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Why firefighter ‘feel’ on hand lines matters

Not being able to identify when pressure from the pump is too great or too little is a threat to fireground safety and effectiveness

Too often firefighters pull a hose line from the fire truck and are shocked by the amount of pressure that is working against them when they are flowing water.

This should not be an issue for fire departments that are constantly fighting fires. But firefighters on departments that do not fight fires very often may not have that sense of when the water pressure is just right.

So why are firefighters surprised when they feel this resistance working against them?

This is partly due to firefighters lacking knowledge about hydraulics. And it is partly due to their not knowing what the feel of a properly charged and flowing hand line feels like.

This is evidenced in the accompanying video where a firefighter is thrown back by the pressure of the hand line. It is unknown how much pressure the pump operator was supplying to the nozzle, which may be the contributing reason why this event occurred.

It is important for all pump operators to know how to adequately deliver water to the nozzle with the correct pump pressure being supplied. This falls to the knowledge of hydraulics and the importance of being able to quickly in your head, determine the correct overall pump pressure so that crews on the end of a nozzle will have adequate water flow and pressure.

Feeling CorreCt Pump pressure

If the pump pressure was too high in this video, then the pump operator is contributing to the dominoes lining up for handicapping the fireground.

If the pump operator was delivering the correct pump pressure, then the dominoes being lined up are from the firefighter on the nozzle.

This is where the knowledge and familiarity of feel comes into play. Every firefighter who is going to operate a hand line needs to know the feel of adequate and correct pump pressure and water flow from their hand lines.

The nozzle will always produce reaction that will work against the firefighter. But if firefighters know what that feels like under correct conditions, it will not be a surprise when they are flowing water.

If there is too much pump pressure being delivered to the nozzle, then the firefighter will be able to tell based upon their knowledge of the feel of the hand line.

The firefighter who was knocked down in the video serves no purpose in the effort to fight the fire. When this happens, a firefighter may receive serious injury, while at the same time, the delay in suppression gives the fire a chance to grow.

Training with hand lines will help to develop a feel for each firefighter to become familiar with so they will not become a domino and fall over when operating a hand line.

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.

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