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Tips for securing water and managing pump pressure

A back-to-basics drill to ensure crews know how to secure water from various sources


It’s important to drill on securing water sources and pump pressure so crews are prepared on scene.

Photo/Keith D. Cullom

No matter the type of fire department to which you belong – career, volunteer or combination – getting water to the nozzle is top priority so that we can get water on the fire and start to turn things around for the better. When there is no water coming or being applied, the fire will grow, spread and add problems for the potential victims inside as well as the firefighters working to quash the fire.

Basic water-flow steps and responsibilities

Getting water to the nozzle involves a few steps and a few people. It involves one firefighter to pull the handline off, flake it out and then call for water. The other key person is the pump operator or engineer. This person needs to get the water from the on-board water tank to the pump, then out to the hose feeding the nozzle in the firefighter’s hands. After water has been sent from the on-board tank, water supply needs to be established; this can be from a hydrant or a static source. As simple as it sounds, we all know that problems can occur along the way that contribute to an already bad situation.

In the accompanying video from, we witness a series of issues that are contributing to a lack of water supply. I am not sure of the department’s training regimen or the skill level of those in the video, but it is a good reminder to all of us that we need to be proficient in a few key areas in order to get water on the fire.

Hydrants as a water source: One key skill that every firefighter needs to be good at is securing the water source. For the departments that have hydrants, the key is to know how to secure water from them. As mundane as this skill is, it needs to be practiced on a regular basis so that when the time comes to actually secure a hydrant, it will go smoothly. Without the hydrant or water source being secured, the situation is only going to get worse.

Pump pressure: The other domino lining up to impact the scene is the inadequate pump pressure that is being supplied to the initial handline. There is obviously a problem with the pump in terms of something not falling into sequence properly. The background audio reveals the sounds of a high-revving pump, indicating a problem. A good pump operator or engineer will know how to use their pump and will be able to tell based on the sound of the pump that there is a problem.

Company training Drill for getting water on the fire

Practice on these two skills is essential for getting water on the fire in a timely manner. A great drill is to:

  1. Pull up to a building
  2. Pull off a handline
  3. Start flowing water from the pump tank
  4. Secure a water source
  5. Transition from the pump tank to the water source.

This drill will work for both the hydrant and a static source of water to help both the pump operator and firefighter pulling off the handline to get water now. Take video of members performing this drill to identify specific opportunities to get water flowing faster.

Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1998, currently serving as a firefighter with the Fort Gratiot Fire Department in Michigan. He is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States and India. He graduated from Seneca College of Applied and Technologies as a fire protection engineering technologist, and received his bachelor’s degree in fire and life safety studies from the Justice Institute of British Columbia and his master’s degree in safety, security and emergency management from Eastern Kentucky University. van der Feyst is the lead author of the book “Residential Fire Rescue” and “The Tactical Firefighter.” Connect with van der Feyst via email.