Hose Couplings

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).

Hose Couplings.

Hose Couplings.

The National Association of Fire Engineers has done a vast amount of good in various ways, but in none more than by directing attention to the different hose couplings formerly in use. It is true that the standard formally agreed upon by the Association has not been adopted to any great extent, but the discussion of the subject has been the means of causing neighboring cities and towns to make their couplings conform to each other, so that they might aid one another in cases of emergency. At the time of the great Boston fire Engines were sent there from all directions, but many of them remained idle in the streets for hours because their couplings did not conform to those in use in Boston, and consequently they could not make connections with either their hydrants or their hose. Other cities have had similar experience. Of late years, however, adjacent cities have been looking into the matter and procuring couplings which will enable them to make connections j with their neighbors. Brooklyn, Jersey City, Newark, Hoboken, Elizabeth and manysuch places near New York, have adopted the New York thread, and are therefore in ! position to either give or receive assisti ance.

It would be much more satisfactory if a 1 standard thread could be agreed upon, the use of which would be universal throughout the country. What is known as the London thread is in use all over Europe for couplings and hydrants, and if a standard : thread could be adopted in this country the efficiency of the Fire Service would be I greatly enhanced. Manufacturers of coupi lings are anxious to secure this point, as it i would greatly facilitate their business. They say, however, that the thread adopted by the National Convention is not a feasible one; that it would involve a universal change ol couplings, and considerable expense, and that so long as it is retained there is no hope of securing a uniform coupling. The thread adopted by the National Convention is ” inches outside of thread, number of threads to the inch 8, and angle of thread in form of a V.” The fact that since the Convention declared in favor of this form, no Department has adopted it, is an indication that it is regarded as impracticable. We are informed that the Convention adopted this standard hastily, and without due consideration. If this be so, we trust the action will be reconsidered at the meeting in September. The question is of too much importance to be either ignored or slurred over. We would suggest that a committee be appointed to confer with Fire Commissioners and couplings manufacturers, and try to arrive at something both tangible and practical, and which will lead ultimately to the adoption of a uniform thread for all couplings. If the Associations’ standard is objectionable, it should be changed at once. It is better for the Association to confess an error than to retain rules, regulations or recommendations that are inoperative.