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County Personnel, Please Consult Fire Professionals When Specifying Equipment

County Personnel, Please Consult Fire Professionals When Specifying Equipment

John R Kowalski fights a fire while volunteering as a firefighter.

You Don’t Know How We Use It and What It Means to Our Safety

Attention County personnel,

We are grateful for your support of volunteer fire departments. As you know, volunteer departments make up 73-76% of all fire departments who operate primarily on donations. We are thankful for your support.

If, however, you are in the position to help fund departments in your county or region with equipment, I highly recommend consulting with your fire chiefs to help select appropriate equipment.

Recently with my department the County personnel took it upon themselves to write a specification for SCBAs (self-contained breathing apparatus – i.e., air packs and masks) and to put it out for bid. Issue one is that they specified the bare minimum equipment (NFPA 2019) not taking into the account of firefighter safety or ease of use. They received only one bid and went with it. I thought it was customary to gather three competitive quotes but maybe they work differently here in Tennessee. The word “kickbacks” seems to come to mind.

We recently had a training on the new equipment and unfortunately, in my opinion, they were a waste of county and taxpayer dollars. As an interior firefighter I will never touch one of these units on scene and more than likely even in training. They are sub-standard. They weigh approximately 10-15 lbs. more than what our department standardized on. This may not seem like much but when you’re wearing something on your back while working – crawling, climbing, etc. No quick connect for changing air tanks, the old-fashioned thread and screw design.

They also purchased turnout gear (pants, jacket, helmet, Nomex hood, boots, gloves) that again, in my opinion, is substandard and not the quality our department has standardized on for keeping us safe under terrible conditions. I have not received this gear yet, but I already know I will never wear this while fighting a fire. I may use the gloves as a backup pair and perhaps the boots for wildland fires where structure gear isn’t necessary, but in terms of the rest, it’ll go up in the supply closet and can be used for support personnel. That word “kickback” comes to mind again.

While I support the gesture from the County, it’s unfortunate that they didn’t as fire chiefs or professionals who really know equipment and needs for assistance.

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