Most of us have interacted with a truck control module at some point in our careers, helping to ensure that we check literally all required elements on a piece of equipment so we can be sure it’s ready for a response. But we also know how easy it is to pencil that shape, quickly check the boxes to complete the task.

The time has come to eliminate the mindless “check the box” mentality to ensure we get the most out of the process and the tool as we try to carry out routine tasks and deal with escalating emergencies. Therefore, here are some questions to consider:

  • Is your truck checklist serving the crew to its fullest potential?
  • What if your truck checklist could be more than just a list?
  • What if it could increase the margin of safety and play a vital role in training?
  • And what is your process when you get a file new apparatus?

Creating a checklist can be a simple process for taking an inventory of your equipment and adding space for notes.

Creating a checklist can be a simple process for taking an inventory of your equipment and adding space for notes.

How to use an apparatus checklist

If you’ve been through an appliance buying process, you know the countless hours spent checking specifications and attending meetings and factory visits, all culminating in delivery and final acceptance. It’s blood, sweat and tears to reach that time of delivery, underscoring the importance of keeping that truck in good shape.

Whether you were part of the arduous buying process or just received the shiny new piece of equipment, you and your colleagues are now responsible for keeping your new purchase and running at peak performance. Part of that responsibility is ensuring that the equipment manufacturer’s required maintenance intervals and checks are followed, often listed in the operations manual. Keeping up with these checks is not only good for the health of the apparatus, but you’ll be required to demonstrate that these tasks have been completed in order for the manufacturer to cover issues covered by the warranty. Therefore, take the time to make sure these items are on your checklist.

The checklist is to be used at the start of each shift, covering the required daily checks and anything you may want to add to ensure the equipment on board is ready for use. After all, you want to spot potential problems before it’s too late. For example, while SCBA cylinder pressure or tank water has little to do with appliance warranty, checking these items at every shift will pay off in ensuring that a late night or early morning call you don’t leave your crew with a rig that isn’t ready for action.

Checklists can also highlight less frequently used items to ensure they are ready to use. Items such as AC voltage sticks and other measuring equipment should be checked periodically. By adding a gauge calibration reminder and similar tasks into the truck’s control module, these less frequent checks can be completed when required.

Make sure your truck checklist follows a logical flow around the apparatus. This can be an opportunity to set your crews up for success by placing complementary equipment in the same compartment wherever possible. Most departments do this to some degree, but you can take it a step further by practicing tool deployment during equipment inspections.

If it’s possible to group that equipment in one place, do it. Grouping will allow your crew to go through all the items they need to do that job while following through on the checklist.

You can also develop long-term checklists, such as annual maintenance or other mileage- or hour-based intervals. This helps track these items and provides proof that you have completed the required inspections in the event of an accident or warranty claim.

Keep people sharp

An improved checklist can also turn a daily truck check into a training opportunity.

Instead of running through the list as fast as possible, take the time to think of the checklist as a tool for creating a margin of safety. In simple terms, the margin of safety is the distance between you and a danger that can harm you. We work in an unpredictable and dangerous environment during emergency incidents. Something can go wrong in the blink of an eye, and we can feel our safety margin shrink to almost zero, directly exposing ourselves to danger. By knowing our apparatus and making sure our equipment is ready, we can be more resilient and flexible and maintain a margin of safety.

For example, tank water and SCBA bottle volume can buy us time to exit a facility and away from harm. A ladder that can be rapidly deployed can make emergency rescue of a firefighter or civilian possible. Instantly knowing a particular piece of equipment can allow for quicker responses to unexpected problems. Even something as simple as the location of a backup battery for a meter or thermal imager can mean that equipment is back up and running after minimal downtime.

If you have someone in your crew from another shift or station, use the truck check time and checklist to make sure everyone is familiar with that particular piece of equipment before starting a call. Your goal should be to get crews to take on a specific job or tool group and watch the truck as they fill out the form. Talking about a particular job they may have to do (vertical ventilation, deploying a positive pressure ventilator, grasping extrication tools, etc.) accomplishes more than the dreaded pencil.

Capture the check

Now that you have a checklist that reflects your new tool (or even one you’ve had for 10+ years), plus some training elements built into the process, how do you prove you actually performed the check? Documentation is essential and can be accomplished in many ways.

Paper forms are probably the simplest and easiest to implement. You can probably start with the manufacturer’s forms and add to those if provided electronically. Or using a simple printed sheet works too. Make sure you have a place to keep completed forms, so you can retrieve them if needed. Periodically scanning them on a computer can provide some redundancy.

Some companies offer standalone apparatus checklist software, and some are web-based, allowing teams to retrieve the electronic form on their mobile devices. This type of technology eliminates the need to file paper forms and can make it easier to find a single record of checks and ranges or dates. Teams can also typically add comments or images to document items, and the system may be able to notify appropriate department personnel if a piece of equipment needs maintenance or a periodic item is out of date. RMS software may also have this feature.

But what if you’re ready to make the switch from paper forms and your agency has no electronic options on the horizon? You can use many online systems, like Google Forms or Microsoft Forms, to create a checklist and have it download the results into a spreadsheet. Additionally, you can use a QR code to provide a quick and easy way for teams to retrieve the checklist on their mobile device and complete it.

Take the time to make it work

Whether you’re the proud owner of a new appliance or know your truck checklist could do more than that, take a second to go through it and make sure it works just as well as your appliance and the people who depend on it.

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