Operations, Training

The Standpipe Bag: What’s in Your Bag and Why?

Decide what is required and optional

What you need to be successful determines what goes into your bag. (author photo)

By Anthony Rowett, Jr.

Standpipe operations are some of the rarest operations for many firefighters. Yet, standpipe systems can be found in just about every fire department’s jurisdiction. Success during a standpipe operation begins with preparation. The effort to be successful through preparation tackles many of the different aspects of a standpipe operation: understanding the standpipe system, valve recognition (standard valve vs. pressure restricting device vs. pressure reducing valve), and effective standard operating guidelines, just to name a few. One preparatory action that should be taken is to develop a standpipe bag that includes all the equipment needed to be successful during a standpipe operation including the ability to overcome problems that arise such as a pressure reducing valve that has been set incorrectly.

Each fire department must determine what equipment to carry in its standpipe bags. This is true regardless of if a “homemade” or a commercially available standpipe bag will be used. When determining what equipment the standpipe bag will contain, fire departments should ensure that all the equipment firefighters need to be successful is included in the bag while considering the weight of the bag. There is a good chance that firefighters will have to carry the bag along with all the hose and other equipment that they will bring with them up many flights of stairs just to reach the standpipe outlet that they will connect to. To determine which equipment will be included in the standpipe bag, first categorize the equipment you are considering as either required or optional. Once you have done that, include all the required equipment and then determine which pieces of optional equipment to include.

Some departments may find that what is listed in the article as optional may be required to them. The purpose of the article is to illustrate the minimum of what should be considered. You should outfit your bag with specific consideration given to your department’s operations and the safety of your firefighters.

Commercial standpipe bag – This photo shows a commercially available standpipe bag. This kit includes a bag as well as the following equipment; an 2.5″ inline pressure gauge, a 2.5″ gate valve, a 2.5″ elbow adapter with a bleeder valve, and two (2) spanner wrenches. (author photo)

Required Equipment

Required equipment includes a 2½-inch inline pressure gauge, a 2½-inch gate valve, a 2½-inch elbow adapter, tools to adjust pressure reducing valves, spanner wrenches, and door chocks. If 2½-inch hose or 2-inch hose with 2½-inch couplings is used, then a 1½-inch x 2½-inch increaser should also be required for inclusion in the standpipe bag.

The inline pressure gauge is one of the most important pieces of equipment during any standpipe operation. One of the most detrimental situations during a standpipe operation is a standpipe outlet that is providing improper pressurization for the hoseline. When connected to the standpipe outlet, the inline pressure gauges provide the firefighter with the ability to identify this detrimental situation. The inline pressure gauge allows the firefighter at the standpipe outlet not only to identify a bad situation but also to correct it. By using an inline pressure gauge, the firefighter at the standpipe outlet can adjust the pressurization of the hoseline to the proper pressure for the hoseline and nozzle being used. This pressure adjustment must be made while water is flowing through the nozzle.

Minimum required equipment – This picture shows a standpipe bag that includes the minimum equipment that should be required to be carried in a standpipe bag including a 2.5″ inline pressure gauge, a 2.5″ gate valve, a 2.5″ elbow adapter (the elbow adapter shown in the picture also includes a bleeder valve), two (2) spanner wrenches, door chocks, and the tools required to adjust any pressure reducing valves that may be encountered during a standpipe operation. (author photo)

The gate valve is another important piece of equipment to include in all standpipe bags. Adjusting the pressure provided to the hoseline from the standpipe outlet by turning the hand wheel of the outlet will be difficult at best. Standpipe outlets are rarely ever operated until a fire occurs and requires their use. In many instances, these outlets are only operated once per year during the annual test (and remember, the annual test only requires use of the two most hydraulically remote outlets–not all the outlets). The adjustment of the pressure provided by the outlet to the hoseline can be made much easier using a gate valve rather than attempting to do so using the hand wheel of the outlet itself. The ease of adjustment when using a gate valve will also allow for a more precise pressure adjustment to be made. The gate valve MUST be placed prior to the inline pressure gauge. If your department uses an inline pressure gauge that also includes an inline flow meter, the gate valve may need to be positioned after the flow meter. This situation should be identified by the department prior to placing the inline pressure gauge/flow meter into service and the department members trained accordingly.

The elbow adapter is an important piece of equipment for the standpipe bag that is often overlooked. It allows for the hoseline to take a more gradual path to the ground from the standpipe outlet, reducing the chance of a kink in the hoseline right at the outlet. There are also occasions where without the use of an elbow, the other equipment in the standpipe kit simply will not be able to be used. The location of the standpipe outlet in a wall cabinet will not provide enough room to connect the inline pressure gauge and gate valve to the standpipe outlet without the use of an elbow. The use of an elbow in this situation essentially relocates the standpipe outlet connection to a position outside of the wall cabinet where there is enough room to use the inline pressure gauge and the gate valve. Without the elbow, the only option in this situation would be to connect the hoseline directly to the standpipe outlet, eliminating the ability of the firefighter at the outlet to identify a pressure problem as well as set the correct pressure for the hoseline.

