Popular TV commercials for a credit card these days feature pitchmen Alec Baldwin and Jimmy Fallon — and occasionally Fallon’s adorable young lady sidekick — asks the question: "What's in your wallet?" Personally, I like it when the little girl asks it and makes Fallon look a bit silly, but that's just me.
Firefighters are by and large an innovative lot when it comes to tools and techniques. I've always found that one of the hot beds of this creative energy can be found in the pockets of a firefighter's turnout coat.
In the spirit of the credit card commercial, I posed the following question to my 300+ Facebook firefighter friends: "What’s in your turnout gear pockets?"
Here are some of the responses I received:
Firefighter Cassel (Pa.): [Sprinkler] Wedges, two pairs of gloves, safety glasses, hair ties, bottled water.
Firefighter Angelique (Va.): Safety glasses, extrication gloves, medical gloves, extra hair tie, [roll] 3-inch tape, Nomex hood, knife/seatbelt cutter/window punch.
Firefighter Cormier (Pa.): Wire cutters, work gloves, mine tape, safety glasses, and flashlight.
Firefighter Boenish (Wash.): Spanner [wrench], eye protection, hose gloves, medical gloves, HAND WARMERS! And a water bottle.
Firefighter Tittle (Pa.): Two pairs of gloves, pink safety glasses, Nomex hood, hair ties, medical gloves, ear plugs (for fireworks) and a healthy snack bar.
Next, I did a couple of quick Internet searches using these search terms, "Firefighter+turnout+gear+pockets+tools," which yielded these gems.
Firefighter Acosta: Webbing, spanner wrench with a punch and gas valve shut off, [sprinkler] wedge, flashlight, gloves, extrication gloves on my jacket. CPR mask inside pocket and knife.
Firefighter Jason: I carry fire gloves, extrication gloves, latex gloves, two radios (high and low band), compass, flashlight, spanner wrench, cutting pliers, battery wrench, safety glasses, center punch, paper and pen, lighter and smokes.
Firefighter Ellis: I carry a seatbelt cutter on my helmet. A Pelican flashlight is attached on the top left side of my coat, my radio is in the radio pocket on my top right side coat, and a window punch in my lower right coat pocket. I also carry a spanner in my left coat pocket. On my suspenders I carry all my med gear, e.g., scissors, med gloves, penlight and such. In my left bunker pants pocket I carry my SCBA mask and in my right bunker pants pocket I carry my firefighting and extrication gloves and my Nomex hood. That is all and I didn't realize I carried so much stuff until I started writing it all down!
For some good tool and equipment suggestions, as well as storage tips to help you get to your stuff quicker, check out Vententersearch.com.
What I think
I think the proliferation of pocket space on turnout gear only encourages the pack rat gene that we all have. More space equals opportunity to carry more stuff.
I saw one tip on line that blew me away — remove the removable knee pads from your turnout gear pants and store nylon webbing in its place. And how much of that stuff in your pockets ever sees the light of day except when you're washing and drying your gear?
I also think that carrying lots of tools around in your turnout gear encourages an undesirable characteristic: The round peg in the square hole syndrome. I've seen too many firefighters who try to make the tool — the one on their person — fit the task, rather than going to get the right tool for the job. This usually ends with less-than-desirable consequences.
Let's not forget the primary reasons why we wear a personal protective clothing ensemble for firefighting. First, it provides a measure of protection to the human body from thermal insult during firefighting operations from radiant and convected heat.
Second, it is designed to "take the hit" and hopefully allow a firefighter to survive a flashover. For structural firefighters, your PPC is the equivalent of the wildland firefighter’s emergency fire shelter.
Instead of using your turnout gear pockets as a toolbox or personal care compartments, consider “emergency use only” items such as these:
Medical exam gloves and facemask. If you don't have infection-control gear at the point of attack — the moment the patient care situation presents itself — you don't have it.
A small, simple medical kit to take care of airway, breathing and circulation problems for a civilian or fellow firefighter until medical personnel and gear can arrive.
A small LED flashlight, which has lots of uses including signaling to other firefighters if you're in a jam.
Several packages of foam earplugs and use them regularly. Emergency scenes are rife with noise pollution. Over time these things add up to hearing loss.
So what do you say, how about lightening up the load that you carry to every call?
About the author
Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (Ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Va.) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an active instructor for fire, EMS, and hazardous materials courses at the local, state, and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor of science degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master of science degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program. Since his retirement in 2007, he has continued to be a life-long learner working in both the private and public sectors to further develop his "management sciences mechanic" credentials. He makes his home near Charleston, W.Va. Contact Robert at Robert.Avsec@FireRescue1.com
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Ken ClarkThursday, August 22, 2013 9:35:39 AMGolf ball and dog treats to the other items listed. The golf ball can be used to break a window for an initial vent and the dog treats are self explanatory.
