Sunday, October 24, 2010

The things I carry

So, this month's Handover (a blog carnival) theme is “Wearing is Caring.” I've been intending to make an entry for some time now, and keep not getting around to it. This month, the discussion is about what we carry with us. This is a topic I've discussed before, especially over at, as well as in person with friends and co-workers.

I've been an EMT for 9 years, and a Paramedic for over a year now. I cut my teeth as a volunteer with a BLS service, and still run with them very regularly I'm actually a live-in with that agency, which provides BLS-level care, with a call volume of approx. 4500 a year. I run 6 or 12 hour shifts 2-3 nights a week to meet my “rent” requirement. I explain this, because when I'm functioning with them, I'm limited to the Statewide BLS scope of practice. I also work as a paramedic with 3 separate services – 2 suburban EMS agencies, and a urban based, private transport company. Oh, and because I go to the in-town college, I'm also on their BLS Quick Response team.

When I'm around school or the squad where I live, I'm usually carrying a pager and will cover calls as needed. The BLS agency has 2-3 duty crews on station, and if needed, and I'm available, it's expected of me to help cover a call beyond what we have staffing for. So although it's uncommon, I've taken calls in dress clothing, neckties and all, and I've taken calls in a Boy Scout uniform before too... (Joys of being an adult leader). Let me rattle off my “every day carry” stuff:

2-3 ballpoint pens. One isn't enough. Ever. It'll get loaned, lost, or left somewhere. They normally ride in my right front pants pocket. I've had a few leaking pen tragedies over the years, but usually this works for me. I also usually carry a fine-point Sharpie. It comes in handy.

Knife. Currently I'm carrying a SOGZilla folder in my right (strong side) front pocket, clipped to the pocket. That's my standard “utility” knife. If I'm on duty, I'll often replace the standard knife with a Spyderco Rescue folder, with a blunt tip and SERIOUS serrations. Sometimes I keep the other blade on me, sometimes not. Depends on if I remember.

Keys. My personal keys live in my left front pants pocket, and the set consists of: Electronic fob for the squad building I live at, 3 separate keys for various firearms lock boxes, a handcuff key (dating back to when I worked Security as a full-time job), Car key, Key to the University QRS truck, Room key, key to my parent's house, Key to the elevator at the Squad building, mailbox key, 4gig flash drive, and a VERY small CPR mask. It's actually a pretty compact keyring.

Wallet. I use a All-Ett wallet (, and it lives in my back right pants pocket. I cite the brand because it's the smallest, lowest profile wallet I've ever had, and I've used them for the last 5 years or so. Carrying a whole stack of cert cards, ID cards, etc, my wallet is pretty full. This wallet makes it thinner than most EMPTY leather wallets.

Nitrite Gloves. At least 1 pair of gloves lives in my back left pants pocket, pretty much 24x7. As I said, I sometimes end up on trucks when I'm not expecting it.

Flashlight. My current flashlight of choice is a SureFire G2L (LED). It often ends up in my left front pants pocket, although when I'm carrying a CCW, it'll end up in a weak-hand belt holster when I have that on.

Phone: My iPhone 4 lives in a pocket, too, because I've never been able to find a belt clip that works for me. Along with it, I always keep a headset, usually a corded earphone/mic system. This way, I can listen to music when doing my rig check, and talk hands free when on a long conversation during downtime. My phone normally rides in a breast pocket of my shirt or jacket, but if that doesn't work, it ends up in my front pants pockets, usually on the left side.

Pager: As I said, when I'm around and available, I end up being on-call. So I almost always carry my squad pager on my belt, at about 3-O'clock. When my CCW is there, it will either go to 4:30, or 9-o'clock. When I'm around the college, I ALSO carry a separate duty pager for their PD to dispatch the QRS.

When I'm off-duty, my apparel tends to be causal, but presentable. 5.11's, khaki's, or blue jeans, usually with a polo or button-down shirt. I rarely wear shorts. For belts, I wear a custom leather belt from Crossbreed ( or The Beltman ( For work wear, It's normally a 1.5” or 1.75” 5.11 Instructors/Riggers belt.

When I'm on duty, I carry all of the above, and some more “stuff”. Normally I'm wearing EMS Pants, BDU's, or 5.11's. My left thigh pocket carries a small handful (usually 5-6 pairs) of non-latex gloves. A pair of black Hatch “duty” gloves goes in my back left trouser pocket. These are good for light protection with vehicle rescues, as well as for various other protection. And trauma shears, if I carry them, go in my right thigh pocket or in a shears pocket on the outside of the right thigh.

Duty Keys – I also carry a separate set of duty keys when I'm working. They currently live on a locking carabiner clipped to my belt or belt loop at about 9-o'clock. These keys consist of: 4 different narc lock keys for my 3 ALS jobs, 4 different electronic fobs, 1 for each of the 3 jobs, and the 4th for the volunteer squad and college doors. There's also an O2 wrench from I've found that to be the most useful and durable O2 wrench ever. This key ring is a little big, but if I don't keep everything on one keyring, I loose pieces.

Patient paperwork, monitor strips, etc, often ends up in my shirt or jobshirt breast pockets.

And one of my stethoscopes round out the collection of “my stuff.” It doesn't normally live on my person, but I'll wear it during a call, and usually leave it in the truck.

Actually – one more thing. With all but the transport agency, I have some form of rescue PPE on the truck, at minimum, a bunker coat and helmet. In some cases, it's personally issued to me, in others I just grab a coat that fits and have it handy.

Now that I've said what I carry – let me comment on a few things I DON'T carry. I don't normally carry a penlight. There are several in the ambulance, and I'll use my pocket flashlight (or even my iPhone LED flashlight app) in a pinch. I don't carry a big 'ol “EMT Holster” on my belt. Everything I need is in a pocket... or I don't feel I need it. I don't use a radio holster, either. They have belt clips, so they get clipped to my belt when I'm out of the truck on a call. I don't wear a duty belt, either. Used to, and wore one for 5 years working security. Nowadays I keep my duty belt set up for an occasional armed security gig, including a holster.

Because someone else mentioned footwear – My primary boots are Haix Special Fighter US boots... They are NFPA certed for USAR and EMS. They are also the only boot I've found to fit my Size 16 Wide feet. Otherwise, I wear New Balance sneakers.

Anyway – That's a little long, but it's not only the WHAT of what I carry... but the WHY.