Modern fire department tools include a mix of cutting-edge tech and solutions proven over centuries
A sturdy jack for changing out a flat tire on the side of the road. A rugged rope for climbing a sheer rock face. A dependable parachute for a safe landing. Demanding situations demand the right tool for the job. And there are few situations more demanding than those faced by firefighters every day.
While a layman may think of hoses and ladders when they think about firefighting tools, the firefighter tools list is actually much broader. That’s largely due to the fact that a small proportion of fire department runs involve fires – just 4%, according to a U.S. Fire Administration study, compared to the 64% of which require emergency medical or rescue services.
If you’re wondering “what tools do firefighters use on a daily basis,” the answer is primarily composed of tools used by crews to gain entry to buildings and vehicles, extricate victims and assist in investigations. This guide will help leaders and decision-makers (as well as those who are simply curious) learn more about the kinds of fire department tools that are essential to have on hand for every call.
Need more resources for your department? Read The ultimate guide to firefighter gear is 2024.
11 essential EMT and firefighting tools for departments of all sizes
Before we get into the specifics of firefighting tools, let’s talk about what we mean by that term. For the purposes of this article, we’ll distinguish tools from larger firefighting equipment such as fire engines, stretchers, and protective clothing. Instead, we’ll focus on firefighter hand tools and related gear that can be equipped for a variety of situations. Now let’s get started.
The one thing you can safely predict about any given firefighter response is that it won’t be predictable. Firefighters respond to a massive spectrum of situations that can change rapidly once they’re on the scene. Equipping firefighters with body-worn cameras in the field serves several purposes:
Training: There’s no substitute for the real thing. Reviewing body-worn camera footage (either with the whole department or on a one-on-one basis) allows supervisors to identify excellent training moments, whether that may be an especially deft intubation, a risky entry that exposed crews to more danger than was necessary or any number of other situations.
Situational awareness: Using a body-worn camera with live streaming capabilities, such as Axon Body 4, allows commanders to see what their squads see. This means they can relay more accurate information and issue orders in real-time: less confusion, more cohesion.
Investigation: Firefighters need to fill out detailed reports of their actions to fulfill their department’s commitment to transparency. They are also the first ones to observe details that may be key to determining how a fire began and who should be held accountable. Body-worn camera footage pulled from the incident response itself is a powerful boon for these purposes.
Gaining access to a scene quickly can spell the difference between a happy outcome and a tragedy. Bolt cutters significantly speed up the process of clearing entry gates, fences and other potential blocks for firefighters and their essential equipment.
CPR has saved countless lives since its modern form was invented in 1960, thanks in large part to how easy it is to perform in a variety of situations. Unfortunately, local conditions such as soft furniture or unstable terrain can compromise the effectiveness of chest compressions. CPR boards are designed to elevate and stabilize subjects; adding them to your firefighting tools can result in less time wasted relocating unresponsive subjects during a critical window.
Knowledge is power, as the saying goes. In an emergency, knowledge is also safety. Rather than sending firefighters into risky situations or waiting them out, drones can instantly assess the scene from up close or above. Whether operated remotely or on a local tether, drones with thermal imaging equipment can allow operators to quickly identify dangerous areas, clear paths and find trapped victims.
Pike poles, or fire hooks as they’re commonly called when used as fireman tools, haven’t changed much over the centuries. Their timeless design shows their strength and versatility: they’re an essential tool for overhaul operations – where they’re used to pull down pieces of wall and ceiling to ensure no smoldering fire remains – and can also help secure entry or retrieve essential items from intense heat.
Fleet cameras enhance the capabilities of fire apparatuses and other emergency response vehicles in much the same way body-worn cameras do for individual firefighters. They record both the approach to the scene and a single, consistent perspective of the scene once the vehicle arrives. Commanders and dispatchers can also use livestream-ready fleet cameras to assess the scene and dispatch further resources the moment crews arrive.
Forcible entry axes
Forcible entry axes are an indispensable means of securing entry into structures. Beyond chopping through doors and walls to allow access, axes are also an essential tool for creating ventilation holes, bringing down parts of a structure to create fire breaks or – when using the flat end – to strike and drive other manual tools.
Hydraulic extraction tools
Commonly referred to as “jaws of life,” a hydraulic extraction tool allows a small team of firefighters to open up or cut through vehicle frames to secure trapped individuals. They can be fitted with a variety of attachments to quickly and safely remove vehicle doors or even entire portions of the auto body when necessary.
Local power is not guaranteed for any of the situations a firefighter may respond to in the course of their day. Handheld and helmet-mounted flashlights can only go so far. Bright and sturdy scene lights, which may be powered via hookup to emergency vehicles or with a generator deployed by crews, ensure that teams can always see exactly what they’re dealing with.
They may sound simple, but shovels can be an invaluable firefighting tool. They allow for quickly creating fire breaks as well as smothering embers. In the event of a disaster that results in extensive structure damage, a well-made shovel can significantly speed the efforts of rescue crews as they search for survivors.
One of the most helpful firefighter pocket tools to keep at the ready is the window punch. These small devices are designed to break open windows (both automotive and in structures) with minimal force. Their simple operation allows for fast access while minimizing the danger of broken glass scattering across the scene.
Add purpose-built tech to your firefighter tools list
The best firefighting tools include a mix of modern devices and implementations that have stood the test of time over centuries. That’s why any new fire department technology must be built on a mix of cutting-edge capabilities and reliable, practical fundamentals.
Axon’s fire response and investigation solutions provide a tech platform for excellence in fire and rescue response. With intelligent tools to capture scenes on video, improve the investigation process and improve the efficiency and efficacy of training, Axon is ready to help your fire department work smarter and safer. Speak directly with an Axon professional today to learn more.