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Today’s firefighters are equipped with an assortment of hand tools inside their pockets. These tools can save a firefighter from becoming entrapped while working inside a structure fire. We all carry them, some type of linesmen pliers, knives, door chocks, screw drivers, flash light, webbing, rope. These are all common tools that are found in one’s pocket, but how do you know when too much can be an overload? Or what to carry or not to carry? This article can bring some focus on the vast topic of what is in our pockets.

Residential structure firefighting is a network of building materials that can trap a firefighter. Sheet rock, HVAC duck work, wood studs, and electrical wiring are some of the common ingredients that make up a home. These materials are critically exposed when fire burns through a structure. This sticky web along with a zero visibility smoke conditions can hinder firefighters in offensive operations.

Firefighters prepare their gear with multiple small hand tools to fight this tricky situation.Many of us train with our tools in these environments to prepare our minds if we find ourselves in this reality. Having this equipment easily available makes for second nature to grab, but often firefighters over equip themselves with tools or tend to struggle to find the right tool when becoming trapped or do not carry any tools in their pockets.

There is no real standard in what to carry in your pockets in today’s fire service. Many of us have learned from experience or listened to the senior man about what to carry in or on our gear. Every firefighter differs in how they prepare their gear and the age old question to carry or not to carry often comes into mind after training or a job is complete. Every firefighter should carry some type of basic tools on their gear to prevent a problem from happening.

The first common tool of choice is the linesmen pliers or wire cutters. This tool allows the firefighter to cut HVAC duck wiring or other types of wiring if he or she becomes entangled. The longer handles help when working in fire gloves.

A knife or box cutter is also a good choice to cut away material or seat belts in a rescue situation.

Second choice is webbing. 15-20 feet of flat or tubular webbing tired in a water knot is a great addition to carry if you need to rescue a downed firefighter or victim. Along with webbing 25-50 feet of 8-9mm prusik cord or ½ inch static kernmantle rope can help you if you find yourself needing to bailout of a window. Be careful if you carry webbing in a daisy chain, due to it becoming tangled with itself while in your pocket.

Third is a solid flashlight. This needs to be one that can hang on your gear or mount to your helmet keeping your hands free and allowing you to work in night operations or smoky conditions.

Fourth is door chocks. Plastic, wooden or metal are a few common types. This will allow you to prop open a door while advancing a hose line. Another good purpose can be to plug a broken sprinkler head.

Fifth, is a good Flat head or Philips head screw driver or combo Flat-Philips head screwdriver. This is often forgotten due to the need more in overhaul situations then is rescue.

Now, there are companies out there that promote the “all in one tool” i.e. spanner wrench, wire cutters, gas shut off, window punch etc. This tool can help you de-clutter your pockets for the many situations that a firefighter will face and can bring a solution of choice to the firefighter’s arsenal of equipment. The decision to go with one of these “all in one tools” will save you room in your pockets and can give you less weight to carry around.

These five common types of tools are only a base to start with in your gear. From there the choice is up to you and what you have experienced. A good motto to remember is “Left for life, Right for rescue.” This can help when you question tool placement in your gear.

As we start off in the fire service we can be aggressive in what we carry. Multiple tools for different type of situations can be found in one’s pocket. As we proceed throughout our career, we start to adjust or remove certain tools that are not needed or tend to be an overload. Firefighters should be smart in what he/she carries in their pockets. There can be a fine line from over carrying to many tools, to not carrying enough tools to rescue themselves. The question of “to carry or not to carry?” should be brought up often in one’s career. Train with these tools regularly, try new tools, ask around and see what others carry, and don’t forget that a ten dollar pair of wire cutters can save your life. Stay safe.

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