Engine Essentials: The Fire Department Connection Bag

July 3, 2023
Jonathan Hall explains what tools, fittings and equipment must be included in the kit that's used to complete and troubleshoot a positive water supply to the FDC.

Connecting to the fire department connection (FDC) is a routine task that’s assigned at fires involving buildings that are equipped with standpipes and/or sprinkler systems. Steps should be taken to ensure that the system remains operational at its peak effectiveness prior to making the connection. In addition, there are times when members must troubleshoot problems with the FDC to supply the system. Having a bag that has the necessary tools, fittings and equipment to establish basic FDC connections and to troubleshoot any problems that arise helps to streamline the operation.

Bag overview

Task-specific bags are nothing new for the fire service. Many engine companies have bags that are set up to facilitate hydrant connections and standpipe operations. The concept of an FDC bag is similar—to keep all of the commonly needed equipment in one place that’s easy to grab and transport. Members often must carry the equipment to a location on the exterior of the building when connecting to the FDC and, in some cases, into the building when troubleshooting is required. A basic tool bag that’s purchased from a hardware store provides an easy and inexpensive way to transport the kit.

The goal of the FDC bag is to provide basic tools and equipment that are needed to rapidly and safely establish a supply to the FDC as well as one or two simple contingencies for several of the most commonly encountered problems. It’s important to not overload the bag with extraneous equipment that’s rarely, if ever, needed.

The bag should consist of basic hand tools, such as spanner wrenches, an 18-inch or larger pipe wrench, a large flathead screwdriver, long needle nose pliers and a small flashlight. Fittings, such as a 2½-inch double male, a 2½-inch double female and a 2½-inch plug, should be included, too. Finally, miscellaneous equipment, such as several lengths of webbing or rope and spare 2½-inch gaskets, also should be included.

The listed equipment is just the basic tools that are needed for FDCs that are encountered in most districts. It’s important that members assess buildings in their district to see whether additional equipment is needed for the challenges that they face. Departments may choose to add specialty equipment, such as a clappered Siamese, to facilitate supplying a single inlet with two hoselines or a SpeedSwivel FDC adapter that allows a hoseline to be connected to an inlet that’s missing the female coupling.

Hand tools

The basic hand tools that are in the FDC bag allow members to remove the plugs or covers that protect the female threads of the FDC. FDC covers range from metal plugs that have pin- or rocker-style lugs, to plastic plugs that have similar style lugs, to metal or plastic disks that are held on by eye bolts. In some districts, Storz-style FDCs are used as an alternative to the standard 2½-inch female connections, which then utilize Storz-style caps to protect the connection.

Spanner wrenches that accommodate both rocker- and pin-style lugs can be used to remove the metal or plastic plugs. A spanner wrench can also be used to pry loose the eye bolts that secure the disk-style covers in place or to break the disk if it’s of frangible construction. If Storz-style caps are present in the district, include a large enough spanner wrench to remove the cap. In addition, spanner wrenches can be used for their traditional purpose of ensuring that couplings are tight when hoselines are attached to the inlet(s) of the FDC.

Likewise, the 18-inch (or larger) pipe wrench can be used to remove plugs that cover the FDC inlets. You should ensure that the jaws of the pipe wrench open wide enough to fit around a 2½-inch coupling. An 18-inch pipe wrench is a good spec starting point, because it often is large enough to fit around a 2½-inch coupling yet is small enough to easily fit into a tool bag.

FDCs are exposed to the elements and rarely are maintained. Metal and plastic plugs can become stuck and difficult, if not impossible, to remove with a spanner wrench. An 18-inch pipe wrench can provide increased leverage to remove the stuck plug. In addition, plastic plugs have plastic lugs that become brittle over time and frequently snap off when one attempts to remove them with a spanner wrench. This leaves the threaded plug in place with no easy way to remove it. The jaws of the pipe wrench bite into what remains of the plastic plug to facilitate removal. A large flathead screwdriver serves several purposes.

First, it can be used to pry the metal or plastic disk covers off of the FDC.

