Organizing Your Apparatus for Fast and Effective Operations

Bill Adkins asks, "Does your rig have everything on it that it's supposed to have?"

By Bill Adkins

When the need for a tool on the fireground arises, we usually do not have the time to go looking for it. Better yet, we need to make sure it is there in the first place. This all starts with performing accurate truck checks. Ask yourself, “Does your rig have everything on it that it’s supposed to have?”

This article will go over some techniques and options to organize and streamline your truck checks so you can quickly identify any missing equipment.

A compartment with the equipment just thrown in with no organization. (Photos by author.)

The Human Aspect of Truck Checks

An accurate truck check is an important way to identify whether or not you have the equipment your apparatus is required to have. Your members took the time to decide what equipment was needed for your apparatus; we need to do our due diligence to make sure it stays that way.

Over the years, I’ve found that the harder or longer it takes to complete truck checks, the more I have found firefighters “pencil whipping” them. What can we do as a department to prevent this from happening? Is discipline always the answer? I believe it is not. We can assist them from ever needing to pencil whip the truck checks by organizing our apparatus so one can tell right away if something is missing. A firefighter is more likely to complete an accurate truck check if it only takes a few minutes to identify that something is missing.

That same compartment as shown in photo 1, but it has now been organized by a department member. The cost: $0.

It’s extremely nice to open a compartment door and, with a quick glance, can tell if something is missing. It has been my experience that, when firefighters have an organized apparatus, they tend to complete a more detailed apparatus check. Being able to identify that equipment is in its place allows firefighters to spend more time on the other important things like making sure the equipment actually operates correctly. This way, they can spend more time checking their personal protective equipment, for example.

Organizing Your Apparatus 

Budget restraints tend to hinder most departments from having their apparatus organized professionally. When purchasing an apparatus, departments spend most, if not all, of their budgets on the apparatus itself. Although organizing your apparatus will take some time, it does not necessarily need to be expensive.

A compartment with equipment mounted by department member.

Find a firefighter, an officer, or even a family member that enjoys organizing things. You would be amazed at the amount of people that take passion in organization. Lay your tools out prior to mounting them; this ensures you have everything you want and need for your apparatus. Also, get with your department members before the final mounting; you may have missed something you needed. Firefighters want to help—it’s in their nature. They may not want to put in the work to mount your equipment, but they will feel good when given the opportunity to provide their opinion. Remember, it is their rig, too.

If you have it in your budget, there are many companies that can mount your equipment professionally. Most manufactures offer this service. Provide the company with a list of your equipment and sit back and let them do the hard work. This, of course, can have a hefty price tag, but the results you get will be worth it. The compartment organization they can provide will help to keep track of your equipment.

A compartment with equipment mounted by a professional. The cost depends on the equipment needing to be mounted.

Implementing the 5S System

The 5S is a system—Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain—is a way to organize spaces so work can be performed efficiently, effectively, and safely. This system focuses on putting everything where it belongs and keeping the workplace clean, which makes it easier for people to do their jobs without wasting time or risking injury.

Sort. The goal of sort is to only have what is needed for the job in the work area. This can have a broad meaning for firefighting, but I tend to see fire apparatus with everything but the kitchen sink. In reality, do we need five spare nozzles, 10 2½-inch double females, every tool imaginable? Not for 99.9 percent of our fires. Yes, there is a need for all of those tools and, if you have the space for them, it’s fine. However, if you have to just throw it in the compartment to make it fit, we can probably do without it.

Straighten. This is the time for us to decide where our equipment needs mounting. Clearly identify or label the equipment. Keep tools for certain jobs together. For example, keep the ventilation equipment together, the auto extrication equipment together, and so on. Also, color code your equipment, and label with lines. This allows us to see what type of tool is missing without referring to the truck check.

Shine. This refers to keeping our tools and compartments clean. Maintain its appearance by cleaning and/or painting equipment periodically. The old wives’ tale “A clean tool is a happy tool” proves to be true with this statement. Cleaning and maintaining our equipment helps us find any problems that may exist.

Standardize.  This is another example for keeping the equipment together. Have clear roles for your compartments. Also, create the checklist for the equipment and train your members to use the checklist. Show your members how important it is to keep the equipment in its place.

Sustain. This aspect is perhaps the most difficult. Keeping the apparatus compartments clean and organized in the fire service proves to be challenging. Some members tend to not be as organized as others. To sustain our equipment, continue to improve and maintain our cleanliness. Continue to update the apparatus checks as needed.

When you mount equipment neatly, it’s easy to see if anything is missing, and members can find the equipment quickly.

Final Thoughts
Sometimes, too many tools can be a bad thing. Not being able to find a tool because of a messy compartment is like not having it at all. Whether your budget is very large or very small, you can organize your apparatus to a high standard. Keep it maintained and update any changes you make to the truck checks. Your firefighters will appreciate what your department has done to help them complete the checks and finding tools when on emergency scenes.

BILL ADKINS is a captain with the Loveland-Symmes (OH) Fire Department Training Division/Maintenance Division.

No posts to display