I’ve been a professional firefighter for over two years and am working on my probation at my second department (and what I hope to be my last). As a paramedic for upwards of 8 years, what I carry in my pockets as my EDC (everyday carry) has changed greatly over that time period. Being a member of multiple online forums, Facebook groups, and a regular visitor of websites featuring gear, I have always been fascinated by what others carry while they are at work and I thought I would share what I currently carry on duty and why. Before I go on, understand that what is in my pockets may not be what you “need” or even want, and that’s ok. A person’s EDC is as unique as each individual personality.
When I dress in the morning, I throw on uniform pants and my SOE (Special Operations Equipment) Cobra buckle riggers belt. Attached to that is my Leatherman Charge TTi multitool. Though it is not something that I use every day, having a multitool has gotten my crew and me out of a jam multiple times when a toolbox just wasn’t available or feasible to go and retrieve. As a public servant, we are not always called out to save someone’s life, sometimes the emergency has been as simple as unscrewing and lowering a bed so that the patient was able to get onto it without falling. And, it doesn’t hurt having a pair of pliers and an extra blade available.
Working a 24-hour shift, I never know what the day will bring. I ride the rescue (ambulance), and my job duties can vary depending on the call. If it is a medical call, you can bet I am wearing a pair of gloves…NO MATTER WHAT. Gloves are my first line of defense against disease and all of the funk that I encounter throughout the shift.
Most everyone I’ve found carries a flashlight of some type. Many have a 90 degree light attached to their radio strap, and just about all of us have one on our helmet. Yes, I have one on my helmet as well, a Streamlight Vantage, but I also carry a light in my pocket at all times. Something small is all you need. I find it helpful to have a light that is capable of illuminating the scene, but gives you the option to set it to low so as not to wake everyone up when walking through the bunk room (that’s the last thing I need as a probie). My go-to light is usually a Surefire E1d LED Defender for its throw and dependability, but as of recent, I’ve alternated with the Fenix E15, a super small and crazy bright little light. Seriously, do yourself a favor and don’t be left in the dark.
As a medic, wearing a watch is a basic to our EDC because timing is everything. We use it for counting respirations and a pulse, or timing between cycles of CPR. Since my wife gave me the Casio G-Shock GX56BB for recruit graduation, I’ve worn it every shift. This watch has been through hell in the 8 months I’ve been at this department, and it still looks brand new. I can’t say enough positive things about the Casio G-Shock line of watches.
In my left pocket sits my lefty Emerson CQC-7. Mine is a serrated model, which is a personal preference and an argument best left for another article. Again, this was a gift from my wife back in 2012, and it is a tool that sees some form of action every shift; from cutting my food (yes, I’m one of those guys), to slicing through cardboard or even heavy caulking on a window.
My right pocket houses a second knife; An Emerson N-SAR (Navy Search and Rescue). Do yourself a favor and look up the background on this tool. The N-SAR is chisel ground (sharpened on one side and flat on the other) which is what Emerson’s are known for. It has a somewhat curved blade that is blunt and rounded at the tip, so as not to harm a patient or yourself when cutting a seatbelt or strap. Toward the middle spine of the blade, is a notched out and sharpened area known as a shroud cutter, named by Mr. Emerson. I’ve found the shroud cutter work faster and is more efficient than trauma shears when stripping a patient of their clothes when seconds count. The newer factory knives come with standoffs where you would commonly find a backspacer. A friend of mine, Steve Kyle, created a backspacer that serves a twofold purpose. The squared out area is an oxygen wrench for opening the stem on o2 bottles. The pointed tip is a made of carbide and will shatter windows with the slightest tap.
Communication is essential in any profession, but for a firefighter, it can mean life or death. Each radio is assigned to whoever occupies a specific seat on each unit, that way dispatch can tell where a distress signal came from if sent out by a firefighter. I use my own radio strap, and it’s nothing special, to be honest; it’s what’s on it that makes it worth noting. Back in recruit academy, class 68 was privileged to take part in a course called TECC (Tactical Emergency Casualty Care). The course, put on by D-Dey Response Group, aims at teaching or refreshing trauma skills, namely C.A.T. tourniquets, Hyphin Chest Seals, needle decompression, and I even got to put a tracheostomy in a pig! But one of the main points that I took away from that course, is having YOUR tourniquet readily available at all times. You never know what will happen or whose life you will save, or even how it will be accomplished…all you can do is be ready.
I carry a pen. I have nice pens. But, I carry a cheap one on shift. That’s all I have to say about that.
The pager stays on my right hip next to the Leatherman. The pager stays on my person the entire shift. That annoying little thing can be the difference in you making the call or missing it, and you DO NOT want to miss a call. The pagers are assigned to every individual, much as the radio is, and it provides the address and event type for each call. This thing has saved me from missing many a call while in the shower!
Bouncing around in the back of a noisy rescue can make it difficult to hear or properly identify lung sounds or even check a manual blood pressure. That’s why having a sufficient set of “ears” (stethoscope) is of great importance. Sure, every unit has a stethoscope, but the truth is, is that Littman makes the best out there. If you’re looking for a quality set of ears without paying an arm and a leg, check out the Littman Classic 3.
I’m not going to spend much time on my bunker gear. While it is part of my EDC at the station, the tools that I use vary from call to call. Whether it is a fire or a motor vehicle collision, I wear my bunker pants, boots, and helmet. If the call is for a fire, add the additional Nomex hood, structural firefighting gloves, my Scott Airpak, mask, and whatever tools I may need to accomplish the task at hand (halligan, axe, chainsaw, etc). What is to be considered is what a firefighter carries on or in their gear. My helmet has the above mentioned Streamlight Vantage as well a Streamlight helmet band (been meaning to cut some new door choks to put in there). My coat stays pretty well sterile. I don’t like things bouncing around on my chest (no jokes) that can be a cause for entanglement. In the left cargo pocket of my bunker pants, I carry a 15’ section of tubular webbing/strap to use for a variety of tasks like creating a rescue harness to drag a victim, or tying off a hose line in a modified standpipe. In the right bunker pocket, I have a much smaller piece of webbing that I sewed a carabiner onto each end using Kevlar thread. This webbing comes in handy if the need arises to clip onto a downed firefighter so that I can pull them out. In the same pocket, I have a pair of Channellock spring loaded linesman pliers. What can I say, pliers are a regular tool of this trade. Finally, next to the pliers sit a pair of Channellock diagonal pliers for the snipping of wires. These are hardened like the latter pliers, but are able to get into harder to reach areas better when it comes to cutting.
I have had many joke about what I carry, and then be the same one to come and ask to borrow a tool. I know many will look at my carry and say that it is excessive. Maybe it is, but whatever you decide to carry, tailor it to you. Look at what your job requires of you, and be able to answer that call when it comes. Be safe.
Author – Tony Kuhn