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I've always been a big advocate of carrying the tools you need with you. I'd rather have it and not need it than be caught without it. Recently though my crew did a self survival drill in our department's 3 story smoke lab. The drill put you through low visibility, a drop away floor, confined spaces, and a wire box, (among other obstacles) as you followed a hose line out of the structure. That being said, in that situation, all I used were my 9" lineman's cutters. As I took stock of the rest of my tools I realized very few would be useful in actual firefighting/rescue ops. Most are geared towards what I face in overhaul as a truckie.

What happened during the drill that made me start thinking about downsizing what I carry was getting hung up a few times due to the pretty substantial tool roll in my pocket. I've heard some departments are moving away from side pockets in bunker pants for this very reason.

Has your department done this and what are your thoughts/experience?

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Replies to This Discussion

I carry several tools with me in my pant pockets as well. I think, like you, that I would rather have them than not. That being said, I keep my battery cable cutters in my left pant pocket with only a small flashlight and hose strap. Nothing else. This way I am not fumbling with vice grips, cresent wrench, etc trying to find the cutters when I need them.

I have heard some large departments with high rise projects have removed pant pockets from some companies pants since they are climbing so many stairs. But I have not personnaly confirmed that.

I also had carry a bunch of stuff in my side pockets but have emptied them to just a few things that I would need in an emergency. Right leg pocket are my structural gloves and a pair of pruning shears zip-tied to a heavy string type glove holder with a cheap carabiner for keys hooked on the top of pocket. This makes it easy to grap w/ gloves and I don't need to get completly into the pocket to get them. On the left side I have 30ft of rolled webbing w/ carabiner hooked to bunker adjustment strap, 15ft rolled webbing w/ carabiner hooked to front edge of pocket and finally a length of webbing for a chest harness w/ loops on each end w/ carabiner hooked to back edge of pocket. My feeling is these are emergency low vis situation stuff that is easily accessible. Other tools i.e window punch, safety glasses, multi-screw driver etc are in my coat pockets. i use the pruning shears w/ internal spring to cut thru just about anything you can w/ one hand, they provide a wide gap to get on the item to be cut.

I also found that w/ new gear we've been issued is that the pockets have alot of velcro to keep the flaps close, does great on that, but hard to get open with one hand. I bought some bunk velcro and coverd some of the velcro such that there isn't as much holding the pocket closed. This makes it alot easier to open the pocket flap w/ one hand.

Stay safe and work smart,
Funny your mention this. I was just talking to a new-ish guy the other day and we were discussing what to carry. I found that over the years, if there was something i hadn't used in a year or so, i usually jetissoned it. I did this several times b/c you get to the point where you have so much stuff in your pockets that you either wind up nearly stabbing youself with soemthing or you can't move from the extra weight. Remember that is what the rig is for, esp. ladder companes -- they are rolling toolboxes
I seperated my two pants pockets from a cluster to seperatating each pocket. My right pocket is for hand tools and small items. In the left pocket I put my webbing. I always know no matter what type of situtation what is in what pocket.

In the right pocket took a piece of old 3" hose and made a pouch out of it for my side cutters, channel lock plyers, screw drivers, shove knife. I use a cigar tube for a large yellow crayon. I also have a folding spanner and a window punch in this pocket.

In the left pocket I have my webbing, extra cheap flashlight and a little blue strobe (Lightman).

I carry 3 main flashlights
- Vulcan
- Survivar
- LED little ed
I used to carry everything in my pant and coat pockets as well...! Subsequently, I have also moved to carrying a tool bag for the tools that I do not use often, and the ones that I will use more often I carry in my coat pockets. It definitely has lightened the load. The con to it is that my coat pockets bulge a little more than before. Can't have it all I guess.
I also carry linemans pliers and had a problem with them fitting in my coat pocket. So, I took the pliers to the O'l saw and grinder, cutting the handles down to a size that would fit into my pocket and still allow the tool to have a good amount of leverage. As an added touch I re -spliced the rubber ends that were cut off the end of the handles to add a finished look. Try this It works!!!
-Dave you have brought up an issue that is a pet peeve of mine... firefighters that actually carry to much gear and needlessly weigh themselves down and create entanglement hazards.
-Any firefighter that believes that carrying equipment will not create an entanglement hazard has never been through a rigorous survival course.
-Need a wake up call? Try Jim McCormick's survival course at the Fire Department Training Network in Indianapolis. This is one of the most aggressive and arduous courses available. It will certainly point out that most firefighters need to put their gear on a diet.
-My personal rule for carrying tools, gear, etc, is that it must be something I can retrieve from the pocket AND utilize without taking off my structure gloves. If you must take off your gloves to use the tool then you don't need it during the urgent phase of the scene and the tool application can wait until the incident is stabilized; ie overhaul.
-During overhaul take a break and go out to the apparatus and get what you need or have one of the firefighters outside bring it in to you. There should be no urgency that requires the need for such small handheld tools that necessitate being employed without gloves.
-How many firefighters carry more than one item in a pocket on their gear? How much of this is essential during the firefighting or victim rescue phase of the call? How many of these firefighters can differentiate between the tools in their pocket while wearing structure gloves?
-Can the tool be selected, taken out of the pocket and used while wearing gloves? If the answer to this question is no than you don't need to carry it.
-The bottom line is many firefighters carry to much crap in their pockets. To that end I don't think I would really miss the pockets on the bunker pants.


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