Cold Weather Preparation
Being a firefighter in a region that gets as cold as it does in Iowa exposes us to some additional challenges. This month we will take a look at a few tricks that can help firefighters mitigate some of them.
The first thing I will tell you is to dress warm. Keep an extra pair of warm socks in the pocket of your bunker gear or at least stash some in the fire truck. Be certain you keep your personal vehicle full of fuel. It will provide better traction with the added weight and if you find yourself in extreme cold you can let it idle while you are at a call. If you can park your vehicle in a garage great. If not, keep a cover on the windshield to prevent it from icing over. A pizza box works well. Don’t drive with an ice-covered window!
Preparing the fire trucks is extremely important! A frozen pump or valve can stop the entire operation. Be certain to drain the pumps completely. Check to see if there are any leaks from the tank to pump or recirculate valves. Even a small drip can cause the pump to freeze solid while in transit to the scene of an incident. Remove all the discharge caps and dry the pipes. After doing this spray the threads with silicone. This will assist in preventing icing. Be certain the heat shield is in place. If you have a pump house heater, make certain its valves are open and it is working properly.
Once you begin to flow water, keep it flowing until you are ready to shut down and pick up. Flowing water is much less likely to freeze. Continually monitor the amount of water coming out of the tip when not in use. If it begins to slow, flow more to keep it moving.
You would think being at a fire would be warm. My experience has been the opposite. You are only warm during the interior attack. Nearly all other fireground operations are extremely cold! Hypothermia can sneak up on you! One of the symptoms is a lack of judgement. Not good in a hazardous situation. Be certain to keep an eye on one another for symptoms of hypothermia and take breaks to warm up.
Exiting a warm cab of a fire truck and stepping onto a slick roadway can be a very big surprise. Be certain to have a good grip on the vehicle handle and be ready for a slip.
Upon completion, the department should be able to….
• Identify hazards of cold weather operations
• Locate addition clothing located in your gear and on the trucks.
• Discuss the symptoms of hypothermia.
• Explain the importance of preventing pump and hose freezing.
• Demonstrate the ability to prepare the trucks for cold weather operation.
Scott Meinecke is a member of the Sheldon Volunteer Fire Department, Director of Safety for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, and field staff for the Fire Service Training Bureau. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org