Leatherhead Thursday: The importance of precision

By James R. Dennison

of the Leatherhead Instructors

Saws, hand tools, ladders, hoses, nozzles, rescue equipment, and gas tools can be found on all fire trucks across America. There are many similarities between manufacturers of the equipment, but there are also many differences. The manufacturer of the equipment is unimportant, but the knowledge needed to use your departments’ equipment is absolutely monumental. The operations and abilities of the tools that we regularly use are second nature to us, but the stuff that seems to spend more time on the rig than in use may be far from familiar.

The proper start up procedures for your saws can make or break you in an emergency. Small engines can prove to be challenging in themselves due to their “cold blooded” nature, but knowing how to properly handle the equipment and how to overcome things such as a flooded engine or loose chain can keep you in the game.  Regular maintenance of the equipment is imperative to smooth operations, but can also provide an understanding of the more technical aspects of the saws.

Hose loads and lays are never the same between two fire departments, and often are different between the trucks in your bays. The loads, lengths, and nozzles are typically set up for the area in which you respond and departmental preference. Understanding the proper way to deploy each type of load on your trucks can save time, property, and lives. Knowing your loads and lengths will enable you to quickly add sections when needed to reach the fire, ensure efficiency of deployment, and allow you to be an asset instead of liability to your company. Knowing and understanding the type of nozzle, its flow, operation, and pressure is also necessary to be successful on the job.

Routine care of your hand tools, personal equipment, and PPE will greatly reduce failure on the emergency scene. Keeping your hand tools clean, properly assembled, and sharpened is your responsibility; don’t rely on the previous crew or user to maintain them. You better know where and how to use the tools in your pockets if you are going to carry them; it is ignorant to have a mass pile of items on you that you have no idea how to use or where it is. Do you like to wear the same underwear several days in a row? I hope not! Treat your turnout gear the same way. If you use it, clean it! Proper maintenance of turnout gear can prevent you from absorbing carcinogens on a regular basis and allow the gear to effectively work when needed.

Keep in mind that even the simple things can be reviewed and a lot can be gained. Take five minutes and look at your hydraulic rescue tools; which way do you move the control to make the tool operate? How far does the hydraulic reel reach? What type of oil does the hydraulic reservoir use? Are the tools clean? I bet you can refresh your mind and maybe gain something you didn’t know in that five minutes!