The role of a firefighter is not always textbook. A firefighter can be called to any number of scenes, and because of this, they need to ensure that their equipment is in good working order at all times.
Besides fighting fires, firefighters (and volunteer firefighters) can be called to any of the following, to name a few:
- Structure Fire
- Water rescues
- High angle rescues
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Medical emergencies
One way that firefighters can make certain that their equipment is ready for the next assignment is through regular inspections. In fact, it is critical for firefighters to regularly inspect their firefighting equipment. Whether they recently engaged in fighting a fire, performed a water rescue, helped at the scene of an accident, there are numerous reasons to ensure their gear is damage-free and ready to go. From maintaining safety to ensuring a state of preparedness, firefighters should consider these top reasons to regularly inspect firefighting tools.
First and foremost, routine inspections of firefighting equipment ensure safety. When kept clean, well-maintained, and free from damage, equipment such as firefighting hand tools help to keep the firefighter safe. Properly functioning tools also contribute to the safety of others. After all, if a firefighter does not have the proper equipment (including tools and apparel) to fight fires or tackle emergencies, they will not be able to effectively fulfill their role. They may also put themselves at risk of sustaining a serious injury.
Should a fire break out and a firefighter need to report for duty at the drop of a hat, malfunctioning or broken tools could lead to a variety of safety hazards. A significant and potentially tragic hazard includes the possibility of firefighting tools breaking on the job. From pickaxes to shovels and Pulaski tools, a broken tool is a useless tool. Firefighters can prevent this nightmare of a situation through regular inspections.
Properly working gear is reliable gear. When a firefighter shows up to the scene of a fire or other hazardous situation, being able to rely on their equipment is imperative. By performing regular inspections on firefighting tools, firefighters can make certain that their equipment is operational and ready to go whenever a call comes through.
A State of Preparedness
Most of the time, emergencies happen without any warning. Firefighters can ensure that they are prepared for any call they may receive by regularly inspecting their firefighting equipment. Daily, weekly, and monthly inspections allow firefighters to ensure that they are prepared for anything.
An example of daily checks could be inspecting each piece of personal and operational equipment. Monthly checks could include inspecting firetrucks and other rescue vehicles for minor repair like engine issues, and other signs of wear and tear.
Often overlooked but important nonetheless, alleviating stress is a major reason to regularly inspect firefighting tools. Fighting fires and responding to other calls requiring the presence of a firefighter can be extremely stressful. Additionally, waiting for a call to come through can create a constant, albeit subconscious, level of stress. Firefighters can reduce the tension they experience on the job by ensuring that their equipment is in good working order. Firefighters have one less thing to worry about knowing that their tools are ready for whatever the day or night brings.
An Inspection Checklist
From pick-axes to pick-hoes and rakes, there are an assortment of tools every firefighter needs to fight fires and perform rescues successfully. Each of these tools should be inspected regularly to ensure safety, preparedness, and reliability. An example checklist of equipment to inspect includes:
A firefighter cannot fight a fire or perform a rescue if they cannot get to the scene. It is critical to regularly inspect the department’s fleet. Daily inspections could look different than monthly inspections, as daily checks could include checking tires, fluid levels, wipers, battery power, onboard firefighting gear and that all windows are clean and clear. Monthly inspections should be more intensive. Monthly inspections could include checks to ensure that all lights and sirens work properly, valves function and all switches are in working order.
Firefighters should regularly inspect their personal equipment, including bunker gear and survival gear. This includes jackets, pants, helmets, and boots. All bunker gear should be carefully examined for signs of tears, thinning, missing components, and other signs of disrepair. Ensuring these items are in good shape will protect the firefighter from sustaining injury themselves. Some examples of personal equipment that should be checked regularly include:
- SCBAs (self-contained breathing apparatuses): these critical pieces of firefighting equipment help firefighters breathe clean air, preventing smoke or other chemicals from reaching their lungs. Firefighters should check to ensure that oxygen levels are safe and that the equipment works properly.
- Radio: Ensure that the batteries are fully charged, buttons work appropriately, and that the devices are otherwise operational at all times.
- Flashlight & Headlamps: Ensure that the batteries are fully charged. If not, replace them.
Firefighters should routinely inspect their operational equipment. This includes any and all gear used to fight fires, perform water rescues, respond to accidents, and assist with medical emergencies. Some examples of operational equipment that should be checked regularly include:
- Saws, pickaxes, pick-hoes, shovels, swatter, combis and rakes: Check over each piece of equipment and inspect them for damage or defect. Ensure that all handles are securely attached and that there are no issues with the blades. For motorized tools, ensure that they have the appropriate amount of fuel and oil.
- Portable Pumps &Hoses: Hoses should be checked for damage prior to being put away after each and every deployment. Pumps should be fuel stabilized and all water removed if being shelved for winter or de-winterized if being returned to service.
- Ladders: Since ladders are used often in firefighting, these tools should be inspected often. Firefighters should check to ensure that there aren’t any knicks, broken rungs, or other issues that could pose a safety hazard.
In addition to ensuring that their equipment is fully operational and ready to go, firefighters must also ensure that they are in good shape. It is important for firefighters to perform an internal check, if you will, to make certain that they are prepared for whatever the day (or night) brings.