How well do you know your office? Not the office that has a desk and a chair that is surrounded by employee evaluation forms, standard operating procedures, fire reports, and a clutter of departmental memos. I am talking about your office, the fire apparatus, in and around which you spend hours when the fire tones alert you that it is time to go to work.

Officers and firefighters must know what equipment is on the apparatus (“office”) and where it is stored if fireground tasks are to be completed on time and with efficiency. (Photos by author.)

When was the last time you really studied what equipment is carried on the apparatus? I am not talking about looking at a list of equipment and quickly opening compartment doors and shutting them as soon as everything in the compartment matches the list you are holding. I am talking about opening the compartment and taking the equipment out and thinking about every possible scenario in which you could use that piece of equipment on the fireground.

Many of today’s fire officers are so overwhelmed with the required day-to-day tasks that many have lost sight of the fact that their primary function is to lead their company members to fight a fire with the tools and equipment provided. It is vitally important that the fire officer, not only the firefighters and the driver/engineer, know exactly what tools and equipment are carried on their apparatus.


Going from compartment to compartment in search of a specific tool shows a lack of job knowledge and reflects negatively on that company officer.

Knowing exactly what tools and equipment are carried on the fire apparatus to which one is assigned reflects directly on the officer’s job knowledge. He should know the location of the tools and equipment carried on the apparatus so he can determine whether personnel under his command know what is carried on the fire apparatus. Nothing displays lack of job knowledge more than a firefighter’s opening three or four compartments, or even walking to the wrong side of the fire apparatus, to find a tool or piece of equipment through trial and error. Any fire officer who has had to endure watching a firefighter search every compartment on the fire apparatus for a specific tool, especially when tasks need to be completed quickly, knows the frustration and stress involved. Personnel assigned to a fire apparatus or company for the first time should have no other priority than to learn every tool and piece of equipment that is carried and its exact location.


When personnel assigned to a company do not know the location of tools and equipment carried on their assigned apparatus, this directly reflects on the fire officer’s leadership abilities. You will not be the only one on the fireground who notices that a firefighter under your command has to open several compartments until he finds the tool he needs. Superior officers, other fire companies on the scene, and members of the general public will notice the firefighter’s searching for a tool or piece of equipment after opening and closing several compartment doors. Remember that while a firefighter is searching for the tool, the fire may be jeopardizing lives and is consuming property you are there to protect.

How can a fire officer order a firefighter to get a specific tool if he doesn’t know its exact location himself? Sure, it is easier to have firefighters carry preassigned tools with them as they dismount the apparatus on arrival at a fire. However, this tool assignment method is not always appropriate for every fireground situation, especially if the department is understaffed.

How many times have you stepped off an apparatus and realized immediately that the tools or equipment carried by the firefighters are inappropriate for the work your company is to conduct? Knowing what tools and equipment are carried on the fire apparatus will make the fire officer’s job easier when giving assignments at the scene.

Spend More Time At Your “Office”

The officer consumed with so many other tasks may lose familiarity with the tools and equipment carrWhen firefighters know the exact location of the tools and equipment on their fire apparatus, they complete their assigned tasks faster and more efficiently. On the fireground, time is a factor that must be dealt with constantly. Wasting precious time searching for a tool on the apparatus slows the progress of operations.

Officers who verify that every company member (including themselves) assigned to the fire apparatus has a thorough knowledge of the tools and equipment, their locations on the apparatus, and their various uses promote competency and professionalism within that company. The officer who makes the time to learn this information is an example to other company members.


One way to ensure that company members know the contents and layout of the apparatus is to make a drawing of the fire apparatus showing the compartments on all sides. Then, on a separate sheet of paper, list each tool or piece of equipment in each compartment. Distribute copies to the personnel assigned to the apparatus, and ask them to learn the information. After personnel have had time to learn the exact locations of the tools and equipment, use creative methods to test their knowledge. Make the learning experience relaxed. One approach might be to have the company members walk around the fire apparatus and point to a compartment and ask one member to name the tools and equipment in the respective compartment. Continue this training until everyone in the company can list each item within each compartment without making a mistake. Conducting this drill periodically will keep this information fresh in the minds of officers as well as members.

DAVID G. KILBURY is a lieutenant/paramedic assigned to a truck company in the City of Cape Coral (FL) Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management Department, where he has served 12 of his 15 years in the fire service. He has a master’s degree in human resources development and administration, a bachelor’s degree in professional studies (public administration), and an associate’s degree in fire science technology. He is a Florida-state certified Fire Officer-I, Instructor, and Paramedic.

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