Second, once the covers are removed, the FDC must be checked for debris and proper function. In conjunction with the small flashlight, the inside of the FDC should be visualized for any debris. If the debris isn’t removed, it can be pushed into the system, which could cause a decrease in flow or total occlusion of the nozzle. Members shouldn’t reach inside of the FDC with their hands, because items, such as hypodermic needles and other sharp materials, might cause injury. Use the flathead screwdriver to probe for debris, including checking behind the clapper of the Siamese, if equipped. By probing with the screwdriver, the proper function of the clapper valve also can be verified.

The long needle nose pliers can aid in removal of any debris that might be stuck in the FDC. Bird nests, wasp nests, trash and other items that were shoved into the FDC can be disastrous if not removed. Take the time to verify that the FDC is debris-free and functioning properly prior to connecting hoselines and supplying the system.


A 2½-inch double male, a 2½-inch double female and a 2½-inch plug can be used to troubleshoot many of the frequently encountered FDC problems. One of the most common is a stuck female swivel. Members can overcome a frozen swivel by twisting the hoseline counterclockwise four to five times prior to untwisting it while threading it into the female coupling of the FDC. Another option in this case is to attach a 2½-inch double male to the FDC and a 2½-inch double female to the double male to create an operating swivel.

Frequently, female swivels are damaged or missing. There also might be incidents where the FDC is difficult to access, members are unable to locate it or, once charged, it’s obvious that the piping is damaged and leaking, which would cause the system to be inadequately supplied. If this is the case, members first should attempt to connect to a different FDC inlet that’s in working order. If that isn’t an option, members should attempt to supply the system by connecting a medium-diameter hoseline to the first floor, or a lower floor, outlet using a 2½-inch double female.

Members should ensure that the selected standpipe outlet isn’t equipped with a pressure-reducing valve (PRV), as its construction doesn’t allow the system to be fed through it. To verify that the outlet isn’t a PRV, members should remove the cap and visualize the valve stem. If the stem is threaded, the valve isn’t a PRV. If the stem is smooth, it’s a PRV, and another method must be selected to supply the system.

Once it’s verified that the valve isn’t a PRV, flush the outlet, attach the hoseline to the outlet with the 2½-inch double female and communicate with the pump operator to ensure that the hoseline is connected to a discharge prior to opening the standpipe valve.

The final option for supplying the system without the use of specialty equipment involves the use of the test header if the building is equipped with a fire pump. That said, this method should be considered a last resort, because it’s more in-depth to employ.

Utilize the 2½-inch double female to connect a medium-diameter hoseline to the male threads of the test header. A member must be sent to the pump room to open the valve for the test header. In addition, if the selected outlet has an exterior valve, it must be opened. Keep in mind that, unlike the FDC, once the valve is opened, water will begin to discharge from any outlet that isn’t capped or equipped with an independent valve. If necessary, connect additional hoselines to the uncapped outlets prior to opening the valve.

The 2½-inch plug, although not frequently needed, can be utilized to block an FDC inlet that isn’t equipped with a plug when the clappered Siamese isn’t working properly. A better alternative is to just attach another hoseline to supply the inlet that’s missing the plug.

Miscellaneous equipment

A supply of 2½-inch gaskets should be kept in the FDC bag. As discussed above, the FDC is exposed to the elements and often isn’t well maintained. Frequently, the gaskets that are in the female coupling are missing, damaged or dried up. Members should inspect gaskets quickly prior to connecting hoselines. Because of the operating pressures that are required by various systems, it’s important to ensure tight connections.

The potentially high pressures that are required to supply the system demand added safety precautions. As always, the manufacturer’s recommendation of maximum operating pressures for hoselines shouldn’t be exceeded. Several lengths of webbing or rope should be included in the FDC bag to rapidly facilitate securing hoselines to the FDC. If a hoseline were to burst or separate from its coupling, the webbing would keep the hoseline from whipping, which potentially could cause injury or property damage.

In addition, some departments may choose to keep a roll of barrier tape in the bag to further cordon off the area from bystanders and operating members.

The tools and training

An FDC bag is a fast and efficient way to deploy the equipment that’s necessary to complete and troubleshoot a positive water supply to the FDC. Departments must analyze their response districts to ensure that they select the appropriate tools, fittings and equipment that are needed for their buildings. That said, members must train to proficiency at inspecting and supplying the system as well as troubleshooting basic problems that might arise using the equipment that’s contained in the bag.

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