Engine Operator - what you need to know

The post below was originally posted on FireCritic.com here. The post has been reproduced with permission.

It seems to me that all the decent fire service writers focus too much on “talking on the radio”. It is important, but so are some other things. Today, The Fire Critic will start an ongoing in-depth look at the Engine Operator. This will be the first topic of many, so buckle your seat belts and take a look.

In this first post on the Engine Operator, we will look at what you need to know. This will basically serve as an outline for more in-depth posts on the Engine Operator.

I know in my department we have a lot of guys who think that if they can drive the engine to the grocery store then they are good to go. This is so very far from the truth. We need to make sure that drivers are taught and learn what they need to know.

Here is a rundown of the basics that every engine operator should know and should review periodically to stay in top form for when the bells hit:

1. Policies - every engine operator should know and understand their individual departments policies on response for emergencies and what is expected of you once you arrive on scene.
2. Laws - you should have a thorough knowledge of Local, State, and Federal laws governing emergency response as well as just driving in general.
3. Safety - Usually the safety I am referring to is covered in the Policies and Law, however you must know how to operate apparatus safely including stopping at all red lights and wearing your seat belts!
4. Territory - You may be all set up to fight the big one, but that isn’t going to matter if you are stuck in the bay looking through a map book or driving around guessing how to get to that column of smoke on the horizon. Be sure you have a great map book and focus on memorizing your territory as soon as possible.
5. Knowing your Engine - You have to know your engine inside and out. Check fluid levels, tire pressure, ensure there is water in the tank, and make sure it has enough fuel.
6. Equipment - You need to know what equipment is on your engine, where it belongs, and how to use it. This includes hose, nozzles, saws, tools, appliances, EMS supplies, radios, and everything else which can be used on your engine.
7. Apparatus Response - We will go in depth at how to get from point A to point B quickly, efficiently, and safely.
8. Apparatus Placement - Once you get to the address where do you park and when do you set your parking brake. This only takes a second but if you get it wrong can really mess up an emergency scene.
9. Pump Operations - Intake - 500 gallons is probably the most common amount of water carried on fire engines. Whether you have less or more you will have to ensure that you can get more water. This means hooking up to a hydrant!
10. Pump Operations - Discharge - Once you get good you will know how to generalize your pump pressures and then follow up by making sure you are right. Until then you will have to rely on quickly doing the math in your head to get water flowing. I am talking about friction loss, nozzle pressures, and discharge pressures among other things.
11. Taking up after the call - Everything you need to think about once you are ready to get back in service for the next “big one”.
12. Troubleshooting - Now that you have everything set perfectly you must know how to troubleshoot in the event of pressure loss, water loss, pressure spike, equipment failure, etc.

Once we get a little deeper into the topic, I will be discussing several other issues and ideas. Things like:

* What to do once the pump is set
* What to do to help out the manpower deficient crew
* What to do if you witness an unsafe practice while operating on the outside
* What to do if you need help and no one is around
* Radio communications with the pump operator
* Helping your Officer make the right decisions
* Hose lays

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