What I Carry In My Pockets: Brian Mcallister

(Continuing in our “Pockets Series”, Brian Mcallister offered to share some of his thoughts.  He is a close friend and one of the senior-men of DCFD TL-3 and a past Captain with the Silver Hill FD in Prince George’s County, MD) 

I believe every firefighter should be self sufficient and ready for as much as possible (Combat Ready).  With experience and information passed on by guys at scenes and the kitchen table you will over time figure out what works best for you and what you do as a member of your company.  The things I carry with me are what I deem best for me and the ability to perform my job as efficiently and safely as possible.

I have spent 7 ½ years on Tower 3 in the Washington DC Fire Department and have accumulated what I feel makes me proficient on a fire ground for our demographics.

Helmet:

  • 2 door chocks (banded on outside for easy access)
  • 4 gas shut off tags (inside liner)

Coat:

(Left Breast Pocket)

  • 20′ of 1″ webbing tied in a Watermen knot.  I can use this for hauling or tying off loose hose in a stairwell for the engine guys.  It can be used to control a door during forcible entry, dragging a downed firefighter, or even for searching with a partner to extend the area of reach by holding one end while your partner holds the other.
  • 1 pair of GOOD wire cutters.  These can be used for multiple reasons but are mostly for self-rescue or assisting a brother firefighter with entanglement.  I mention a good pair because these are life and death tools.  These cutters need to be able to cut materials such as 12-gauge wire or drop ceiling suspenders with little to no effort.  Cheaper cutters have a tendency to seize up or bend/dull very easily and in an emergency is not the time to deal with these issues.  Frequently oil and manipulate your cutters to prevent rust and maintain better operation.

(Right Side)

  • 1 Stream light for back up to Box Light
  • 1 Double male connector for Buddy Breathing. ** Note ** I keep this on my right side because the connection for the Buddy Breather on the Scott Air Pack is located on the right shoulder harness.  RIGHT SIDE RESCUE
  Close-up of Double Male    

(Right waist pocket) 

  • Right hand firefighting glove

  • Door chock

     (Left waist pocket)

    • Left hand firefighting glove
    • Elevator drop key

    You will notice I do not carry much around my waist.  This is so I can comfortably wear my SCBA waist strap without being bulky.  It also gives me a much lower profile.

    (Inside pocket)

    • Vicks Vapor Rub.  This is handy when you get those three in the morning Medical Locals where the person has not shower in weeks.  A little dab will do wonders under the nose.
    • Firemen’s Key

     Pants:

    • Integrated self-rescue harness.  This harness is attached to the interior of my Bunker pants between the PBI liner and the Thermal Barrier to prevent as much damage as possible to the webbing.  It is actually a class 2 harness that is suspended in place with clips to my liner. 

    (Right pants leg Cargo Pocket)

    • 50′ of 9/16 Kernmantle rope attached to 1 carabineer and a small 540 descender.  This is part of my self-rescue set up and clips easily onto the harness (with gloved hands) and attaches to an anchor point for rapid self-rescue.  This rope and hardware are kept in a canvas bag and packaged for deployment.  Notice again Right Side Rescue.
    • PBI hood

    (Left pants Cargo Pocket)

    • 2 door chocks
    • Safety glasses
    • Phillips/flat head screwdriver
    • Work/utility gloves
    • Door strap

    Miscellaneous:

    (Tool Bag kept on riding position)

    • Good pair of Vice Grips
    • Channel Locks

    • Wire cutters (I use these whenever possible instead of my rescue cutters)
    • Flat head screwdriver

    • Phillips head screwdriver
    • Needle Nose pliers
    • Second pair of Safety glasses
    • Pliers

    • Crescent wrench

    • Allen Wrench set
    • Good Knife (serrated blade)

    • Double drop/single drop elevator key with second Firemen’s Key
    • 2 Door straps

    I also carry my portable radio under my coat with the lapel-mic clipped into my coat fastener and brought through the front for easy access, as well as a good box light on a break away strap for easy removal in case of entanglement.

    As I mentioned these are the tools and equipment I have found to work well for me within my Alarm District and on fire scenes.  They may not work the same for you and you may need totally different stuff to benefit you and your brother firemen, but my recommendation is to pay attention to other guys and what they carry.  They may just have something that makes great sense that never crossed your mind.

    Remember this as well; IT’S NOT JUST GUYS WITH 30 YEARS ON THE JOB THAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM!  That Rookie that gets assigned to your company next month might just have something to teach you. The day you stop learning something about the fire service is the day you should clean out your locker and retire.

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