1. #1
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    Default Do we need all this stuff?

    After reading these forums for awhile now, I have a question about gear. I see many posts about volunteer co's. and small departments and their never ending quest to purchase the "latest and greatest" gear. Do you need all this at the expense of more basic equipment or hiring extra manpower? I don't mean to say that departments don't need good stuff but it seems to go to extremes. TIC's for example. I'm sure they are good tools to have, but they are just tools. The Chicago Fire Department just got them a year or two ago (because the President of Bank One bought them and donated one for every truck and one for each single engine house) Like I said, I'm sure they are handy tools (and can't replace good truck work IMO), but are they really needed to do the job? SCBA's that let someone monitor each FF? The latest and most expensive bunker gear off the line? For the price of a couple cameras could you hire another full time FF? Like I said, I'm not suggesting that you do without decent gear, but wouldn't it be better to have 8 good firemen with serviceable gear than four firemen decked out like superman? Maybe I don't understand the situation, and if you can afford it - great - but give me good guys with the basics and I'll spend the money on training. Just a thought - I may be way off base never having worked anywhere but here.

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    Don't know the price of turnout gear anymore and always in favor of more manpower, but a TIC is $9000. How many guys you going to hire with that?

    However, I definitely understand what your point is here and would agree.
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    CFF-
    The short answer to your question is, no, we don't need some of this stuff.

    You're absolutely right in that good truck work is superior to technology.

    Chicago has gotten by well for years with 3/4 boots, and probably will do so for many more.

    A little thought and examination into this question makes the answer more difficult.

    I'll address the TIC question first.
    Our little department here runs about 65 fire calls per year. We've had one solid, working structure fire in three years. Unfortunately, no amount of training will supplant the experienced gained by working numerous fires. Our firefighters don't have the gut feeling to know when a room is getting too hot, simply because they don't have enough experience in it. Our firefighters can't properly search a room in under 20 seconds because, quite frankly, training on residential search and rescue once a year just doesn't give them the skills. And there are only so many hours available to train. I set up a county-wide fire school for this weekend. Schedules went out to over 25 fire departments, encompassing at least 600 firefighters. Got a grand total of 30 registered students. Now, throw in SCBA training, ladders, pump operations, water supply, ventilation, self-resuce/safety, and on and on and on, and pretty soon those two nights per week we can train get gobbled up pretty damn fast. There is just no substitute for experience. That's why we need the technology. That TIC will give our guys the confidence to search a room more quickly; to find a hidden fire or hot spot faster, and to help them get out of jam. The down side? Well, here's another piece of technogoly we have to TRAIN ON!!! So we get a grant, and add the camera.

    As for the gear, I'm not quite sure what you mean by latest and greatest. We wear PBI stuff, which is only about $200 per set more than Nomex. Is it most expensive than a long coat and 3/4 boots? Yes, but it's also NFPA compliant, which I'm going to need to keep our guys safe. Again, we have the issue of experice and training vs. use of that knowlege.

    Also, keep in mind that, as I just mentioned, NFPA is driving a lot of the costs here: I can't go out and buy a non-compliant set of gear from a reputable manufacturer or dealer. Same with the SCBA. If I buy a pack today, it's gotta have heads-up display, integrated PASS, buddy breather hook-up and quick-fill. I don't have a choice on that stuff. Result: an SCBA that cost $1,400 eight years ago (the first time we bought new packs since I started) will now cost almost three times that amount. Maybe I can buy reconditioned equipment, or used, but then I'm getting used and maybe marginal equipment; and at any rate, it's something that I'll have to be replacing sooner rather than later, simply because of the life-expectancy.

