Basic Survival Skills and the Probationary Firefighter - Part 2

In this article, we’ll cover the needed tools and equipment to which every firefighter should have immediate access. Tools and equipment form the second major aspect of safety and survival on the fireground. Today, we’ll answer the question of...

Search Rope Bag: Here is another great insurance policy. Look at all the occupancies in your first-alarm response area, not only commercial occupancies, but also some of these huge private dwellings. What about a maze like basement of a larger private dwelling? There’s definitely the chance for getting lost here. How many of the occupancies in your first-alarm response area can cause you a disorientation problem if you got away from the wall or your reference point? A team of two firefighters entering one of these occupancies should have a 200-foot (3/8”) search rope with them! Deploy it from an area of refuge such as outside (for a cellar fire or the first floor) or the floor below (for a fire on the upper floor) (see Figure 1). Such a bag is lightweight.

Tools: If your not advancing a hoseline make sure you have tools. Being lost or separated could mean that you must breach a wall to escape, or force a door.

Portable Radio: The portable radio is your lifeline! Check it at the start of your shift, make sure it is on the proper channel, and make sure it doesn’t have a dead battery in it! If the department only has a few, make sure that every team has one portable radio. The portable radio is critical. If you get into trouble it’s easier to call for help by radio, far better than screaming.


The objective of this article was to answer the question, “What basic tools and equipment will enhance my survival?” We covered some of the very basics, but the basics are critical to your survival. Take a look at the list here and read from the fine authors identified in the references. What you put into effect today may be the reason you go home to your family tomorrow.

The final two parts of this series will cover the basic skills and techniques that all firefighters have to be familiar with. The next question we’ll answer is, “What skills should I have a working knowledge of?” The topics identified will make great drill-ground opportunities.

References and Resources

U.S. Fire Administration Report: Rapid Intervention Teams and How to Avoid Needing Them. USFA-TR-123 / March 2003.

Norman, John. Fire Officer’s Handbook of Tactics 3rd Edition, Penwell Publications, 2005.

ARMAND F. GUZZI JR. has been a member of the fire service since 1987.  He is a career fire lieutenant with the City of Long Branch, NJ, Fire Department and is the deputy director of the Monmouth County, NJ, Fire Academy where he has taught for over 20 years.  He has a masters degree in management and undergraduate degrees in fire science, education, and business administration. View all of Armand's articles here. He can be reached via e-mail at or