Tools of the Trade

Examining the tools essential to carry out the task of fire suppression while providing a safer, more effective work environment.


Since it's inception, the fire service has been a profession reactive in nature. The mere fact that we continue to lose on average a hundred or more firefighters a year reflects a need to change. Many lessons have been learned from our past successes and failures, yet many more lessons continue to be forgotten.

The intent of this series is to focus on fatal incidents of the past and the many lessons to be learned from each of them. Like many publications written in fire service periodicals each month, this series is in no way meant to point blame at any department or individual involved, rather its intended to learn from these events in hopes of preventing similar tragedies.

This series will present old and new concepts, which may or may not be considered usable by all who read this information and view the supporting video segments. I ask you to consider these concepts, ideas, and techniques with an open mind and willingness to change. The effort is quite simple, "PROACTIVE" thinking and modified strategy & tactics can quite possibly prevent death and injury on the fire ground.

As we begin, ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. Are you and the members of your organization truly acting "PROACTIVELY" when you commence to fighting the almighty beast?
  2. Is the fire ground you operate on setup in the safest manner possible?
  3. Is your fire ground set up in a manner that promotes and supports firefighter safety and if the need arises, firefighter rescue?
  4. Are you the "Modern Firefighter" equipped, trained, and ready to perform the assigned task?

To begin this series we will focus on the "Tools of the Trade". This segment will provide a brief overview of these essential tools, their proper operation and possible usage for "self-rescue" and related tasks if the need arises.


The "Tools of the Trade" are simply those tools that are absolutely essential to carryout the task of fire suppression while at the same time providing a safer more effective work environment. These tools to many are very basic in nature, yet oftentimes overlooked by many who take on the task of firefighting on a daily basis.

  • P.P.E. - Personal Protective Clothing (N.F.P.A. Compliant - Including: S.C.B.A., Helmet, Hood, Coat, Gloves, Pants, and Boots)
  • P.A.S.S. - Personal Alert Safety System (integrated or manual)
  • Hand Tools - Halligan (irons preferred - halligan/axe) and one (1) additional tool appropriate for the assigned task (i.e. 6'- 8' pike pole).
  • Hand light (should be hands free operation if possible)
  • Chocks (door wedges and/or sprinkler wedges)
  • Lineman's Pliers
  • Spanner wrench (collapsible preferred)
  • Rope/webbing (multi-purpose use / variable length/diameter)
  • Radio - (Operational with firefighting gloves and emergency alert equipped)

The Greg Fleger video (National Fire Academy Safety & Survival Course) immediately comes to mind as I begin to consider the importance of personal protective clothing and the related "Tools of the Trade". No video I have ever seen reinforces this more. Firefighter Fleger, experienced what no firefighter should ever experience 2nd and 3rd degree burns. Although I've never met Greg, I'm certain he would agree that the need to wear your personal protective clothing correctly cannot be mentioned enough. No matter how simple, how insignificant you may think the call is, WEAR YOUR PPE and WEAR IT RIGHT, NO MATTER WHAT!!!

P.P.E. / P.A.S.S

The value and worthiness of personal protective clothing is about ATTITUDE. The attitude of each and every one of us is what makes this protective clothing worth its weight. We teach the proper method of donning PPE and its related accessories in Rookie/recruit School and for most of us this topic is rarely if ever revisited. Why, - ATTITUDE. Our attitude is, it's too basic. I know how to where my PPE, I've been there done that. I challenge you with this, make every member (Rookie to Senior member) don their PPE including S.C.B.A. and see what you find, the results are ever so embarrassing. Snaps undone, skin exposed, buckles left undone, P.A.S.S. alarms not activated, ? turned cylinder valves, etc. Now, make these members stand still for thirty seconds, what do they do? Do you hear any pre-alerts, what's their reaction, is it appropriate, or is it discus? The false alarms, "cry wolf" syndrome of the modern P.A.S.S. Alarm is not a manufacture defect, it's an ATTITUDE problem.

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