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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Station Life: Morning Checkoff

“Alarm to all stations, stand by for daily radio check” might not carry the weight of “Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines”, but the statement has a similar effect at Brentwood Fire and Rescue. Every morning at 7:00 AM a Brentwood Dispatcher comes over the radio to notify all the stations that they are about to receive the tones for morning radio check. After the tones go off the dispatcher will call each unit over the radio, and every fire apparatus responds to verify that they are able to both send and receive transmissions. This is the official start to a day at Brentwood Fire and Rescue and the beginning of the morning checkoff.


Once radio check is complete, the day’s activities begin with an exchange between the offgoing and oncoming crews. This is known as the passdown, and covers a variety of topics including any calls from the previous shift, tools and equipment used, problems with the station or apparatus and anything else that is deemed important.


During this time turnout gear and personal equipment are added and removed from the fire truck as appropriate. Everyone checks their airpacks to ensure they have a full supply of air and that the pack is functioning properly. Turnout gear is checked over to make sure it is ready for the next emergency. Compartments are opened and equipment is inspected

The driver, or Engineer, of the fire apparatus will walk around the vehicle inspecting spare air bottles, tires, and the contents of each compartment. The idea here is to identify any issues that may exist before they become a problem. There is a set checklist that must be completed every day, but there are also additional checks that are performed based on the day of the week.


As part of the morning checkoff, each apparatus is pulled out in front of the fire station. The driver will verify that the onboard computer is working, check fuel, oil and transmission levels and test the fire engine’s pump to ensure everything will function if it is called upon in an emergency. Even though there are gauges to monitor the level of water and firefighting foam in the tanks, the driver will visually inspect these tanks as part of the process. Firefighters could be put at risk if the gauge was wrong and the engine ran out of water unexpectedly.

While the truck is outside, the driver will again walk around. This time they are inspecting every light on the truck to verify that it is working. If any bulbs need replacing, this is the time to take care of it. Now is also the time that the driver gets to live out every child’s dream and blow the horn and sound the siren to make sure they are in proper working order.

While the Engineer is ultimately responsible for ensuring the truck is ready to respond, the firefighter will pitch in and help out. This can include checking off the medical equipment. Every shift the medical equipment is inspected to make sure anything used on a previous call has been replaced. Once a month any equipment that needs calibration is tested to ensure it is working properly. Medications that are nearing their expiration dates are removed and replaced. When you need it is not the time to find out that a medication has expired or the last oxygen mask was used the day before. 


Every day at Brentwood Fire and Rescue may start in a similar manner, but once calls start coming in things can become anything but routine. By adhering to a set method for inspecting the apparatus and its equipment, firefighters can ensure the fire engine won’t let them down when they need it most.