encourage long exposures to the smoke and combustible gases in an interior building fire.  The earliest form of purging smoke particle was done by filter-type devices.  As the firefighter breathed, his inhaled air passed through cartridges that attempted to “capture” the unwanted smoke particles.

These devices were replaced with a device that had applications in coal mine and US Navy fires. The exhaled air and its moisture were captured in rubberized containers.  This moist air aided in the generation of breathable oxygen that sustained life for the user.

Current: Larger, lighter canisters of compressed air (filtered air, not oxygen) stored in back-borne devices replaced the chemical devices. With local, air storage master bottles and their use in the easy refilling of emptied, fire ground-emptied air bottles can be refilled. This provides firefighters with better sources of potable breathable air. Firefighting history, reviews from current events, and advances of fire-science safety has come from discoveries of stranded citizens or trapped firefighters, as well as general firefighting advance.

By having available this bottled-aided, extended air source and the time spent in fire ground rehabilitation, firefighters are much safer than even a few years ago. In explaining the contents of these breathing bottles, Newtown Square’s Chief Everlof stressed, “These bottles are filled with filtered air, not oxygen as some people think.  As this air leaves the pressurized containers, this air is somewhat cooled. This is also a benefit.”

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Looking Ahead

Written by L. James Biddle Monday, 01 May 2017 19:52

Both during their firefighting activities and in every possible community communications, the Newtown Square Fire Company members are attempting to find ways to share ways to help prevent fires. There are several damages in largely every fire.  One danger is the loss of lives and another is the loss of many differing forms of life habits and valuable possessions.

Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof volunteered one form of record keeping within a home or a business begins with an item-by-item inventory.  “How can this list be prepared?” This may be a question asked before a list of this type is begun.

One method of creating this type of list can become a family project. One person describes each item with many details as possible.   If this item is recent, there can be a copy of a sales receipt. The list dictated by the viewer can then be written by another family member.

Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof added another concept, “As more and more cellular phones can accept a spoken description, this information can be printed, stored, and shared. “

Regardless of whichever form of descriptive method is used, the local firefighters remind their neighbors, it must be constantly upgraded and maintained. Equally important is method chosen for safe storage of any methods used for information storage.

Some items may need special storage after they are listed.  Chief Everlof added fur coats or other expensive items that may require refrigeration or other items that may require secured storage.  Their listing must include where they are being kept.

Any future items that are ‘special’ or important should have sales receipts showing an appropriate description and prices.  These items must be included in the ongoing lists of items.

This inventory list must be stored in a special, safe location.  Only rarely does this valuable list need immediate sharing.  Share with family members where this list of valuable information is stored.

Chief Everlof explained, “This project is a special contribution in total family safety.”


Special Safety Steps

Written by L. James Biddle Thursday, 20 April 2017 07:11

A series of collections of local emergency alerts and a seeming increase in region natural gas leaks, steps have been taken to provide safety stops to protect the crews of the Newtown Square Fire Company.  In a post Easter e-mail messages, Chief Doug Everlof explained the simple, yet safety tools placed in service.

In this electronic message, Chief Everlof advised the crew members the two new safety tools will provide warnings about two individual, single gas levels.  These proven warning devices, tagged as “Crickets” will (a) notify dangerous levels of Oxygen (O2) and(b) Carbon Monoxide (CO) They will respond to the O2 level and CO (ppm).

Each of the two warning devices--”Crickets”-- have specific color identifiers and nomenclatures; (a) Oxygen (O2) visual identity color is Black MSA and(b) Carbon Monoxide (CO) visual coloring is Yellow BW clip

In explaining the new, multiple safety devices, Chief Everlof reminded the crew members “Crickets are not replacements for the current 4-gas meters.  Their simplicity and multiple storage locations will provide additional layers of crew safety when the firefighters are working in various levels.

The initial 4-gas meters will still be used to obtain O2, hydrogen [mono]sulfide (H2S)-an extremely hazardous gas, CO and Lower Explosive Limit (LEL%) levels on emergency incidents of a fire location.

These new, “Cricket” detectors have been clipped to the Officer seat-based Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) in the Fire Company’s Engine, Ladder, Squad and Utility Vehicle (No SCBA), as well as to the 3-Chief Officer’s personal, protective firefighting gear.

Chief Everlof added, “The single gas detectors will run continuously for 24-months and can be thrown away at the end of their life cycle.  There is no need to turn them on/off.  The CO Detectors will prompt you once every 24-hours to "zero" the sensor.”

Everlof continued, “To do this, simply press and hold the single button on the right side of the screen.  The meter will automatically zero out.

Devices of this type are rarely publicized; neither are their funding sources.   The response by the residents, commercial owners, and professional to the annual community funding appeal are the funding sources for safety devices, specific firefighting tools and emergency response apparatus.

Fire Company President Josh Potter volunteered, “Anyone finding a yet-to-be-returned funding request, or wanting to make an additional funding may do so by forwarding funding to the Newtown Fire Company, “Post Office Box 453, Newtown Square, PA 19073-0453.”

Easter Emergency

Written by L. James Biddle Wednesday, 19 April 2017 13:25

As many families may have been preparing for their Easter dinner, a collection of area residents had their day’s activities change.  This alteration was prompted by fire dispatch for an emergency at the SAP-America facility on West Chester Pike. The weekend area surrounding this picturesque property at 3999 West Chester Pike in Newtown Square soon became a magnet for arriving emergency providers.

The firm’s security personnel became aware of a very notable aroma within the modern, multiple story structure.  Their telephone call to the Delaware County 9 1 1 Center began responses by Delaware and Chester County apparatus and firefighters.

With the anticipation of a sizable collection of fire, EMS, and other support apparatus, the first instruction by Newtown Square Fire Chief Doug Everlof was to have all incoming apparatus enter onto the road adjacent to the SAP-America property.  This selection prevented an unnecessary buildup of fire apparatus on West Chester Pike.

Chief Everlof went to the SAP-America property and met the firm’s security personnel. Everlof then established his command force on loading area that was near the air contaminated structure.

Deputy Chief George Guyer, IV went into the structure and began assigning fire crews and overseeing the search of to specific areas of investigation. Aided by their Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) the multiple floors were examined during this Holiday Sunday.

As the interior fire crews made their deep-interior searches, there were some concerns about both a potential loss of dependable linking of all the firefighters as well as occupying a common regional fire communications frequency.  While the structure included the three well-constructed floors, choice of localized radio channel was a wise selection.

The task of doing a thorough search was completed, yet no specific, documented source of the telltale aroma could be found in either the initially tagged data center. section of the total interior of this facility, the repeating radio system was bypassed and the mobile and crew-used portable radio began their search by a direct, on-property “only” radio arrangement.

When no source of the original aroma, Newtown Square Fire Company Chief Doug Everlof and the SAP-America security personnel abandoned the group search. The structure was returned to the local operators.



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