    Two cameras would cost around $30,000 I think. Once purchased, they last for several years. I don't know of anybody around here that'll work for that kind of money. I would love to hire one or two more people , if only for 8 hour days around here (sometimes we're lucky to muster four people for a daytime call). Unfortunately, the math washes out more like this: 2 people times a reasonable salary (no less than $35K in my opinion) = $70K in gross wages. Now add at least $6K for health insurance (mine is roughly $3K/year, and I'm a single non-smoker under 40). How about vacation time? Work comp insurance will go up; retirement or pension? Pretty quickly we'll be nudging $100K for two people. Tough to do when your total budget is $190K. Prior to me going full-time, we tried the part-time thing, and couldn't fill the spots with qualified people. I understand that all the fancy equipment and greatest gear in the world ain't worth a hoot in hell without a warm body to use the stuff, but it's tough to have both....
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    I also agree with the thought...in this day and age of Grants...it can be tough to tell the difference between 'good' purchases and frivolous ones.
    That being said, as a suburban dept (south of chi-town) we just finished sorting thru new gear options. While gearing up like superman is just plain silly, the shift towards more breathable gear is one not to pass up. I think we all as a whole can benefit from this shift in gear...whether it is 'cardiac-wise' or just being able to do the job a little longer/better.

    I could do (and have) my job without the TIC....I can do it longer without the heavier, crusty old gear from days gone by.

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    my 3 cents worth....

    TIC's for example. I'm sure they are good tools to have, but they are just tools. The Chicago Fire Department just got them a year or two ago (because the President of Bank One bought them and donated one for every truck and one for each single engine house) Like I said, I'm sure they are handy tools (and can't replace good truck work IMO), but are they really needed to do the job?
    Are they really needed? we worked without them for years, but they do make the job a hell of a lot easier and have more uses that just fires. Have a kifd lost in a park? A firefighter with a TIC will find the child's heat signature. The hand in the snowblower incident? A firefighter will a TIC will find the severed fingers and there may be a successful surgery to reattach said fingers.

    SCBA's that let someone monitor each FF? The latest and most expensive bunker gear off the line?
    When it's your life on the line, don't you want the best? Remember, City Hall looks at the lowest bidder and would rather save the taxpayer a few pennies than our lives.

    For the price of a couple cameras could you hire another full time FF?
    Cameras are down to about $9K. Cameras do not require health care benefits, pensions, etc.

    Like I said, I'm not suggesting that you do without decent gear, but wouldn't it be better to have 8 good firemen with serviceable gear than four firemen decked out like superman?
    The argument has to be made for staffing the rigs. It's not the big red truck that puts the fires out, it's the personnel who staff them.. and what the City considers "serviceable" and what a firefighter considers "serviceable" are diameterically opposed opinions! in my humble opinion, the difference between the two are the cost of bunker pants.
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    My feeling is, if you can afford it, why NOT have the best of everything? What's wrong with wanting the very best for your members or department? Let's not forget the people we protect. If their child is trapped, don't you think they would want you to have everything at your disposal?

    Like I said, I'm sure they are handy tools (and can't replace good truck work IMO), but are they really needed to do the job? SCBA's that let someone monitor each FF?
    They are tools, but they make our job easier and safer. You could have the same argument about any of the changes over the years in the fire service. Did the buckets brigades really need hose? Do we really need that motorized apparatus instead of horse drawn? See where I'm going?

    The latest and most expensive bunker gear off the line?
    In my dept. we are very fortunate and usually want for nothing. We can afford the best. This does, however, trickle to other depts. When we replaced all our turnout gear with the newest stuff "off the line", the members returned their older, still usable gear. This gear was in turn given to a nearby dept. that had members sharing turnouts among it's members. Same with some equipment that has been "surplused" by our fire district. It's usally given to other needy departments or, in the case of apparatus, sold at very discounted prices.

    All this being said, I do agree that having all this great stuff is USELESS without the training to back it up. But with that training, the possibilities with the best equipment are a thing of beauty.

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    Smile I Respectfully Disagree...................... ..........

    Thermal Imaging Cameras are in the same group as Automated External Defibrillators.Both are Fairly small, Lightweight, Full of Electronic tricks, run on batteries, use a lot of plastic components, and both SAVE LIVES. I'd rather be suited up and equipped properly, and not worry about hiring more people, since I have a reasonable amount already.
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    Quote Originally Posted by firepics

