A question that gets asked a lot whether its for someone who just graduated or finally got hired on with a department. What does every firefighter need?
The answer is something I have found tried and true in my own career and have seen from many others. Now this hits both tangible items and the not so tangible items.
Those tangible items are a good multitool, pen and a decent light. For those not so tangible and probably the most important are sleep and being there for them. But why are these essential items? Well let me explain.
Interested in items for a volunteer firefighter? Here’s a helpful post to get you started.
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Knife or multi tool
This has to be the number one thing for any guy or girl that works with their hands in any career, not just firefighting. Either a good knife or multi tool or if your like me…both. Whether its around the station or on a call they get used daily.
I say knife or multitool because most multitools have some sort of blade but can be less convenient to access or less robust. But the slew of tools most multi tools have are so useful on the job.
Examples of uses I have personally found and used are things like cutting wire, loosening battery terminal nuts, slipping not so secure door latches (soft forcible entry), oxygen tank key when you lost the original one (which is pretty much always).
Just the day before writing this post, I used this knife to open up a jammed door (especially helpful so you don’t have to bust it down!)
Anyways you get the picture for the multi tool but a knife however is another beast. Now I say knife but I mean a good quality knife. Don’t be afraid of shelling out a little extra cash for a reliable tool that could last a lifetime. Here are some other great ideas for gifts!
Cheaply made knifes will fail and in a job where failure could reap dangerous results you want to have complete faith in your tools. A good rescue knife is extremely helpful and usually comes with a strap cutter and window breaker.
I have nothing but good things to say about this leatherman that I carry everyday- especially when I scored it for under 50 dollars.
Now let’s talk about something that sometimes gets left out a lot on the needs list. That is sleep. Now shift work will most likely result in poor sleep on shift. That’s why it’s so important that firefighters get plenty of rest on the off days.
There are even studies showing how dangerous it is to drive without adequate rest with some studies equating it to drunk driving. Imagine driving home the next morning after a crazy long night at the firehouse. Not good.
It’s important that as firefighters we have the discipline to take the opportunities we can to sleep. Not to mention firefighters are more susceptible to things like stroke, heart attacks and worse. A Lot of those things can be exacerbated and made more likely to happen from lack of sleep.
As far as on shift there are some things to improve the quality of sleep since quantity may not be available. Talk to your department about getting progressive tones and lighting.
This mean that when the radios go off in the middle of the night they start at a lower volume and increase thus making it less jarring.
The progressive lighting works the same way with slowly growing brighter. Obviously, these are no small changes but worth mentioning.
Another thing that will help with quality is limiting screen time before bed. The constant bright artificial light and mental stimulation right before sleep can result in a poorer quality REM sleep.
Many firefighters (myself included) have started using Blue Light Glasses when the sun goes down. It helps to make it easier to sleep- but I really do it because it keeps my eyes from getting tired!
Now for an item that is always needed but is always missing from any given firefighter personnel. And that would be… a pen.
Even living in a digital age we still have to occasionally write something down and it happens at least once a shift where a pen is nowhere to be found.
Now I do not recommend a high quality expensive pen. It’s too easy to lose or it will get stolen.
That’s right firefighters, EMTs, Medics and even nurses are notorious for stealing pens.
Of course not on purpose it’s mostly done out of habit thinking its their own they are shoving back in their pocket. So go to the dollar store, grab a pack of ten pens and do your best to keep one on you.
Oh! And don’t forget to take it out of your pocket before doing laundry!
Another item that is super helpful in the field is decent light. Now this all a matter a preference but lights come in all shapes, sizes and lumens.
Get one you would be able to comfortably carry. Whether it be in your pocket or clipped to your radio strap or even your helmet.
It turns out bad things can happen at night too so being able to see someones injuries or where to get the IV is extremely important.
Most firefighters will have a light on their bunker gear and a small pen light in their pocket. The ideal light would be small and lightweight with around 100+ Lumens.
Pictured above you see this light, which is a good quality light. I also carry a specially designed light on my helmet and I try to remember to always have a pocket light.
Moral of the story? Firefighters can NEVER have too many lights!
Now for the truly most important thing a firefighter needs… that is emotional support. That’s right, a firefighter has a very high stress job that can easily carry over even after shift. Sometimes those are some pretty heavy emotions like sadness or grief.
Having a good support team is essential as a firefighter. Whether that be from the department or from a significant other. Fortunately wellness is becoming less taboo of a topic now so a lot of departments are developing peer support teams, fitness coaching and robust EAP programs.
So there you have it, what every firefighter needs. They gotta have a good knife for everyday use and cutting as well as a good light to see on those night time calls. Couple that with a good night’s sleep and emotional support and you have one happy firefighter! Oh and please don’t be the guy or girl who is always asking for a pen!