Our structural firefighting gear is outfitted with pockets on the jacket and pants and can be used to carry an assortment of personal tools. The personal tools we can carry will aid us on the fireground and can alleviate any handicapping of operations.
The domino effect is where small mishaps or oversights are lined up, and after a while they begin to contribute to the overall failure of an operation. Small personal tools in our pockets are a perfect example of how small things can add up to big things.
The key to carrying personal tools or equipment is to have the essentials and not an overabundance. Many firefighters will stuff their gear with all kinds of small tools or equipment that are for sale on the market, but not really practical or ideal for their situation.
A good rule of thumb is to have a one-year evaluation — after one year of carrying certain small tools or equipment, evaluate each item's use and effectiveness. If it wasn't used in that year, replace it with something else. If it was used, but did not work well for the intended purpose, replace it.
So what tools should we carry and how can what we don't carry contribute to us becoming handicapped? Here are three tools every firefighter should have.
1. A good pair of wire cutters will aid the firefighter with entanglements when conducting any kind of interior operations. It can also be used for vehicle accidents for disabling the battery cables.
When this tool is missing and the firefighter is trapped in a wire or two, he will have to rely upon the RIT team to free him, take off his SCBA to free himself or fight in a struggle to get free.
2. Big door chocks made from 2 x 4 lumber are good for propping open doors for firefighting, search and forcible entry operations. Although research is showing that doors should remain closed when there is fire present during search operations, there are times when a door needs to be propped open for other firefighting needs.
This may be to prevent a door from locking shut and trapping a team in a certain area, or for hose advancement. If an access door shuts after a team makes entry and it locks behind them, they are left with one less way out.
3. Under certain fire conditions, a firefighter will need to make a rapid escape from a second story or higher. Personal escape rope will do the job, but only when it is with the firefighter. Without it, the options for rapid escape are fewer and far less pleasant.
These are only three examples of what personal tools should be carried in our gear — you will have to evaluate your needs to determine what personal tools to carry. Remember, small things lead to big things on the fireground.