    They are tools, but they make our job easier and safer. You could have the same argument about any of the changes over the years in the fire service. Did the buckets brigades really need hose? Do we really need that motorized apparatus instead of horse drawn? See where I'm going?
    The point wasn't that these extras don't work or are no good (although I think the cameras are too expensive for what they do on everyday runs - maybe for specialized units) the point was when you are a cash straped department does it make sense to spend your limited budget on very expensive extras? Like I said this is just curiosity on my part from reading the posts here, not saying anyone doesn't deserve good stuff.
    Jaybird - good points on the camera, I never thought about it that way.
    It's not just these three, but they were just the three examples that came to mind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hwoods
    Thermal Imaging Cameras are in the same group as Automated External Defibrillators.Both are Fairly small, Lightweight, Full of Electronic tricks, run on batteries, use a lot of plastic components, and both SAVE LIVES. I'd rather be suited up and equipped properly, and not worry about hiring more people, since I have a reasonable amount already.
    Like I said, I meant departments that don't have good gear and staffing and are straped for cash. I'm not saying this equipment is bad, just maybe a little extravagant.

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    State roads dont last. Reason? Cause it is bid out (who can do it cheapest gets the job). And it costs us more money in the end in repairs.

    So why would I bid out turnout gear that protects my guys? Im sorry, but not all turnout gear is the same, and we are not going to just send out a list of specs and who can see them cheaper. Gear needs to be comfortable to be truly functional.

    Cameras? Your right, its good truck crew work first. But a camera speeds it up. Speed things up in a fire situation and you can save $$$ in damages, and find your son quicker. Worth the $9,000? You bet your @$$ it is.

    However, I do see your point that some money is wasted. Money is wasted by imitation firefighters. Firefighters find the BEST for the buck.
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    The point wasn't that these extras don't work or are no good (although I think the cameras are too expensive for what they do on everyday runs - maybe for specialized units) the point was when you are a cash straped department does it make sense to spend your limited budget on very expensive extras? Like I said this is just curiosity on my part from reading the posts here, not saying anyone doesn't deserve good stuff.
    Not nitpickin', but I reread your original post and you didn't state anything about "cash strapped" depts., or my response would have been a little different.

    I do see your point if this was your original intent, but I also don't think you should limit it to departments that have tight budgets. I believe that sometimes decisions on purchasing equipment are based solely on the fact that it is NEW.
    Again, only speaking in terms of my dept., we were awarded a grant to purchase a $45,000 dollar cascade system. Absolutely ridiculous. That money could have been put to much better use training guys on RIT, Self -Rescue, and my favorite....BREAD AND BUTTER stuff.

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    Quote Originally Posted by firepics
    Not nitpickin', but I reread your original post and you didn't state anything about "cash strapped" depts., or my response would have been a little different.

    I do see your point if this was your original intent, but I also don't think you should limit it to departments that have tight budgets. I believe that sometimes decisions on purchasing equipment are based solely on the fact that it is NEW.
    Again, only speaking in terms of my dept., we were awarded a grant to purchase a $45,000 dollar cascade system. Absolutely ridiculous. That money could have been put to much better use training guys on RIT, Self -Rescue, and my favorite....BREAD AND BUTTER stuff.
    Damn, I just read my orig. post and you're right! That was my whole point. Oh well, I guess I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue!

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    Chicago ..........I agree with jaybrid, while busier than his department, we are basically in the same boat. We are lucky to get get one good fire / year, there is no way with our financial situation we can hire full time staff. We are lucky to get 2 people to run 8-4 7 days a week on the Medic unit...........Do have a TIC..........our association paid for it, not our City......we all just got new gear over the last 2 years, and we got a nice grant for new SCBA...........luckily we were able to pass a levy a year ago that allows for these purchases. It would be great if we could get 4 more people to sign up and run an engine too, but they would be mighty bored when we are only cranking out 700 runs annually.
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    Damn, I just read my orig. post and you're right! That was my whole point. Oh well, I guess I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue!
    Wow! Told I was right and got a quote from my favorite movie!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by firepics
    Wow! Told I was right and got a quote from my favorite movie!!!
    Roger, roger!

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    What's your vector Victor?

    We have all the neat-o fire gizmos like everyone else (light gear, TIC, gas meters, RIT bags....etc, which are nice for sure).

    So on what calls do 99% of our "injuries" occur? EMS of course.

    They don't prepare you to carry 300lb sacks of pucks down wet stairs 4 times a day. We have lost guy's to knee/back/neck injuries from EMS calls year after year.

    My point? Give me that ambo stretcher that lifts itself by pressing a button!!!

