The Fire Station, The Station Articles

Proper Hose Care and Maintenance: Why Does It Matter?

A main focus in the fire industry today revolves around maintaining and caring for your personal protective equipment (PPE) properly, but what about your department’s hoses and other fire station equipment? Just like PPE, fire hose is one of the most used items in the fire service, so maintenance is just as important because it prolongs the life of the hose and allows it to perform as designed. Every time you use your department’s hose it can pick up harmful chemicals and, if not properly cleaned, can grow mold and mildew. Firefighting is a dangerous occupation, which is why learning the proper way to use and handle all tools is important.

NFPA 1962, Standard for the Care, Use, Inspection, Service Testing, and Replacement of Fire Hose, Couplings, Nozzles, and Fire Hose Appliances, provides a reasonable level of safety for users of fire hose and a reasonable degree of assurance that the hose, coupling assemblies, and nozzles will perform as designed. If not followed completely, applying common sense to the care, cleaning, and storage of fire hose is a simple solution to making sure it works well and is maintained. 

The 35-page document supplied goes over many things such as types of hoses, definitions of standards, details about each type of hose and nozzle, testing and repairs, damage prevention, and what we will cover in this article: inspection, cleaning, drying and storage of your fire hose.

There are many ways fire hose can be damaged while in use, such as mechanical damage, thermal damage, organic damage, and chemical damage. Some rules put in place by the NFPA are as follows:

4.5—HOSE INSPECTION

4.5.1 Physical inspection shall determine if the hose and couplings have been vandalized, are free of debris, and exhibit no evidence of mildew, rot, or damage by chemicals, burns, cuts, abrasions, and vermin.

4.5.2 During the inspection, a check shall be made to determine if the service test of the hose is current.

4.5.3 LINER INSPECTION

4.5.3.1 The interior of the hose at each end shall be visually inspected for any physical signs of liner delamination. 

4.5.3.2 If the liner shows signs of delamination, the hose shall be condemned.

4.5.4 If the hose fails the physical inspection, it shall be removed from service and either repaired as necessary and service tested as specified in section 4.8, 4.9, and 4.10 as appropriate, or condemned.

4.5.5 The coupling shall be inspected as specified in 7.1.3 and 7.1.4

4.5.6 Where nozzles are required on occupant-use hose, they shall be inspected as specified in section 5.2

The methods for washing and drying truly depend on the hose being used and what type of debris and particles are found on the hose, but there are basic procedures that should be followed. Washing cabinets aren’t required as long as other wash steps are followed, but they save time and man power. Now with the huge push to keep gear clean, this may be required in the future. The same goes for hose drying cabinets. Some of the NFPA requirements follow.

4.6—HOSE CLEANING AND DRYING

4.6.1 After each use, all hose shall be cleaned.

4.6.2 If dirt cannot be thoroughly brushed from the hose or if the hose has come in contact with harmful materials, the hose shall be washed.

4.6.3 If, during use, the hose has been exposed to hazardous materials, it shall be decontaminated by the method approved for the contaminant.

4.6.4 Covered hose shall be permitted to be wiped dry.

4.6.5 Hose shall not be dried on hot pavements or under intense sunlight

After hose is washed and dried, it should be properly stored. There are many ways departments can store fire hose from rack systems to the apparatus itself. You want your hose located in a clean, well ventilated room because this will help tremendously with hose life. Some of the NFPA requirements are: 

4.7—HOSE STORAGE

4.7.1 Hose shall be kept out of direct sunlight and in a well-ventilated location.

4.7.2 All hose shall be drained and thoroughly dried before being placed in storage.

4.7.3 Hose shall be stored only after it has been inspected in accordance with section 4.5 and has been cleaned and dried.

4.7.4 Hose that is out of service for repair shall be tagged as specified in 4.11.1.6 and 4.11.3.6 and kept separated from any hose in storage that is ready for service.

Mike Beyer, full time firefighter in Elk Grove Village, Illiniois, and part time Lieutenant at Wonder Lake (IL) told us that while in the fire academy in 2006 he learned the basics of fire hose construction, maintenance, and testing and since then, many standards haven’t changed. 

“Each department has standard operating guidelines or procedures for cleaning, storing, and testing hose and is all pretty much the same,” he says. “Normally after a fire, if hose is dirty and wet, we disconnect the hose, drain it, wipe any debris off of it, and roll it up to bring back to the station. The hose is rolled out and washed using a mild soap/water mixture and a brush. The hose is rinsed and hung in a hose tower to air dry. After hose is dry, it is rolled up and stored normally on a hose rack. Some departments that don’t have a hose tower may lay hose out in an accordion style pattern for drying.”

He also told us that all hose used in their department goes through testing every year. The hose is put under pressure to look for damage or leaks. Damaged hose is removed from service and either sent for repairs or retired, which is exactly what the NFPA requires.

We also spoke to Mark Amore, a firefighter who works at the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods (IL) Fire Protection District and says, “When I went to the fire academy 22 years ago, very little was talked about other than basic care. However, a very heavy emphasis on drying was instilled. Back then, the outer jacket of hose was constructed of cotton and would get moldy and start to rot if you rolled it or put it back on the fire engine wet or damp. Since then, manufacturers primarily use synthetic materials to construct the outer jacket. When using synthetic material, there is a very slim chance of mold.”

As you can see, over time, the push for maintaining, washing, and drying your hose has become more important than it was in the past. Amore did state that his current department does not have an SOP/SOG on proper storage or drying of hose, but they all did receive the firefighter manual that goes over the care and maintenance of department hose.

With the guidelines in place, each department should do its best at keeping up with the requirements that have been set forth. Not only will it help its overall budget in the end by having to replace less hose year after year, it can also help save the life of the firefighter using it.

Ready Rack by Groves offers a line of hose cleaning, drying, and storage gear that helps departments comply NFPA 1962. With the Ready Rack line of products, departments will get quality USA-made hose storage solutions at competitive prices. To see all of the products found in our line visit www.readyrack.com.