Carrying a “Bag of Tricks”

Article and photo by David DeStefano

There is an incredible amount of hardware available and in use throughout the fire service that may play a role in making firefighters’ jobs safer, more efficient, and easier. Unfortunately, our inventory of pocket hardware must be limited to the most used articles and those that relate directly to our safety. Yet, there are other pieces of gear that are less frequently needed but can be critical under certain circumstances.

A good way to keep these small, but valuable, items together and readily available is your “Bag of Tricks.” This bag can be a small tool bag that fits easily in a front- or rear-seat riding position. Many of the small tools and other devices in the bag relate to what are generally considered truck company operations, but you can customize your bag to reflect your job function and incidents you will likely encounter on the job. Members working the same shift in a company should consider keeping slightly different inventories so that a wider variety of gear and tools is available.

The key is not to carry every imaginable gadget, just the ones you are most likely to use but can’t always carry in your turnout. The object is to keep the inventory fresh. Be on the lookout for new additions for your bag, and if you haven’t used something in a long time, consider rotating it out in favor of another idea. Your bag may also have a seasonal component. Firefighters in cold climates may add extra gloves, a winter hat, or other cold-weather gear during the winter.

When responding on the rig with your bag of tricks, size-up skills will be crucial, as always. If you receive a dispatch for an automatic alarm with a water flow, it would be wise to throw the sprinkler wedge into your pocket. If your company is to perform an auto extrication, you would take out your extrication gloves. When responding to an occupancy you have identified as a likely candidate for through-the-lock entry, you would take along the extra lock kit tools. The possible scenarios and inventories of equipment are endless. The tools will be of no use if they are at the firehouse or in a box on the rig. You must have them close at hand in your riding position, which means that you must remember to take them along.

Remember, carry the tools that are life safety items with your personal protective equipment at all times. Make sure they are easily accessible, and check to be sure they are in place and working at the start of each tour. For the tools used less frequently or as tricks of the trade, keep your bag of tricks current and on the rig whenever you are responding. What’s in your bag of tricks?

David Destefano: Bag of Tricks for firefighters

(1) Your bag of tricks may include reference guides, extra webbing, and tools. Winter gear or other items specific to your region or primary job function will help you be prepared for all types of incidents.

David DeStefano is a 22-year veteran of the North Providence (RI) Fire Department, where he serves as a lieutenant in Ladder Co. 1. He previously served as a lieutenant in Engine 3 and was a firefighter in Ladder 1. He teaches a variety of topics for the Rhode Island Fire Academy. He can be reached at


No posts to display