Firefighters couldn’t do their jobs without help from a variety of special tools. Technology has made it possible for firefighters to climb to great heights, walk through raging fires unscathed, and perform feats of strength that would have been impossible a few decades ago. Here’s an overview of the fire rescue equipment that might save your life someday.
Fireproof Clothes. Firefighters’ clothing is something of an engineering miracle in itself. Firefighters wear jackets, gloves and trousers made from material that’s highly resistant to heat, burning, melting and scorching heat—while still being breathable and flexible. It’s made from a unique combination of Kevlar—which provides the flexibility and breathability—and a material called Nomex, invented by Dupont in the 60’s. There’s a variety of clothing available for firefighters and appropriate for different jobs, including trousers, shirts, coats, and full-body jumpsuits.
Both Kevlar and Nomex have interesting properties. Kevlar is five times stronger than steel. Nomex carbonizes when exposed to extreme heat, creating a thick barrier that protects the skin from intense heat.
Ladders. A firefighter’s ladder is more than a simple wooden construction that’s leaned against a wall. Firefighters rely on turntable ladders mounted on the back of a fire truck or lorry. This ladder is designed to pivot on its mount, allowing it to reach greater heights and allow access from many different angles of approach. Turntable ladders are telescopic and most operate via hydraulic levers or under pneumatic power. Many of these ladders are equipped with built-in water guns that can spray as much as 3500 litres per minute. They may also come equipped with buckets giving firefighters and rescuees a stable place to stand.
Hoses. The hoses attached to a firetruck can carry an astonishing amount of water—thousands of litres per minute. They’re also rescue tools in themselves; they can be adjusted to spray a mist or fire extinguishing foam to adjust for different types of fires, and the spray is so strong that they can also be used to knock down walls.
Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus. These are the masks firefighters wear that allow them to breathe inside buildings filled with flame and toxic smoke. Like scuba diving gear, a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) relies on a high-pressure tank containing a portable supply of breathable air.
Hydraulic rescue tools. These tools give emergency rescue personnel the ability to lift enormously heavy objects and cut through steel. They’re usually used in the process of rescuing people from small, enclosed spaces. They may be used for high-powered cutting, spreading and lifting. They’re powered by hydraulic pumps that might be manually operated, automatic, or built into the tool itself. A hydraulic spreader-cutter combination tool can cut open metal or lift a car. Jaws of Life, a cutting tool widely used in the U.S., can take the roof off a car in two minutes or less. Spreader tools can be used to widen even small cracks between two large objects, open a car door or tightly closed panels.
Firefighters use a wide range of fire equipment to rescue fire victims and extinguish fires—these are only a few. These high-tech toolboxes allow firefighters to fight fires many storeys off the ground, cut through steel, and breathe in buildings filled with toxic smoke. With them, they can extinguish more fires—and save more lives.