Chris LeachSunday, September 01, 2013 11:09:37 AMI think too much makes it dangerous!
Grant WoodSunday, September 01, 2013 4:03:00 PMI think these are all things that should be put in the side pockets of your uniform pants. Anything you put in your turnout pockets are things that you may end up needing in the middle of an IDLH environment (wire cutters, channel locks, webbing, carabineers, life safety rope, extrication gloves). None of what you have listed in your article has any use when you're inside of a burning structure or working an extrication or a vehicle fire and those are the times you'll be in your turnout gear. I understand the need for the things you've mentioned , but when you end up needing that stuff chances are you won't be wearing your turnouts and if you are you can quickly drop them to access your pants pockets.
Ricky GrizzardSunday, September 01, 2013 5:50:06 PMI am known as Captain Caveman or Inspector Gadget by my peers. My turnout coat has a radio pocket on my left chest and I have a flashlight on the right chest. Left coat pocket has a 20' piece of 1" webbing a center punch a small flashlight a pry pic(old school spanner) and a rag. Right coat pocket has pry pic door stops (4) a small sprinkler stop and a small flashlight. Inside coat pocket has an electric circuit tester. Left pants pocket has a small set of sockets screw drivers and tiny hammer combo pack a small set of fold up wrenches a set of pliers that fold one way for needle nose and the other way for dikes a piece of search rope that my father made for me and my nomex hood. The right pants pocket has my structural gloves my extrication gloves an Ardis tool and a Boating tool. In my 511 tactical duty pants I carry 2 knives a pair of ems gloves a pair of trauma sheers with a rip sheer attachment and I have a combo whistle thermometer and compass tool. As you can see i am overloaded but I hardly ever walk back to the truck for a tool.
Bryan ReidSunday, September 01, 2013 6:57:54 PMGood grief. I travel light I guess; webbing, a Channellock 6N1 Tool, a pocket strobe light, a WHIFF's mask, and my structural gloves.
Joe ZasadaMonday, September 02, 2013 6:41:49 PMtrouser pockets: webbing loop, victorinox firefighter rescue knife (can all be operated while gloved), sidecutter type wire cutters.
coat pockets: some medical gloves, harshell case for my eyeglasses for when I mask up. my coat pockets aren't accessible while on SCBA.
radio pocket: radio with speakermic, linemans cutting pliers.
Left chest: flashlight.
Lee B. CatersonTuesday, September 10, 2013 8:28:58 PMextra fire gloves, extrication gloves, reflective vest, heavy duty pliers/cutters, 3 clif bars, bottle of water, glasses case and safety glasses, sunblock (ginger problems...)
Ashley Nicole TigertMonday, September 16, 2013 6:14:57 PMI've got extrication gloves and a streamlight on my jacket. Structural gloves and webbing(daisy chained) in my pants pockets. Nomex, 2 wedges, window punch, collapsible spanner, and medical gloves in my jacket pockets.
Kevin HigginsMonday, September 16, 2013 9:21:28 PMWhat are the hair ties used for...unless it is the obvious for tying back long hair?
Thursday, September 19, 2013 11:01:07 PMi have to ask to what the hair ties used for?
William WeedmanSunday, September 29, 2013 2:23:04 PMWhy on earth is everyone carrying the world in their pockets? I carried a spanner/gas cutoff , center punch, wedges (door & sprinkler), dog treats, a multii-tool & a flashlight. Gloves? on hands, SCBA mask? on my face or in it's carry bag, if I need a hand tool or med gear there a box full of both on the truck. Now field, woods fires; no comment on my surplus army gear I carry everything in but I was used to carrying a lot of weight in the woods as a soldier.
Troy O'BrienSunday, September 29, 2013 4:08:25 PMOnce our Dept. instituted mandatory Bail out kits w/harnesses I had to shed all the extras in my pockets due to the added weight. My helmet has my hood tucked inside/ Flashlight/ 4-10 penny nails (used as door wedges) 1- pair of wire cutter and 15' of knotted webbing, 2- wedges.
Now that's all I carry in my PPE/Turn out.
After 25 years of experimenting I'm pretty happy with my current set-up. I carry a Zippered Professional Electricians Tool Pouch loaded with all my goodies. I've replaced the original shoulder strap with a quick release seat belt. The pouch comes with me and easily dropped for fires. I don't need small hand tools at structure fires. My TIC/small hook and my crew with their tools will get the job done..
