As firefighters we rely heavily on the tools and equipment we carry on our apparatus. Whether you ride an engine, truck, or rescue, having quick access to the tools we need is critical. We need to be thinking about where we locate our tools on the apparatus in regards to ease of access.
Typically most of the tools we carry are stored in compartments on the apparatus. Exceptions would be ladders and pike poles, although current trends are moving these items into compartments as well. Having tools in compartments is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be trouble. Think about the compartments on your own apparatus. Are the tools all neatly mounted, or is everything strewn about haphazardly?
It will pay great dividends to take the time to mount tools in easy to access locations. Keep often used tools and equipment in easy to reach spots, able to be grabbed without rearranging everything in the compartment. Today’s modern apparatus are usually blessed with more than adequate compartment space, but sometimes older rigs lack elbow room. It may be necessary in these cases to look outside of the box for tool mounting.
Mounting tools on the exterior of the apparatus is a sure way to guarantee quick and easy access. Think about it. How often do tools get left in compartments because it takes too long to get to them? By mounting tools on the exterior of the apparatus we put the tools in locations where they can be quickly accessed. Pike poles or hooks can be mounted on the outside of the cab right next to the doors. This way firefighters can grab the tool as they exit the rig. The downside to mounting tools on the exterior of the apparatus is that they are exposed to the elements. It will take additional effort to keep the tools clean and in good shape. This is especially important in areas where the roads are salted or in coastal areas.
Mounting tools inside of the cab is also a beneficial practice. This method also allows for quick access to the tools as firefighters exit the cab. Tools can be placed in accordance to riding positions and on scene assignments. This can help curb confusion as to who does what on the fireground. If tools are to be mounted inside the cab they need to be properly secured at all times. Tools should not be left unrestrained in the cab in case the apparatus is involved in a wreck.
The goal here is to put tools in locations where they are easily and quickly accessed. Doing this will encourage firefighters to leave the apparatus with tools in their hands. There is nothing worse than seeing firefighters running back and forth to the apparatus to fetch tools they should have brought with them in the first place. Retrofitting existing apparatus may be tricky, but not impossible. A little ingenuity goes a long way. When speccing out new apparatus try to work with the designers to get tools mounted in ideal locations. Don’t let tool placement be an afterthought. We owe it to ourselves to put the tools and equipment we need in the most advantageous locations. As always, stay smart, and stay combat ready!