Fire rescue scenes are dangerous environments. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that 64,875 United States firefighters were injured in the line of duty in 2020. Preparing a fire crew with the appropriate tools can save lives. There are various firefighter hand tools available that improve safety while enhancing their performance by improving visibility, enabling forcible entry, providing weight support and ensuring access to important areas at the scene.
Each firefighter should have multiple flashlights with them when entering a building so that they can improve visibility and signal their location to others. Carrying more than one flashlight is important in case one loses power or gets lost.
Visibility is critical to crew safety in fire rescue situations. However, buildings on fire often lose power and fill with smoke, reducing visibility. Additionally, 19% of all fires and 49% of deadly fires that occurred from 2015-2019 broke out between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when sunlight is low or nonexistent.
The different types of flashlights firefighters can use include:
- Handheld flashlights
- Helmet flashlights
- Right angle flashlights
- Pen or bullet flashlights
Wires and cables are prominent in any building. There may be wires in place to enclose a building, transmit gas, run electricity or secure equipment in place. Regardless of the type of wire or cable, it may interfere with a firefighter's ability to reach critical areas.
A wire cutter is a half tool with ends that clap together to make a clean cut through a cable or wire. The blades should be sharp enough to cut through the casing and wire swiftly and without causing the wires to fray.
All firefighters should have one or more sets of wire cutters on them. Ideally, the firefighter would keep them in separate pockets at different parts of the body so that at least one is accessible at all times.
There are multiple types of wire cutters. Some of the most useful for firefighters include:
- Cable cutters: Insulated cutters made for electrical wires.
- Side cutters: Sharp cutters that indent the casing and wedge the cable apart
- Flush cutters: Narrow, angled cutters for metal wires.
- End cutters: Short, wide cutters with less distance between the end and the sharpest point.
- Diagonal cutters: Angled cutters that create a wedge for another cutter to work through.
Tubular webbing is one of the most versatile tools available to a firefighter and, therefore, one of the most common to carry. Webbing is a piece of strong fabric capable of lifting or supporting hundreds of pounds without tearing. The fabric is usually woven from strong nylon fibers.
Tubular webbing features a wrap-around design to increase tensile strength. The tube can become even stronger by running a rope through the canal. Manufacturers create tubular webbing either by folding one piece of fabric over itself and stitching it into a tube or weaving the fibers into a tube from the start.
Tubular webbing can function as a harness for self- or assisted rescue from a high or low elevation. Alternatively, a firefighter could tie loops into the webbing that would function as footholes that they could use as steps when hurdling objects or structures. A user could also tie a cow's hitch knot around an object or person they need to lift, lower or secure in place.
Emergency scenes are often calamitous environments with numerous first responders moving through doorways in both directions. Propping a heavily trafficked entryway will expedite the emergency response, allowing firefighters to retrieve victims and extinguish flames faster. The first firefighters through a doorway should prop open the door so crewmembers and equipment can swiftly pass through. Firefighters can keep a door open for entry and egress using a door chock.
A door chock is a wedge that inserts above, under or alongside a door to prop it open. Most door chocks are small devices made from wood. They are large enough to jam the door open, but small enough to keep in a jacket pocket. Any fireman should carry two or more door chocks on their person at an emergency scene.
When preparedness is a virtue, tools that fulfill multiple needs are valuable. Every firefighter should keep a multi-tool on hand.
A multi-tool is a pocket-sized device with numerous tools that fold out from its handle. Multi-tools offer the benefits of portability and versatility. A firefighter can slide a multi-tool into their coat pocket to use when a situation arises.
With such a wide variety of features, a multi-tool can enable any firefighter to respond quickly and effectively in various circumstances. For instance, a multi-tool could break through a window, cut through a seatbelt, slice through wires or shut down a gas line.
Most multi-tools feature one primary tool at the end such as a hammer, wrench, wire cutter or plier. The primary tool is the standard size or near the standard size for that type of tool. Common components found inside a multi-tool include:
- Knife blades
- Screwdriver heads
- Can or bottle openers
Exposure to hazards like flames, hot surfaces and sharp objects puts every firefighter's hands in danger. Consequently, firefighters need protective gloves, but the gloves must also ensure hand mobility and dexterity are critical in high-risk rescue situations. Structural firefighting gloves prioritize protection while enabling as much dexterity as possible.
Firefighting gloves have three layers. The first is a rugged outer shell that protects against abrasions and lacerations. The outer layer is usually made from leather or a synthetic material like aromatic polyamide. The middle layer is a moisture barrier made from water- and heat-resistant materials like polytetrafluoroethylene. The final layer is a thermal barrier that prevents burns while keeping the wearer's hands warm in cold environments.
The NFPA code 1971, or the Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting sets standards and establishes minimum protection levels against various hazards. The most recent edition prioritizes several critical areas, size being one of the most essential. A glove that fits correctly will offer the most protection and dexterity to the wearer.
Firefighting gloves are available in various sizes on a numeric scale from 64-82. The numbers represent the index finger's length, but each number is also available in a normal, wide or extra-wide variation.
Stay Prepared With Bunker Gear Specialists
When firefighters carry a variety of useful tools, they are safer and more ready to respond to numerous circumstances. Bunker Gear Specialists provides critical firefighter safety and performance tools, as well as services that ensure their functionality. You can browse our collections online or contact a representative to discuss cleaning, testing, maintenance, repairing and renting tools.