When you watch different groups of people all do the same thing, you start to think that may be the best way to do it. Through years of doing personal escape training with firefighters, we began to notice that they all removed the equipment from their hip pouch and stuffed it into the cargo pocket on their turnout gear. They found this made it easier during training to repack their gear after each bailout. After consulting with each group, we also realized that the harness-mounted bags provided with most escape systems could also be difficult to access for some firefighters in an emergency, due to the length of their turnout coat, which covered the system.
At the end of the day, our goal is to make equipment as easy as possible for the firefighter to use, without stressing the budget, and this bag is a home-run.
We knew that some turnout pants are available with a pocket specifically designed for escape systems, but not everyone has that option. What was needed was a cost-effective retrofit option.
Further discussion with leading trainers in the field identified the important criteria needed for a bag to work:
First, it had to keep the escape system neatly organized so that the anchor hook could be consistently accessed in an emergency, and the rope did not develop and snarls or knots.
Secondly, it needed to be durable, able to withstand the rigors of both volunteer and full-time career firefighting work.
Third, it needed to be as universal as possible. With so many brands and configurations of turnout gear, a one size fits all is imperative.
Utilizing an online survey of Facebook fans, Sterling collected data on the most common size of pockets for turnout gear. Armed with this information, they turned to the sewing machine to create a bag which would hold both the rope and the hardware. The true “ah ha!” moment came when the designers realized that by creating a flap that was reversible, the bag could be made to mate with any hook and loop configuration of turnout pocket, joining the bag to the pants, and allowing the firefighter to open the pocket and the bag all at once.
By designing the bag to fit with all turnout pockets, and to hold several different style and sizes of escape hooks, Sterling is now able to offer a simple, universal solution to storing the escape system in a pants pocket.