By John W. Mittendorf
Of all the various types of fire service tools and equipment, the common hose coupling is arguably the most underrated and least appreciated piece of equipment in use today. Let’s consider how we can increase the effectiveness of hose couplings for fireground operations.
The portion of a coupling attached to hose is referred to as a “bowl.” Interestingly, bowls are commonly produced with a straight cut at the rear (where hose enters a coupling). This results in a sharp edge that can restrict the movement of hose when you pull it around corners in structures and across concrete, asphalt, and other similar surfaces. This is graphically demonstrated by observing the abrasion marks on most couplings. To minimize this condition, you can order hose couplings with “tapered bowls,” which remove the sharp edge at the end of the bowl, resulting in hose that is much easier to pull around corners and across ground surfaces. And a tapered bowl does not have a tendency to “hang up” on a corner when you advance in the interior of a structure.
Direction of travel
Occasionally, it is necessary for fireground personnel to follow hoselines out of a structure. Therefore, it is imperative that personnel practice and become familiar with the concept of following a hoseline and develop the ability to determine the proper direction of travel with only their hands as a reference point as follows:
Assume a nozzle is connected to a male coupling. Therefore, when considering any coupling (behind a nozzle attached to a male coupling), following the hose behind male couplings will lead toward the pump (outside the structure) and following the hose behind female couplings will lead toward the nozzle (into the structure). With practice, it is easy to distinguish between a male and female coupling by feel only. The lug on a female coupling is one-third to one-half the length as compared with the length of a lug on a male coupling. With this knowledge, any firefighter can grasp a coupling on a hoseline and quickly determine which direction will lead to a desired location as follows (forward lay):
- To reach the exterior of a building, follow the hose behind the male coupling.
- To reach the nozzle, follow the hose behind the female coupling.
John W. Mittendorf joined the Los Angeles City (CA) Fire Department (LAFD) in 1963, rising to the rank of captain II, task force commander. In 1981, he was promoted to battalion chief and in the year following became the commander of the In-Service Training Section. In 1993, he retired from LAFD after 30 years of service. Mittendorf has been a member of the National Fire Protection Research Foundation on Engineered Lightweight Construction Technical Advisory Committee. He has provided training programs for the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland; the University of California at Los Angeles; and the British Fire Academy at Morton-in-Marsh, England. He is a member of the editorial advisory board of Fire Engineering and author of the book Truck Company Operations (Fire Engineering, 1998).