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Turn Out Gear: When do you wear yours?

Kind of keeping with the great fire service debates we have going on in the blog right now this topic is another one I do not understand. I consistently see firefighters not wearing appropriate levels of PPE during calls.

Recently I have seen several head scratchers on calls and I just do not understand the logic of it all. For example while riding in charge of an engine we were responding to an accident on the interstate, I as usual put on my pants, nomex, coat, safety glasses, Ringers Barrier 1 extrication gloves, traffic safety vest, and upon arrival would have put on my helmet. As we approached we were told to return to service, when we passed I noticed that no one on scene had any firefighting turn out gear on they were in station uniforms and traffic safety vests. When I made a comment to the crew the firefighter riding backwards (a transfer from that company) said “well I think the SOG (Standard Operating Guideline) says if your only doing patient care you do not need your gear”.

My question was “how do you know until you get there that your only doing patient care”?

The same goes for other emergencies as well, I often hear about people saying I’m not getting geared up for this one, sounds like BS. This is at the height of complacency, and as we all know complacency kills.

My personal stance is I wear my gear on just about every call with the exception of EMS calls. I will wear my gear on an EMS call especially if it sounds like its going to be nasty (ghetto apartment, low-income housing project, etc.) Even when I am driving the engine and when I used to drive the ladder truck I would put my gear on (typically just the pants while responding, then add the rest upon arrival, unless it came out as a confirmed fire, then I would get it all on). The reason being is a couple fold. 

 Currently we ride with 3 person staffing. When we arrive at an incident we can not afford to have a well-informed bystander sitting in the front yard. When you drive yes you have to get water, but after that there are other things that need to be done that are critical on the fireground, especially waiting for a ladder company to arrive. I have been on incidents where as the driver I have had to throw ladders, force doors, vent windows, help move hose into a building, and pull additional lines for in coming companies. All of these things happened in the “hot zone” where building collapse, venting fire, rescues etc. could have happened at a moments notice, and would have required the need of turn out gear. 

Additionally when driving the ladder truck the driver has to double as the outside vent man. This function dictates that the ladder company driver be in full PPE, and don SCBA upon arrival.

Now I realize for companies with greater staffing levels this may not be needed, however this does not excuse the complacency of other crew members for wearing their gear.

So what do you do? When do you wear your gear? Leave some feedback in the comments section, and as usual spread the word about the blog.

Also stay safe out there, no matter who you are, what fire department your from, or how much fire you see bad things can happen without proper preparation, training, operations, and education on TODAYS fire problems. Do not rest on your accomplishments, or experience get out there and keep getting better.

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