101 Things the Fire Department wishes you knew



Sunday, August 16

Sunday Fun - What are you looking at?

What do we see when we look at each other on the fire ground? We tend to all look alike. If you're not careful it can be easy to get confused, misdirected and find yourself working with the wrong team.

I keep coming across this photo and will now use it to illustrate some points about fire ground recognition.
Now, before we get started, get your chuckles out about the hood and the way the SCBA hose goes under the hood into the open coat. Done? Good.
Imagine you encounter this person in a half dark hallway in a fire.

Who is this? What is their company assignment? Are they from the truck? Squad? Engine? Have the medics wandered to the roof again?

Luckily the reflective markings are clean so we saw him(her?) coming, that is point number one. Clean your Gorram gear, especially your reflective. The last thing I want to do is be sent in to find you and you look just like all the debris. Dirty gear is not the sign of an experienced firefighter, only a lazy one.

As far as company marking go, it depends on the style of gear you are wearing, most notably your helmet.


There are 3 main types of helmets making the rounds these days with minor variations. Believe me when I say that just figuring out which type of shield to buy can be confusing enough. There is a good chance you are wearing a helmet like our friend up there.
Less common today are the "LA Style" and the "Old Fashioned." I'll try to avoid using manufacturer names.

The LA style is perfect for the application of proper markings to avoid confusion.
This photo shows a group of teams working in the "LA Style" helmets. Firefighters and Officers have different color helmets so they can be identified from any direction. The company number is visible from 3 sides and engines have white numbers, while trucks have red numbers. Done. Simple as that.

In addition, each member has their name clearly visible in 1" letters on the rear brim of the helmet. No more shouting "Hey you on the ladder, get down!" You can call the person by name, on the radio even, and know who you are talking to.










On the other coast the common helmet is an "Old Fashioned" style, similar to the helmet we use at HMHQ for our Tip of the Helmet series. It is simple enough, wide brim and longer tail to keep water out of your neck, but the design leaves little chance to mark it effectively. Most common the leather shield will tell you who and where the wearer is assigned, but that can help little if you are chasing them down a hallway. I believe Boston, MA marks the rear of their helmets with their company numbers. The shields can vary in color depending on rank, but most common the numbers will tell you about the company.

In the FDNY for example A black passport shield with white number is an engine company. Yellow passport or yellow number is a squad and a red passport belongs to the truck.

Most often, however, the members mark their helmets on the under side of the rear, so you can only see their name when they place chin to chest. And even then, it is upside down. But, they have their names on their coats.

What I'm getting at here is that we need to be not only visible, but recognizable on the fire ground. In Happy's perfect world helmets are color coded by rank, marked with your name on the back, company numbers on three sides and your level of medical training indicated by the color of reflective tape on the helmet. Yellow EMT, Orange EMT-I, Blue Paramedic, White MD. Your turnout coat will also have your name on the back, below the airpack. The airpack itself will have a large reflective number showing where it came from.
All this is simple enough to do from the onset, but a lot of guys here where I work have gone through a lot of trouble to make sure that helmet is as black as night and laugh when they see me cleaning mine after a fire.

If I can see you I can rescue you. Simple as that. Now go wash and mark your gear.

4 comments:

9-ECHO-1 said...

It is amazing how things change. In my early days we used to try and get our gear and helmets just as dirty as we possibly could. Now the fire stations have washing machines!

The predominant helmet here is the "old style". Even some of the paramedics like them, although I do not think they are practical. My favorite is the "LA style", although right now I am using one of the "modern styles".

You are right, the LA style does lend itself to company markings. It seems to be easier to place side numbers, rear names, and the typical LA style shield is not cluttered but contains good 'info'.

One thing that seems to be prevalent around here (the South) is the lafck of 'personalization' on fire helmets. I know 'up North' it is prevalent, but for some reason around here we want everyone to 'be the same'.

Oh well...

Little Girl said...

What about the dispatcher?

I recently found out that our agency has one set of gear, and a helmet for the dispatcher, just in case we actually went to an active fire scene (which I must say is VERY EXTREMELY unlikely).

We got the bottom of the barrel, although at least we have something. Our helmet has no shield - its black unlike the various other colours in the system. Someone must have thought about marking it after the thought because we have white sticker numbers with 9-1-1 on the front of the helmet, with some reflective tape too. I couldn't tell you if our gear is marked with 9-1-1 or not, the gear just sits in the locker room.

medicblog999 said...

Quick question HM...

Whats the difference between an Engine and a Truck?

Im sure its common knowledge over there but here the are all just appliances.

The Happy Medic said...

Cripes, that's two of you, OK, tomorrow morning a run down of the US fire service. And I was hoping to watch a Firefly tonight. Harumph.

And Little Girl, the Communications Officer, which I believe would be staffed by your folks, should be in a vest at the command post. I hope we never put the folks in charge of maintaining communications in harms way. Our command unit has a desk, computer and radio terminal for just such a person in the event of a multiple tactical channel event.