By Author(s): Josh Krimston 
Published Friday, March 20, 2009
| From the November 2007  Issue of FireRescue 
How many times have you responded to an apartment complex for a fire or medical aid, only to sit at the front gate waiting for someone to buzz you in because the complex was surrounded by a large, locked wrought iron fence? Have you ever been dispatched late at night to the local elementary schoolyou know, the one surrounded by a wrought-iron fenceonly to discover the master key given to you by the district no longer works?
Wrought-iron fences have been around for hundreds of years, probably because they work so well. Not only are they difficult to scale, they pose a danger to both uniform and flesh alike. Until now.
Police Officer Robert Storey, a 25-year veteran of a small department in Los Angeles County, has experienced his share of frustration while responding to properties surrounded by wrought-iron fences.
Storey had an epiphany one day while at the carwash waiting for his car to be completed. The carwash had a wrought-iron fence, and while I was sitting there I pulled out a paper and pen and started doodling, Storey recalls. And so the original blueprint for the CLIMB Assist was drafted. I had no idea if it would work, so I grabbed a friend of mine familiar with metal working and showed him what I had, and we built the first prototype, Storey says.
What Storey came up with was an ingenious tool that allows the operator to hook the ladder onto the cross member of the fence and extend non-slip steps onto each side of the fence for an easy climb overnot unlike the old Pompier ladders. The ladder is held firmly in place by an easily operated latch. Storey then took it one step further and created a molded PVC spike cap that can be placed over the top of the fence to further protect the climber from the fence spikes.
Because the device was developed by a police officer, the original version was rubberized to dampen any sounds (in case we had to sneak in quietly, Storey says), painted tactical black and featured holes where officers could lock it to a fence with their handcuffs. The fire version of the CLIMB Assist is fire-engine red with reflective tape for easy visibility.
When we first showed it to firefighters, their response was that they would just cut down the fence, says Judy Storey, Roberts wife and marketing manager for the CLIMB Assist. But then we showed them that by the time they went back to their engine and got their saw and cut the fence, we were already in using the CLIMB Assist, and there was no damage to the fence and no one had to pay to repair it.
The device definitely has useful applications for fire (structural and wildland) and EMS scenarios. During our testing process, I was surprised at how quickly the ladder could be deployed and secured firmly to the fence. In fact, it took just seconds for one person to deploy the device from start to finish. The spike cap was also easy to attach and provided the added bonus of protecting our booster linewhich we stretched over the top of the fencefrom potential damage.
The Storeys say they are constantly receiving ideas from the field about new uses for the device, from accessing out-of-reach fire escape ladders to boarding ships. It also serves as a great evacuation tool. The device is angled at the top and bottom so it can be leaned against solid surfaces, like wood fences or block walls, allowing a person to get about a 2-foot leg up.
The CLIMB Assist is made of lightweight aluminum, weighs 16 lbs., and retails for $495 (spike cap is extra). It can be purchased online at www.climbassist.com  or by calling 866/92-CLIMB.
This is something I never planned to get involved in, but I am glad I did, Storey says. Hopefully it will make the job safer for all of us who do this type of work. Hopefully it will save some lives.
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