As firefighters we love our tools. We know we need the right tool for the job at hand, so we spend a lot of time determining what tasks we will encounter as firefighters and deciding what tools we can use to address those tasks.
One task we encounter in nearly everything we do is to write:
- During calls for service, we have to record information.
- During training, we should take notes for review.
- During station duties, we have to make notes on all sorts of things.
Writing and record-keeping are tasks we don’t necessarily enjoy, but they are tasks that must be completed by every member of the fire service, regardless of rank or position. Therefore, we should take time to consider the proper tools for this seemingly mundane task.
I carry four writing “tools” in the left pocket of my bunker pants:
- a black ball-point pen
- a black felt-tip pen
- a black “grease” pencil
- a white piece of sidewalk chalk
Two Types Of Pens
The ball-point pen suffices for 99% of our job-related writing tasks, and I won’t waste your time describing all the things you can write with a ball-point pen!
But I will ask you, “What do use when conditions get wet and you still need to record something on paper?” Have you ever tried to write on wet-paper with a ball-point pen? Good luck there. That’s when you may want to break out the black felt-tip pen. A felt-tip pen can do a satisfactory job on a damp piece of paper, or a piece of wood, or a door, or just about anything.
The Grease Pencil
But what if we need to record some vital information and we don’t have anything to write on? We can use a “grease” pencil (or crayon) to write on the hood of a car, a windshield, etc. without permanently marking the surface.
With sidewalk chalk you can almost any surface, including the road, as a place to record vital information, debrief a training scenario, outline a fitness workout, etc.
In the fire service, events unfold quickly, and data can arrive in torrents. It’s great if we can record data on a nice paper form, or on a dry-erase board; but when conditions change we can be ready with tools appropriate for the task. The four tools I describe here (ball-point pen, felt-tip pen, grease pencil and sidewalk chalk) weigh less than 2 ounces combined. You’ll never even notice them in your bunker gear, but if you don’t have them you’ll sure notice their absence when they are needed.
Make sure you have the “write” tools!
Please comment with the write tools you carry.