The Glendale Fire Department just recommissioned a decommissioned fire hose … sort of.
When Desert Garden Elementary School Principal Joe De la Huerta saw a news story about a Kansas school that used cut sections of fire hose to secure classroom doors in the event of a school threat, he leaped into action.
“I thought, wow, that is just a simple fix,” he said.
De la Huerta saw the story on a Wednesday evening and the next day contacted the Fire Department.
“Within 15 minutes, I got a call back from somebody in operations. He was saying, ‘We really want to be a part of this, we really want to help you out,’ and he kind of saw the same as I saw, just a simple fix, very doable, and has the potential of saving lives,” De la Huerta said. “So it was really nice that they were in like that. And within a day or two, Tim (Guerrero) from Glendale Fire came over with a couple pieces that he had cut up at different lengths, we tried them on the doors and this one was the one that worked the best for us.”
The sections of fire hose, or “safety sleeves,” fit over the metal hinges on the tops of the classroom doors, preventing them from opening during a threat such as a school shooting.
“The essence of this is taking an old fire hose, cutting it into a section and utilizing it to keep a door hinge from opening and anyone being able to come in or out,” said Ashley Losch, Glendale Fire Department public information officer. “It’s a really quick fix in a situation where maybe we needed to move more quickly and clear heads needed to prevail. It’s very fast to slide on a door hinge. We quickly were able to get these made and are excited to be able to present them today.”
The Fire Department presented the safety sleeves during a May 17 press conference at Glendale Regional Public Safety Training Academy.
The preschool through third-grade school has 77 doors, so the Fire Department made 80 sleeves, Losch said, adding that the fire hose is sheeted, meaning it has an inside liner in addition to the outer layer.
“So we were able to take them apart and create two sleeves essentially out of one section,” she said.
The sleeves will be affixed with magnets and hung next to the hinges on the doorframe so that they’re easily accessible for the teachers. They will be incorporated into the school’s lockdown drills, De la Huerta said.
The safety sleeves are precautionary in nature, as the school, which is home to about 750 students, hasn’t been the target of any threats, De la Huerta said.
“But with everything that’s happening nationwide and the trends, we want to make sure we’re prepared, and we found this to be a really great solution, really quick solution, and with Glendale Fire helping out, that was awesome,” he said.
De la Huerta said a lot of people don’t think about how often children, especially in younger grades, are pulled out of the classroom for speech therapy, resource services and interventions.
“So the doors open and close a lot,” he said. “The way the doors are done, you can either have them locked all the time, or open all the time. You can imagine how many times someone would be knocking at the door if it was locked. So this will allow us to let the instruction continue and not have to have someone monitor the door, but at the same time have a really quick response to getting all the classrooms secured.”
Guerrero, who is a Glendale fire captain and teaches fire science at Glendale High School, cut the hose into sections using a special tool. It took him about 45 minutes.
“It was pretty quick,” he said. “We have a nice tool back at the station that does it, that cuts it perfect.”
Guerrero explained that when hoses bulge or are otherwise compromised near the coupling, the bad section is cut off and the coupling is reapplied, thereby salvaging the hose. However, when the failure occurs in the middle of the hose, the entire hose must be decommissioned.
Guerrero said he didn’t know what to expect when he heard about De la Huerta’s proposal.
“I got on the YouTube video that he had provided and looked at it and thought it was pretty innovative, quick and effective, and fairly cheap,” Guerrero said. “We have enough hose, it should be a zero cost between us and the school district.”
However, Losch said providing safety sleeves to every school in the city would be “adventurous.”
“We do not decommission hoses very often,” she said. “We hose test yearly, and over the past few years, we’ve really only decommissioned about 25 hoses. Though we would love to outfit every school in Glendale with these, not all the schools have the doors with the hinges, and it would be a costly venture, so we would have to probably collaborate with the schools in order to pay for it.”
Losch said hoses can range from $500 a roll for non-sheeted to $1,500 a roll for sheeted.
Guerrero suggested schools interested in obtaining safety sleeves call their local fire departments and inquire about decommissioned fire hoses.
“I would say call the local fire department, whatever city they’re in, and see if they have the hose that they can donate it,” he said.
De la Huerta said he’s already received positive feedback for the safety sleeve idea from district leadership.
“We’ve never had an active threat, but it’s more about being prepared and just having something so simple and so quick that can secure a classroom,” he said. “Everybody’s really excited about it.”