The importance equipment checks is stressed to every new firefighter from the day they join/start the academy. Officers and instructors stress that the new firefighter know their PPE, and the equipment on the rig; and know that it works. In order to know that your equipment works you have to check it off. Do you have a policy dictating how you check your PPE, or how often you check it? Do you have a policy or a checkoff sheet for the equipment on the rig? My department does not currently have a policy in place for PPE checks or checking off the rig. We have a truck check off sheet that was designed a few years ago by a previous officer. This was met with a great deal of resistance because quite a few members did not feel that they should be required to perform these extra tasks. Being a part of a volunteer department people feel as if their only responsibility is to run calls. This mentality leads to shortcomings when on those calls. I have personally made it a habit of my own, as well as a rule for anyone on my crew to check their PPE, the fire truck, and the ambulance. It was during a PPE check a few weeks ago that I found my face mask to be broken. I’ve been using the same face mask since I was in the academy, and I checked it regularly. Below are a few pictures I took of my mask.
This picture shows the where the hard plastic piece that holds the whole mask together is broken at.
This is a close up and includes the piece that was broken off.
This one shows a slightly different angle with the broken piece beside the mask.
I recently read an article about PPE and the advances that have been made, yet our face masks remain the most vulnerable piece of our ensemble. This piece alone enables us to breathe in places that would surely kill us in minutes otherwise. While I do not know that the broken piece would have caused a compromise, why risk my life, or that of a Brother who may have to rescue me.
Complacency places everyone at risk. The thoughts of ‘I checked my gear yesterday’ or ‘The last shift checked off the truck’ will cause you to miss something important – a half filled SCBA bottle, an empty fuel tank on the extrication generator, or a broken SCBA regulator. These are all things that my crew has found during their daily checks in the last month. All of which will cause issues when those tones drop.
Career, volunteer, combination – we all have a job to do. It’s the same job and the public has expectations of us as firefighters. One of these expectations is that we are ALWAYS prepared for whatever we are called to. To quote Traditions Training, are you Combat Ready?