As far as the tool bag goes 22 oz framing hammer/ electrical supplies, wire nuts,small electrical tester,black tape, wire cutters. Water supplies. a few Shark bites, small pipe cutter, Teflon tape, Forcible entry stuff, modified Channel locks, 89 RESCUE TOOL WITH CABLE CUTTER, Vise grips, cheap knife, 9 way screw drive, set of bump keys, old credit card,putty knife,drop key, few long wood screws/ finishing nails/ common nails, Auto stuff-Window punch,knife w/seat belt cutter and O2 shut off, battery terminal wrench, all weather pad and pen. Leather gloves, small Flash light + a few other things I'm going off of memory.
It may seem like overkill but it all fits into the Custom LeatherCraft 1509 21-Pocket Zippered Professional Electricians Tool Pouch and all useful. Plus I have the FNG carry it!! lol.
Stay low move in!! Sorry no golf balls!
Mark SawinskiSunday, September 29, 2013 4:14:13 PMTurnout coat has a survivor light on right side radio pocket, L side radio pocket is the radio, R bottom pocket is wire cutters, multi head screw driver, large door wedge, 9ft EMS strap and safety glasses. L pocket is a buddy breather hookup. On the coat are my primary structural gloves. Helmet has 2 wooden chokes and a strobe light. R bunker pant pocket has spare structural gloves, rope gloves, ResQ tool and bailout bag. L pocket is hose/extrication gloves, barrier extrication gloves, medical gloves and EMS go pack.
Adam HollowaySunday, September 29, 2013 4:18:30 PMIn case you get hungry? lol
David CharlesSunday, September 29, 2013 5:01:23 PMStructure gloves, safety glass pouch and ID tags clipped to my coat externally so if its an MVA I can dump the Gloves on the truck to avoid bulk and put on the glasses, If Its a structure fire, the id tag gets tagged in and the gloves on, the glasses aren't necessary, full SCBA is the way to go.
Extrication gloves, wire cutters, knife, channel locks, Pen, silver sharpie to write on exam gloves, window punch in the coat pockets, Hood in my helmet. Medical gloves, 20ft of rope, a second pare of extrication gloves in the bellows.
Having too many little tools that don't perform as well as the real tools is just stupid, grab the right tools when you're getting off the truck, Small Led light? I have a streamlight on my coat and i'll grab a box light off the truck, why risk relying on a small flashlight in your pocket? If you have to get in a vehicle to hold c spine, or search a house with full scba, why would you want your bellows bulging out, restricts your movement, gets you stuck?
Know where your tools are on the apparatus, make sure your department checks equipment on the trucks regularly so you won't have to give it a second thought, I can trust all the gear I need will be in proper working order when I go to use it.
I guess where you live can change your necessities, but don't be a stupid wacker.. Ohh, and why would you remove your knee pads? If you think that's a good idea, you probably don't get down and dirty..
Pat McCainSunday, September 29, 2013 6:15:29 PMBUNKER COAT; Wedge-It, Sprinkler wedge, rescue strap, hose strap with carabener, black marker with yellow chalk lat the end kept together with tubulart webbing.
BUNKER PANTS; RIT pack pocket organizer, 5 glow sticks, rubber door jam catch, trauma sheers, Pittsburg brand wire cutters, TFT multi-tool wrench, leather gloves.
HELMET; Stream light flash light band, two wooden wedges, black jack flashlight mount, Under Water Kinetics flash light.
Donald CatenacciMonday, September 30, 2013 12:42:43 PMWhy in the hell would I carry ems stuff in my pocket where it might get exposed to smoke and toxic gasses? When we go on an ems call we take the ems kits.
I agree you can carry too much, but too much is relative to your own needs and experiences. In my coat I always carried a 6 way screw driver, a Gerber tool, safety glasses, flashlight, and inner tube door straps. In my pants I carried my bail out kit, webbing and a Channellock cable cutter firefighter tool. My gut belt had 2 pieces of webbing, a ViceGrip multi-tool, a Spderco knife and an inner tube door strap. On my coat I have a Streamlight xL90 flashlight. On my helmet I have a UK 4aa flaslight and 4 wedges.
I carried what I carried because the idea of going back to the truck sometimes encompassed a walk of a couple hundred yards. To me the couple pounds of tools I carried were never a burden and made my job easier in the long run.
Greg HallThursday, October 03, 2013 3:19:11 PMI understand what your getting at, and know there is a limit, but will continue to carry the items I use the most. Wood wedges, auto ex gloves, medical gloves, folding spanner and webbing. I also carry a small tool roll that has a six way screw driver, wire cutter, small channel lock and a vise grip. I only carry the items that I've needed repeatedly on scene. Its a time and energy saver. I don't tend to waste time with the wrong tool for the job.