Repurposed fire hoses offer protection at Pa. schools
The fire department and school district will repurpose old fire hoses to add a safety element to classrooms in case of an active-shooter situation
Daveen Rae Kurutz
Beaver County Times, Pa.
AMBRIDGE, Pa. — Firefighters use fire hoses to save lives every day.
Now, retired hoses from the Ambridge Fire Department could help save lives in a different way.
A joint program between the fire department and the Ambridge Area School District will repurpose old fire hoses to add a safety element to classrooms in case of an active-shooter situation.
Borough Manager Joe Kauer said fire department officials saw that old hoses were being used on the West Coast to secure hydraulic doors from being forcefully opened. Since fire hoses have a limited life span, officials approached the school district about using a 4- to 6-inch sleeve created from the hose to secure classrooms in case of a lock-down.
"It's a unique concept we saw was going on on the West Coast, and we thought it could be done here," Kauer said. "The assistant fire chief and fire chief met with Josh (Jones at the school district) and did test runs. It got the support of the superintendent."
Jones, the technology assistant to the director of district operations, said the hoses are able to be placed on the hydraulic door closer in each classroom, prohibiting the door from being opened from the outside.
"If your door was unlocked, they still couldn't gain entry into your room," Jones said. "Even if they broke the window to try to get to that piece, it would be very difficult to get to it."
Jones said the program works with the school security protocol adopted by the district. It uses a protocol through the ALICE training institute, of which Jones is a certified instructor for the district through. The district has used ALICE — which stands for alert, lock down, inform, counter, evacuate — for about two years, Jones said. Two Economy police officers were trained first, followed by the school resource officer through the Ambridge Police Department. Jones was the first district personnel to receive training.
Jones said the program recommends that teachers use everything available in a classroom to block entry and secure a door in case of an active-shooter situation. The fire hoses will be a part of that scenario.
"It's one piece of this large-scale way of keeping people out of a room," Jones said.
Jones said the support from the borough and its fire and police departments are paramount. That partnership is important to the fire department as well, officials said.
"There isn't a day that goes by that you don't hear of an event where something goes on in a school," Ambridge Assistant Fire Chief Donald Larrick said. "We want everyone to be safe."
Each fire hose is about 50 feet long, Larrick said, and each door needs between 4 and 6 inches of hose.
Larrick said he hopes this is a step that continues to build partnerships between the departments and the community to provide safety. That's what's important, Kauer said — keeping the community safe.
"It comes down to a very simple concept," Kauer said. "We're a community. We're one and the same. It's for the citizens; they're the ones going to the school and frequenting the schools. We're looking out for the citizens."
Jones said some parents and community members might think that the procedures are "overbearing," but he wants them to remember that district officials are trying to make sure that everyone is safe.
"The district is proactively trying to mitigate any risks that students are facing when they come to school," Jones said. "Our main objective is to make it an environment where it's easy to learn and they don't have to think about the next school shooting because we, as officials, are already thinking about that."
©2018 the Beaver County Times (Beaver, Pa.)