Firefighting the tools of the trade

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There are many different tools and pieces of equipment used by firefighters today. Some of these pieces of equipment rarely see the light of day, and others rarely see any rest. We will discuss the tools of the trade in the next part of the article.

The helmet, face mask, and /or visor are specially designed to protect the firefighters head from any hard objects that might fall on them, and the visor helps to protect the eyes from any flying debris. Turn-Out gear, also included is a turnout jacket and pants – the term turn-out comes from the fact that the jacket and pants were most usually kept by the firemans bunk to be ready at a moments notice. They are sometimes still referred to as such, or merely the jacket and pants.

Certified NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), fire retardant gloves specially designed for the sole job of firefighting are also a necessary part of the whole outfit. Fire resistant, water-resistant chemical and pathogen retardant boots, sporting complete steel sole and steel toe complete the gear and provide the necessary protection on the outside of the body. Underneath the above mentioned pieces are a few others that will ensure not being burned by either the steam or fire Special Carbon and Nomex hoods are capable of resistance to heat and flame, and are made out of a special material called meta aramid which is a form of para aramid kevlar. It was first produced by Dupont.

Items that are needed but do not protect the firefighter from burns are used to provide the firefighter what is necessary to do his or her job correctly. The first of these items is the SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) is used for filtering the air that the firefighter breathes when working around a lot of smoke or noxious gasses. The PASS (Personal Alert Safety System) is worn by firefighters and is a tracking device that allows those not inside of the structure to track the movements of those wearing it. If a person becomes inactive for a specified amount of time or if they manually trigger the device, help will respond. A flashlight, hand held radio for communication purposes between firefighters, and a pager or receiver commonly used for sending alerts to firefighters not on site at the fire department are all as important as any other piece. The pagers receive a page if they are needed to respond to the emergency call. A Pike pole is a piece of equipment that is usually 6 – 10 feet in length and was originally used to pull down walls and ceilings to prevent the spread of fires. It is used for poking holes in walls to find hidden fires in walls or ceilings, as well as being used to break windows or pull things out of fires. A Halligan bar or multi purpose tool generally used for punching, twisting, prying, or striking is also an essential tool. This tool is made up of several different heads, such as a wedge, a claw end, and a crow bar type end. An authentic halligan bar is one solid tool, not made up of several heads welded on. In some of the larger departments a thermographic camera or a special camera that shows thermal imaging (infrared imaging) that is used inside structures to find victims not able to be seen, and for finding missing bodies in car wrecks if there are woods nearby.

These are only just a few of the many tools and pieces of equipment that firefighters use when fighting fires. Just looking at the tools listed above, you get the feeling they carry a lot of extra weight, in gear and equipment alone, added to that, any air tanks they have to carry or additional ropes or hoses, as well as their own weight. It is no wonder they sometimes drop from sheer exhaustion. Each piece of equipment is vital, and nothing can be left behind. Although we might not understand all the uses nor needs they have, the firefighters are trained with all of the equipment they use, and their training is ongoing. Each fire department is constantly running drills as well as continuing courses on new equipment as well as teaching the best ways to use current accessories. As long as there is fire, there will be crises and the need for trained firefighters.

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