    That will pro-long my illustrious career.

    Hey...just my opinion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChicagoFF
    Damn, I just read my orig. post and you're right! That was my whole point. Oh well, I guess I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue!
    Thats funny. What a way to admit expressing your point wrong and get a laugh.

    Back to the point: I belong to a volunteer department and we just received some new high quality equipment but thats due to a grant. And we are thankful.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FHandz15
    What's your vector Victor?

    We have all the neat-o fire gizmos like everyone else (light gear, TIC, gas meters, RIT bags....etc, which are nice for sure).

    So on what calls do 99% of our "injuries" occur? EMS of course.

    They don't prepare you to carry 300lb sacks of pucks down wet stairs 4 times a day. We have lost guy's to knee/back/neck injuries from EMS calls year after year.

    My point? Give me that ambo stretcher that lifts itself by pressing a button!!!

    That will pro-long my illustrious career.

    Hey...just my opinion.
    That was sorta what I was asking I guess. Is the truly useful being over looked and bumped out of the budget by the fancy extras everyone wants.

    Over, unger

    P.S. Hey firepics, my dad says you're lazy and don't get back on defense!

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    Tell your Old Man to drag Walton up and down the court for 60 minutes.
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    ChicagoFF,

    I certainly see your point...I would say that a good many departments in this country are "cash strapped". With a majority of the fire service being volunteer, there are a number of factors that come into play here.

    As with many of the points already mentioned...the TIC's have a number of uses besides use at a structure fire. I understand your point that a TIC is not a replacement for good truck work...and that might be true in Chicago where you might run several fires a shift. Come out here to the sticks where you might get one fire a year...not much opportunity to practice skills. Let alone having people specifically trained in truck company opeartions....usually the first guys who show up jump on the first due engine and go.

    As for SCBA...a lot of the guys packing up on vollie squads...unfortunately may not be in good enough physical shape to put on air pack...add to that, lack of experience, and they don't know their limits...that's when the accountability system comes in handy.

    Wastes? Sure there are wastes. Our chief in all of his infinite wisdom decided that we should apply to AFG for an SCBA compressor/cascade system. $36,000 was poured into a Mako system, this might get used a handful of times a year...and our simple refillable cascade system that we had had for 20+ years worked fine...we even got the air bottles refilled for free. Yeah, that was a waste, and we aren't the only ones.

    Look at some of these departments getting AFG grants for apparatus...if one could explain why a city of 500 "needs" a $400,000 rescue pumper on a custom chassis with 10 million candles worth of emergency lighting, when a simple, well-planned commercial rescue pumper will do...I won't call that a waste anymore...until then...towns who genuinely do "need" to replace a 40 year old truck will be passed over to fund these monstosities for the town good at grant writing!

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    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse
    Personally, as a volunteer, I think we should have all of the latest and greatest stuff. You are asking me to risk my life to save your stuff, and you want me to do it for free. You should at least be willing to give me the best tools available to do the job. The average Joe on the street doesn't realize what a bargain he is getting. Just my opinion.
    The best tools are not always the most expensive tools.

    Please, oh please don't let this thread go where I think it is...
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    It would be nice to have all of the latest and greatest, but then again we live in the world of budgets so we must prioritize. So instead of getting the most expensive turnout gear, get good average NFPA approved stuff. Instead of getting extra bells and whistles on your rigs, get ones that do the job yet are reasonable. Spend the money you save on classes and other things that improve the firemen themselves.

    Surely, you can't be serious.
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    I can't believe they actually pay me to do this!!!

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    Then again, you get what you pay for....
    That must be how the Volly fire service got you!

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    Quote Originally Posted by FFFRED
    That must be how the Volly fire service got you!

    FTM-PTB
    Did I hear a smack with that??? Yeah, I think I did!
    I can't believe they actually pay me to do this!!!

    One friend noted yesterday that a fire officer only carries a flashlight, sometimes prompting grumbling from firefighters who have to lug tools and hoses.
    "The old saying is you never know how heavy that flashlight can become," the friend said.
    -from a tragic story posted on firefighterclosecalls.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by FFFRED
    That must be how the Volly fire service got you!

    FTM-PTB
    Hahahaha



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