Fire Fighting in Canada

Features Structural Training
Back to Basics: February 2013

In our last discussion, we looked at different types of standpipes and the types of structures within which they are found.

February 4, 2013
By Mark van der Feyst


In our last discussion, we looked at different types of standpipes and the types of structures within which they are found.

For those fire departments that have standpipes in their response areas, standpipe tool kits need to be assembled and brought along with the highrise or apartment pack. The standpipe tool kit will supplement the hose pack that is taken inside the structure, with its complement of equipment, parts of which are sometimes needed to make the connection, to advance the hose, to communicate, or to add other hose lines.

Photo 1: A standpipe tool kit, which complements a highrise pack, should include door chocks, a wye valve and adaptors, hose straps, spanner wrenches and vice grips, and should be neatly packed in a bag with a shoulder strap for easy carrying.  Photo by Tim Llewellyn
 Photo 2: The standpipe tool kit and the highrise hose pack should be stored together, allowing for quick and easy access. Photo by Tim Llewellyn


In photo 1, you can see a standpipe tool kit laid out, showing the assortment of equipment that is sometimes needed. This equipment needs to be included with the highrise or apartment pack as a basic tool – the two packs complement each other. The standpipe tool kit needs to be located with the hose pack as depicted in photo 2. This allows for quick and easy access for either one firefighter or for a team of two. The tool kit should be in a bag that has a shoulder strap for easy carrying. It should also have a wide opening, allowing for easy access into the bag. A good suggestion would be to use a canvas tool bag. Reflective stripping can be sewn on to make the bag visible in dark and smoky environments. 


The standpipe tool kit should be loaded with just the essential items that will be used on a semi-regular basis. Loading the kit with everything imaginable will only weigh the kit down, making it impracticable to carry. A good idea is to evaluate the kit every year to determine what was used most. Then determine if those items not used are really essential to have. If they are, include them again for the next year. If they are not, remove them from the kit. Items removed can also be replaced with other items that may prove to be a valuable resource.

Let’s look at what items should be included in the kit. Using photo 1 as a guide, let’s start with the top left-hand side and work our way counter-clockwise. The first items are door chocks, which will prove valuable when trying to maintain an open door for hose advancement. The door chocks are big, allowing for easier handling and providing more surface area for holding the door. The item next to the door chocks is an elastic door latch cover. This item will prevent doors from locking shut, enabling a door to be opened just by pushing against it, rather than having to feel for the door knob and then turning it.     

 Photo 3: If the wheel in a hose cabinet
is missing, a vice grip can be used to clamp onto the stem of the valve
and then turned to open it. This may take a bit of work, but it can be
done. Photo by Mark van der Feyst
 Photo 4:  If the water valve on a
standpipe is in a stairway, there will be more room to use the vice grip
to turn the stem to open it. Photo by Mike Gutschon

Having a wye valve will help with adding another hose line for attack purposes. The wye should have a two-and-a-half-inch by one-and-a-half-inch by one-and-a-half-inch outlet, allowing for two hand lines to be serviced. Some wyes will have a pressure gauge showing the discharge pressure at each outlet. This gauge can prove helpful in ensuring that proper pressure is flowing out at that point.

Along with the wye, an assortment of adapters needs to be included. The photo shows a double female adapter, a double male adapter and a two-and-a-half-inch to one-and-a-half-inch reducer. Depending upon the standpipe configuration and the hose line setup desired, these adapters will help. Another fitting that is good to include is a 45-degree elbow. This allows the hose connection to be angled downward instead of kinking downward, and will compensate for space/location configurations. If responding to a mutual aid department call, adapters for different thread configurations can also be included. Some departments will have their own thread specification, which may be different from the mutual aid department. Having the adapter to allow for connection will be valuable.

The kit in photo 1 shows two styles of hose straps. Hose straps will help with the advancement of the hose in stairwells and/or over edges. In a stairwell, if the hose needs to be advanced upward over the railing, the hose strap can be used to prevent the hose from sliding downward as gravity wants it to. It will help to maintain hose positioning without committing a firefighter. This can also be done with a well stretch where the hose becomes a standpipe in a stairwell as it is vertically advanced between the handrails. This will cut down the amount of hose needed to advance, and also free up the stairs for use.

The hand tools – or spanner wrenches – included are going to help with tightening and loosening different fittings. On the standpipe, the cap on the outlet may be seized due to rust or if it was tightened too much by a previous user. The spanner wrench will help with getting it off.

The vice grips are also a helpful tool. The grips will help with opening the standpipe outlet to allow water to flow.

Sometimes the wheel used to open the outlet goes missing or breaks off due to old age, being on too tight or being too loose. The vice grip can be used to clamp onto the stem of the valve and then to turn the stem to open it. Photo 3 shows the wheel on a two-and-a-half-inch bottom outlet in a hose cabinet. It would take a bit of work to use a pair of vice grips to turn the stem, but it can be done. If the valve is on a standpipe in a stairway (see photo 4), there will be more room for the vice grip to turn the stem to open it.

The last item included with the kit is a communication device. Some buildings will have a built-in communication system that will allow firefighters to communicate to a central point. The handset gets plugged in to a jack near the standpipe, which then becomes a two-way phone system. This is great for communication where portable radios are ineffective.

No matter what type of structures you may have in your response area that contains standpipes, you will need to assemble a standpipe tool kit to accompany the highrise or apartment pack. Be sure to pack it right!

Mark van der Feyst is a 14-year veteran of the fire service. He works for the City of Woodstock Fire Department in Ontario. Mark instructs in Canada, the United States and India and is a local-level suppression instructor for the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy and an instructor for the Justice Institute of B.C. E-mail Mark at

Print this page


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *