By the 4th truck check, most probies will probably sigh and the bold ones will audibly groan. However, truck checks are the fastest way to make new firefighters useful on the fire ground. It is tremendously important that probationary firefighters memorize where on the truck or engine each piece of apparatus is. This is especially important for the hydrant team as they are typically the least experienced firefighters and a hydrant drop can go very, very wrong if they do not have the correct tools.
A good truck check is not a simple visual check of the engine/truck compartments and contents. A good truck check should involve active inspection of the apparatus. When done properly, a truck check helps inform training decisions made by the officers. A guided truck check is a great opportunity for a teachable moment. A probationary firefighter may pick out a tool that is not commonly used and ask "What is that and what is it for?" or perhaps say "I've read about that in the academy, and I want to learn how to use it". Consider when, where and how some of the more esoteric tools might be used. For example: most urban and suburban firefighters may not know the proper procedure for using hard suction and when it might be useful.
In addition to verifying the presence and affixment of each piece of apparatus, a proper truck check should include the following:
- Check hose. Make sure that it is packed correctly. Be mindful of the lengths and diameters of each. Knowing the proper pull for each fire scenario is essential. This becomes even more important later in a firefighter's career when they become chauffeurs. Check the nozzles and ensure they are on the proper setting and free of debris.
- Check each and every SCBA and spare bottle. The SCBA is you and your company's lifeline in the IDLH. No matter how much you trust them, do not assume that the crew before you checked each one.
- Check hand tools. Be sure that they are tightly assembled and free of rust.
- Check the fuel level of saws and generators. Start them up and ensure that they are running properly. If they are 2 stroke, ensure that there is appropriately mixed fuel and available oil to make a new mixture if necessary. If 4 stroke, check the oil level and ensure that there is oil available.
- Open toolboxes. Ensure that every individual tool is present. Make notes of any tools that are unavailable. Consider what the tools might be needed for on the fire ground.
- Ensure all radios are set to their appropriate channels.
- (Chauffeurs) Start the engine/truck and ensure that all lights and sirens are working. Check the operation of the pumps. Teach probies the basics of checking fuel and fluid levels.
- Check the things that are annoying to check. If it's annoying for you to check them, it's annoying for anyone else. Make sure you're the one that actually pulls the ladder blocking the rarely used compartment so that you can check that the never used Level A Hazmat suit is actually present, and free from rips and tears that would compromise its ability to protect someone operating in the IDLH.
- Check the Ambulance too! Chances are you'll be working with EMS on scene. You owe it to them to familiarize yourself with the basic equipment they use. On an EMS call they run the show. Learn how to be useful for our brothers and sisters on the emergency squad side of things. Just make sure you check with them how best you can do that, don't touch anything you haven't been trained on, and make sure you put it back the way you found it or alert the squad if you believe something to be out of place.
- (Officers) Consider the training needs of your firefighters, both probationary and veteran alike. Your firefighters will be working with each other and need to be able to trust the person they're working next to. Use truck checks as a way to inform your training instruction and identify areas of growth for your firefighters.
- (Officers) Consider outfitting your team in some sharp looking custom station-wear. We have a new probie shirt designed just for our newest firefighters! Also check out our 60 piece shirt special if you're ordering for the whole department.