Below is a top ten list of things that should be in your turnout gear. While I did some research on this subject, I will mostly reference VentEnterSearch.com and TheFireStore.com on this one. VentEnterSearch.com has some great information on their site and TheFireStore.com has the largest selection of firefighter junk! I will link to specific content where applicable. The list has been made assuming that you have turnout gear, helmet, SCBA, gloves, a radio, etc. If this is your first top ten list you have viewed by The Fire Critic, they are done from 10 to 1. 1 being the best. Check out our other top ten lists here.
Remember, we don’t know what call we will run next. Therefore, this list was set up for everyday operations with any and every call in mind.
10. Electrical Tester – Electricity is invisible, unless of course it is arcing and then it is a no-brainer. Electricity can shock and/or kill firefighters when they come in contact with it. This tool can help you evaluate the threat of live wires. It can also speed up the investigation process when you are first on scene to rule out or confine the emergency. Remember to always treat wires as being live unless you can ensure they are not. This tool can be purchased for around $15. This model is offered by Lowe’s. This tool is lightweight and does not take up a lot of room.
9. Window Punch - Everyone knows there are so many tools to break a window. Using a window punch is less messy and a hell of a lot more professional than throwing a tire iron through the car window only to crush the infant you are trying to get to after her mother locked her in the car at the mall. This tool can be found in many types of kits for first responders. The window punch is another small lightweight tool that can be purchased for next to nothing.
The window punch pictured can be purchased for $6 here.
8. Tin Snips – Tin snips or other wire cutters are becoming a very popular tool at many training classes. The various cutting tools in this family can cut through different types of metals. Tin snips can be found at most home improvement stores for around $10-$15. The photo is from VentEnterSearch.com “Whats in your Pockets” page. I recently attended a class and was able to utilize many various types of handheld cutting tools. While it is not likely that you would carry all of the various cutters, the tin snips is a good place to start.
The sheath for the tin snips is a great idea too. Otherwise, the snips will eventually wear away the pocket of your turnout gear and create a hole.
7. Screwdriver – Face it, you cant get a screw out with your bare hands. A 5 in 1 screwdriver is key here! If you have to get a screw backed out and you don’t have a screwdriver you are simply screwed. Air handler units, hinges, hard wiring a car, or assembling office furniture are no threat with one of these deals. Screwdrivers are a dime a dozen. Sorry I don’t have a photo but I am sure you can find one.
6. Door Wedge - Being able to ensure that the door you just opened stays open is a life and death matter. Another scenario is keeping a door open to ventilate. Door wedges can vary from the basic piece of wood to more elaborate plastic molded things with brand names on them to hand made and forged thing-a-ma-bobs. For various types of hand made ones you can check out VentEnterSearch.com. For the brand name more expensive ones check out TheFireStore.com. Hell, some guys only use a simple 16 penny nail to hold the door open. Shown in the photo is the Cherry Bomber from VentEnterSearch.com. Cost: $1 – $25.
5. Knife - Knives have soooo many uses. Most of my brothers cringe when I put my Benchmade through its paces. The unique thing is that they can be sharpened (just don’t tell them). Knives come in all shapes and sizes. They are kinda like sports cars. The guy who has the biggest knife is overcompensating. Throw-away models are perfectly acceptable, just make sure you throw them away when they have served their lifespan. One thing is for sure, you have to carry a knife ALL THE TIME. How else are you gonna open that can of skoal? Sorry I couldn’t narrow a photo of a knife down to just one. Just remember when you are choosing one, you probably aren’t going to have to beat your way through a sugar cane field with it. Feel free to spend anywhere from $10-$400 bucks on a knife, the more expensive ones having your name engraved in ivory handles!
4. Vice Grips - Vice grips have numerous uses. You can use it to loosen or tighten a bolt, clamp it on as a door wedge, or maybe clamp it on an overhead door track to keep the door from coming down. Check out the link here or here for ideas on use and customizing your vice grip.
One other use on the links included above is attaching some webbing and clamping the vice grips on a lock to hold it out of the way while you cut it with a saw. $10 should put you right on one of these.
3. Multi-Tool - the beautiful thing about a multi-tool is that it has multiple tools in it, hence the name. That doesn’t mean you have to get the 300 tools in one swiss army knife. I am referring to a Gerber or Leatherman type multi-tool. Included might be a knife, screw drivers, file, pliers, etc. Basically, you can carry this tool instead of a couple others on this list. This is something you can carry in your turnout gear or on your uniform belt. Take your pick, just remember you will have to get to it when you need it. Think of how awkward it is to dig for your wallet at the grocery store when you have turnout gear on. Cost: $50 – $100. This is one of those items you should not skimp on.
2. Webbing – Webbing is very versatile. The main reason I carry two different types and lengths is in case I have to rescue a firefighter or bail out of a window. However, if that window is on the 8th floor I will only actually fall from the 6th floor because I only carry about 35 feet of it. I carry 15′ of 2″ webbing and 20 feet or so of 1″. Don’t quote me on that, but I am set up for a second story bail out. I figure that is pretty good and carrying 100′ is out of the question. I keep mine looped and have about 3 carabiners with them. Carry pink webbing if you dare, but I would leave that for the ladies. Other uses include carrying tools, lowering and raising tools, and towing the ambulance out of the ditch when they run off the road (just kidding don’t try this).Cost: a couple of bucks per foot max.
1. Flashlight - The number one thing you should have in your pockets is a flashlight. Carry two of them. One to use, and another to use when the first one dies, breaks, or is lost. Have you ever been in a fire? Yeah, they look nothing like the ones on Rescue me. You know the ones where you can see Tommy Gavin’s flowing blond hair all the way down the hallway. It doesn’t happen. Without a flashlight you are blind. If you are blind you are no longer any help but more of a hindrance. Be sure to check your backup flashlight daily! Don’t worry if you aren’t carrying 1.5 million candlepower, a simple garrity throw away light will do as a backup unless it is melted to your helmet from the last fire you ran. Cost: $2 – $100.
Feel free to leave your comments. I am sure many of you would place some of these in different orders or add a few here and there. I love the feedback so lets hear it.
Disclaimer: the photos above were used from Lowe’s, VentEnterSearch.com, and TheFireStore.com.