Knowing Your Rigs

Issue 7 and Volume 22.

Chris Mc Loone   Chris Mc Loone

Back in June 2015, I was fortunate to attend my first Interschutz exhibition in Hannover, Germany. Having seen pictures through the years of European fire apparatus, attending the show afforded me the opportunity to get up close to these rigs to have a better understanding of the differences between them and fire apparatus designed in the States.

Although I didn’t get the impression that they were built for comfort, I did note how organized they were from an equipment standpoint. These trucks were packed from top to bottom.

Recently, we shared a video on our Facebook page of a walkaround of a European fire truck. It garnered a bit of attention, but a few of the comments concerned me. Of course, there were the requisite comments about how what works there does not work here and the typical comments about the truck’s appearance – one compared it to a delivery truck. The opinions that concerned me involved how long it would take firefighters to find equipment on the truck. One person commented how well organized this rig is but that it would take his firefighters an hour to find something – and that many of his firefighters don’t know where things are now on their apparatus. Another commented, “Now ask someone for a gas meter … four hours later.”

As a general rule, I take just about everything I read on social media with a grain of salt, and obviously many of the comments regarding the truck are tongue in cheek. I’m certainly not contending that all fire apparatus be organized like European fire trucks. However, the comment about the firefighters not knowing where things are on the truck they have now is concerning. The only way for us to properly do our jobs is to train as often as possible and know where things are once we get to the fireground. I remember when I was a rookie a seasoned firefighter advised me to know where everything was on the truck. He said when the chief turns around and tells me to get something and I can’t find it, he won’t ask me again. The bigger the truck, the more equipment is usually carried. And, with multipurpose apparatus continuing to become more and more prevalent, the more nooks and crannies are filled with equipment that used to be on two vehicles. Although these posts did not condone not knowing where equipment is, the comments’ flippant nature is almost acceptance of the fact. Not good. And, not good to air that kind of dirty laundry on social media.

A Word about Seat Belts

We lost a volunteer firefighter recently after the fire apparatus he was operating left the road on which it was traveling and overturned several times. It was a case of overcompensating when the rig momentarily left the roadway. Two firefighters were riding in the truck, one suffering serious injuries, and the other, the driver, losing his life. Both firefighters were ejected, and neither was wearing his seat belt. The driver was 33, and the passenger 27.

We cannot lose firefighters to lack of seat belt use. No matter the age of the truck or your age, there is no excuse today to not wear your seat belt to and from an emergency scene whether you are in a fire apparatus or another vehicle. It only takes a second to do. Officers, don’t let the apparatus leave the house until everyone is belted in. Don’t fall prey to the argument that it is harder to don self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) when wearing a seat belt. Don’t believe that the beeping you hear on newer apparatus will stop once you’re on the road. Drivers, follow the same rule. Fire apparatus operator trainers, build seat belt use into your training programs and don’t let bad habits start early.

If a rig rolls over, there is always a chance the driver and occupants may sustain fatal injuries. However, don’t increase your risk of not surviving by not wearing your seat belt. When we fight a fire, we encapsulate ourselves in personal protective equipment and SCBA to protect us from the fire and products of combustion. There is equipment on every fire apparatus to protect us in the case of an accident. Why on earth would we not use it to ensure we get to and return from an incident?