Pulling and stretching a hoseline off an engine is one of the first tasks we are taught when entering the fire service. It is very basic: "Pull the hose off of the rig and get the nozzle to the fire." What could possibly be done to improve such a basic task?
Sometimes, we overcomplicate simple things, but there are simple things that really can be improved by doing other simple things. Hosebeds and the amount of the hose in them are fairly simple to understand. Connect the lengths of hose into one and neatly place it in the bed. Simple, right? We certainly spend many pages of textbooks on this subject and it's hard to find a training seminar without a class in hose treatment and stretching.
Yet, with all that has been written and taught, I haven't come across a decent description of "ears on hose." Anyone who was ever dragged to the school principal's office by their ears will understand the concept. Ears are a handy appendage that can easily be grabbed onto in order to have the "grabber" manipulate the "grabbee." With regard to hoselines, many things can be done with ears to not only make hose deployment easier, but to tell you what to expect to find when you pull on an ear. For example, if your standard operating procedure (SOP) calls for an ear before the last 100 feet of hose, anybody from any company will know how much hose will come out if they pull on that ear. It will be 100 feet.
Slotted pre-connects are those that are packed in a vertical channel that allows only a single width of hose. The hose is usually packed flat; in some cases, the folds are flush with the end of the bin, but it can become difficult to take hold of the desired fold because there is nothing to grab onto. In other cases, the folds are hung over the edge of the bins. This provides many folds that can easily be grabbed quickly by a gloved hand, but there are simply too many folds to choose from. In addition, the sagging folds can get in the way of gauges, making the pump operator's job more difficult.
A Simple Solution
There is a simple way to load hose into the slots that will permit easy deployment - by strategically placing ears at certain places. Too few ears will do little to help divide the load. Too many ears will cause the meaning of them to be lost.
As hose is packed in the slotted pre-connect channels, the folds are flush with the edge of the bed with the exception of ears. If we put an ear on each side of the bed after each butt is connected, all personnel will know how much hose is on each bed and where to break the connection if a certain amount of hose is desired.
Many times, an ear is found at the bottom of a bed, but this will do absolutely nothing other than perhaps hang over the pump panel and block gauges. An ear at the bottom pulls nothing; it is the end of the line.
Managing ears can help at the rear of the rig when firefighters must quickly reach up and grab hose. Jumping and grabbing at hose that is flush with the bed is a tricky task, especially when adrenalin is pumping and all you can see is a wall of folds. Different hose loads in the same bin can easily be distinguished by using ears. Many visually divide these loads by using different-color hose. For the most part, this will work until the hose is well used, dirty and soot covered and maybe even mixed up from a previous fire. The ears will always be a good signal.
"Ears on hose" may seem like a small, insignificant thing, but placing them in a planned and deliberate way will improve your operations at fires. Learning to pack hose this way requires only minimal training and it takes only the slightest bit longer to complete. Here are some benefits: You can look at a hosebed and know exactly how much hose is in it. When going to a hosebed to grab a couple lengths, you can easily count the ears to find out where to break the line. And when packing hose, you no longer have to keep track of how many lengths you've packed - you will visually be able to keep track by counting the "ears."
PETER F. KERTZIE has been a member of the Buffalo, NY, Fire Department for 19 years and is currently assigned as captain of Truck 14. He holds an associate's degree in fire protection technology and a bachelor's degree in business and is a New York State Certified Municipal Fire Training Officer. Kertzie received a Firehouse Magazine award for heroism in 1993.