Firefighter Survival Gear – What Do You Carry?

Constant training is required to remain proficient at any job – firefighting is no different. The excuse that “we don’t need to train – we do it every day” is nothing more than an excuse. Most of the busiest fire companies train on a continuous basis – staying prepared and keeping up with the latest techniques and technologies. What’s this got to do with firefighter survival gear, right? Basically, if you can’t take care of the basics during an emergency then it’s unlikely you’ll be able to take care of yourself or your crew!

What Could Go Wrong?
Who knows! It’s really not about what could go wrong as much as it’s about what you’re prepared to do about it. What do you carry, on a regular basis, that you consider survival gear that will help you survive? Are you proficient at using the survival gear?

A Partial Listing…
Everyone carries different things – and sharing that information with others is the only way to expand on the possibilities. Take a minute to review the gear that you carry and that the members in your crew carry. Next, take a minute to think of what could go wrong inside a structure and how prepared you are to deal with the situation.

Every firefighter on the fireground should have a radio – but that’s not a reality. At the very least, every crew should be radio-equipped. If there are only enough radios for each crew then it’s essential that the crew develop a system of maintaining communication while inside. Constant checks with crew members will keep confusion down and maintain accountability. In the event that you or your crew develop a problem it can be relayed to Command.

Wire Cutters
Remember the commercial, priceless? That’s the value of a pair of wire cutters when you need them. Think about all of the potential entanglements that exist on the fireground — there are wires and cables everywhere. Now, think about what would happen if you became entangled and didn’t have a pair or wire cutters. Enough said! Buy a pair and make sure you have them when you need them. Practice using them under realistic conditions.

A little light can go a long way – even if it’s just to calm things down. Battery maintenance, either by keeping some on hand or maintaining a constant charge on rechargeable batteries, is a big issue. How many times have you tried to use a flashlight only to see the dim light go out? Another thought – if you are in a MAYDAY situation and awaiting help – leave your flashlight on and pointing away from you. This light may be something that allows you to be found.

Hand Tool (Axe, Halligan)
They’re too heavy. They’re for the truck guys. We only need one per crew. What’s your personalized excuse? Hand tools can provide a way out! Maybe it’s a personal choice when you enter a structure but it’s your choice. Have you ever breached a wall to retreat from a life-threatening condition? With your hands and feet? Maybe with drywall but what about paneling or plywood? Consider taking a hand tool with you anytime you’re inside a structure. The locked door you encounter may be your only way out and with heat keeping you close to the floor a tool may be your only option.

Search Rope
Disorientation has been known to kill firefighters. When performing search operations it’s not always possible to stay on the wall. The size of the room dictates the type of search that will be effective. When working as part of a search team a search rope can increase your efficiency and effectiveness. Again, training is critical to gaining and maintaining that efficiency.

Webbing / Sling
Webbing can be used for any number of things. It is a great piece of equipment to assist in moving a downed firefighter. While the SCBA strap works well, the webbing can give you a little more room so that you’re not constantly fighting with the SCBA tank during the drag. The webbing can also be used to control a doorway, or maintain contact with a search partner during the search. It’s a versatile piece of equipment that doesn’t take up much space.

Don’t Forget Door Chocks
Pretty simple, but how many actually carry them? A hose line may prevent a door from shutting completely, or the door may cut off the water supply. One thing is for sure – if you don’t have a hose line the option doesn’t exist. Carry a few door chocks with you – make sure they’re large enough to get the job done.

Don’t forget about doors that automatically lock behind you. If, for some reason, a door chock gets knocked out on these types of doors make sure you’ve used something to prevent the lock from locking. A piece of inner tube with door knob holes will prevent a lot of extra effort.

Take a few minutes to review your Survival Gear. Do you need to make a few adjustments? Are you proficient with the equipment you’re carrying? Are you carrying something else? Let us know and we’ll pass it along to others.


  • Chris Huston says:

    Outstanding list! Basic tools and training will do more for you then all the “gadgets” ever will. Yes, great strides have been made for self-rescue systems and pocket size multi tools. The youger guys are weighing themselves down with what they think they might need in the worst case scenario. At the same time they are the ones that dont grab the basic every time off the truck. You can do a lot with the basics.

    Great post!

  • Thanks for the information. I will remember this always.

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