Tools of the Trade

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

Firefighters across the country have lost their lives and others will soon follow because of this ATTITUDE. We must make every effort to fix it now. How do we fix it, simple, training and discipline. As we train firefighters we train them in the value of this tool, the importance of this tool and we NEVER allow them to work without this tool in operation whether it's training or on the emergency scene. Secondly, when members hear a pre-alert, we teach them to react in a manner that resets the device (regardless if it's there's). Lastly, when we hear a P.A.S.S. alarm in the full alarm mode, we react to it "IMMEDIATELY".

A good method to remember this by and a good method to teach our fellow firefighters is by using the well-known R.I.T. or R.I.C. acronyms:

R-React, I-Identify, T-Transmit or C-Communicate

I recommend using this simply to instill importance and urgency towards the activation. By teaching your members to REACT (immediately) upon hearing an activation we quickly resolve the issue of the "Cry Wolf" syndrome. This goes for the emergency scene as well as training. The ole saying, "Train as you play" should not be forgotten when it comes to P.A.S.S. alarm activations. Members displaying discuss/frustration upon hearing a P.A.S.S. alarm activation should be reminded of the importance of this tool and the need to react appropriately towards it's activation.

Secondly, by conscientiously identifying the problem we quickly remedy the situation or begin to work on a strategic plan to remove the troubled member. Lastly, we must require members to transmit/communicate there problem to crewmembers and/or the incident commander. This requirement prioritizes the necessity for RIT/RIC team deployments and importance of requesting assistance early.



Although the effectiveness of a hand light is situation dependant, the importance of one cannot be overstressed. To many this is simple; to others it hardly makes sense. The value of a hand light is not only to enhance visibility for the task being performed; it can also be used as a means of signaling for assistance when traditional means of communicating fail.

Fire departments or firefighters purchasing hand lights should make every effort to purchase hand lights that are durable, intrinsically safe and last but certainly not least, hands free. No hand light should be a hindrance to the task being performed. Quite simply, hand lights should be attached to your personal protective ensemble, (yet capable of being removed quickly for remote usage) turned-on, and free from obstruction.



The concept of carrying tools for forcible entry has been taught for many years in the fire service. The concept of carrying tools for "forcible exit" was brought to light by the "Saving Our Own" class over the past couple of years.

I would ask you to look around your fire ground and see how many "empty-handed" firefighters you have working for you. As you access your fire ground listen for the communications of interior crews, inevitably you will hear this, "Attack to command, can you send someone in with a pike pole?" Why is this? If we know we need them going in, why is it we fail to take them in with us on our initial attack? The answer is oh so simple; we want to be the first one to put water on the fire. True, the importance of a quick knockdown cannot be overemphasized, yet the need for essential tools to complete the tasks is of no less importance.

Firefighters today must realize that it is absolutely essential to carry the necessary tools to perform the task at hand. Not only is it important that we consider the task we are assigned and the necessary tools to complete the task, we must also consider what might go wrong in the process. What would happen if during this initial attack our means of egress is cut off, now what do we do? Instinctively, the "Fight or Flight" mindset comes into play, yet we are not adequately equipped to perform the latter of the two. What will you use to force your way out? What will you use to create that alternative means of egress? The answer should be very simple?hand tools, but for whatever reason we have chosen not to bring them along.



Instinctively, we enter a burning building seeking to find the seat of the fire or to rescue potentially trapped victims. How many times in our careers have we passed through a doorway without ensuring that it would not close behind us? We so often times take for granted that a door that is pushed open will stay open, this is not always the case. The chemistry of fire has taught us the power and potential of convective currents yet this and the many other unrecognized actions on the fire ground do not always come to mind when we consider the security of our means of egress.