Standpipe bags MUST include the tools necessary to adjust the pressure reducing valves you may encounter. For a reminder of the need to carry pressure reducing valve adjustment tools in every standpipe bag, review the One Meridian Plaza fire. If you encounter an improperly set pressure reducing valve (specifically a valve that is set lower than it should be) and the tools required to adjust the valves are not included in the standpipe bag, it will likely not matter what other equipment is included in the standpipe bag as the ability to identify the problem will be present (use of inline pressure gauge) but the ability to correct the problem will be absent. There are three pressure reducing valves that firefighters may encounter: the Giacomini valve, the URFA valve, and the Zurn valve. The Giacomini valve requires a steel adjustment rod, the URFA valve requires an anti-tamper torque key and either an aluminum or steel adjustment rod, and the Zurn valve requires an 18-inch pipe wrench and a ratchet wrench with a 1 1/16-inch-deep socket.

PRV adjustment tools – This picture shows the tools required to adjust the pressure reducing valves that may be encountered during a standpipe operation. The tools are as follows from left to right; a 3/8″ steel rod (the URFA valve can be adjusted by a 3/8″ aluminum rod but the force required to adjust the Giacomini valve requires a steel rod, by carrying a 3/8″ steel rod you can adjust both valves with the same adjustment rod), an anti-tamper torque key, an 18″ pipe wrench, and a wrench with a 1 1/16″ deep well socket. (author photo)

At least two spanner wrenches should be included in every standpipe bag. You might not be able to remove tight outlet caps without a spanner wrench. You can also use them for tight coupling connections.

Door chocks are an often-overlooked item in the standpipe bag. Every firefighter should carry door chocks, so why are they needed in the standpipe bag? There may be many doors that will need to be chocked open during the operation. Inclusion of door chocks in the standpipe bag takes care of securing the door nearest the location where the connection to the standpipe outlet will be made. This allows the firefighters to maintain possession of their door chocks for use on doors that they encounter throughout the remainder of the operation.

The 1½-inch x 2½-inch increaser should be included in the standpipe bag anytime 2½-inch hoselines or 2-inch hoselines with 2½-inch couplings are in use. The purpose of including the increaser in the standpipe bag is to allow the hoseline to be extended off the nozzle without shutting down water to the hoseline if the hoseline is stretched short.

Optional Equipment

Optional equipment includes a wire brush, an additional hand wheel, an additional nozzle, and a choke down tip. Many times, a wire brush is included in the standpipe kit to allow for dirty standpipe outlet threads to be cleaned prior to connecting to the outlet. Standpipe outlets are not always maintained in pristine condition. Finding a standpipe outlet that has either a broken or missing hand wheel is not uncommon in some areas. The inclusion of an additional hand wheel in the standpipe bag addresses this issue. Some do not include the additional hand wheel in the standpipe bag because they can use the 18-inch pipe wrench that is in the bag to operate the standpipe valve when the hand wheel is either broken on missing.

Some standpipe bags will also include an additional nozzle in case the hoseline is stretched short and needs to be extended from the original nozzle. Otherwise, you will still need an additional nozzle. The spare nozzle is carried as a backup in the event that there is a malfunction with the initial nozzle. Many departments account for the additional nozzle by marrying two engine companies together for each hoseline that is to be placed into operation. Each of these two engine companies carries their assigned standpipe equipment into the building and up the location of the standpipe outlet that will be used. This typically positions 6 lengths of hose (3 lengths per company), 2 nozzles (1 per company), and 2 standpipe bags (1 per company) in position and available for use per hoseline placed into operation.

Full standpipe bag – This picture shows a fully equipped standpipe bag which includes all of the equipment listed above under both the required and optional classifications. (author photo)

Consider including a choke down tip in the standpipe bag. This can be in the form of the smallest tip from a stack tip that is being used on the nozzle or a separate individual tip. The choke down tip is used when the pressure provided to the hoseline by the standpipe outlet is too low to create an effective stream. The 15/16-inch and 1-inch tips are the most common choke down tips. Many firefighters who conduct standpipe operations on a regular basis carry the choke down tip in either their coat or pants pocket rather than in the standpipe bag to make the choke down tip immediately available to them at the nozzle if needed.

The purpose of the standpipe bag is to ensure that the firefighters connecting to and operating from the standpipe outlet have all the equipment they need to be successful. Success includes having the ability to overcome problems that arise. Developing a standpipe bag that includes all the equipment necessary to be successful is a key measure that can be performed in advance of a fire to improve operational success.

Anthony Rowett Jr. is a captain with the Mobile (AL) Fire Rescue Department. He was previously a firefighter with the Ogdensburg (NJ) Fire Department. He has an A.A.S in fire science technology, a B.S. in fire science, and an M.S. in emergency services management. He is a graduate of the Alabama Smoke Diver course. He is the owner of Port City Fire Training. He is also an instructor at Gulf Coast Emergency Response Academy. He has instructed at multiple fire service conferences as well as for individual fire departments. He has served as a lead H.O.T engine company operations instructor. He is also a co-host on the Generation Engine podcast on Fire Engineering Blog Talk Radio.