Spend enough time at a fire station, and slowly you start to figure out the jargon.
Like any profession, firefighting comes with an arsenal of slang that first is mostly alien to a visitor.
But soon it all starts to make perfect sense.
Behind the Badge OC recently spent a day at Station 11 in west Anaheim and Station 8 on the east side of the city (stay tuned for several stories from those ridealongs).
Here are some terms our reporter and photographer picked up on. They should come in handy as a cheat sheet prior to visiting a station – or if you just want to sound smart the next time you run into a firefighter and strike up a conversation with him or her.
Apparatus bay: The enclosed “garage” where fire engines and trucks (i.e., apparatus) are kept. Ask a firefighter where the garage is, and you will give yourself away.
The head: The bathroom. This is a military term. “Where’s the head?” is a perfectly acceptable question.
Day room: Don’t call it a family room or entertainment center. This room typically features sofas and a TV. And no, firefighters don’t while away their shifts watching the boob tube and scarfing down junk food. The day room is used for training videos and for the few breaks firefighters sometimes enjoy while on duty. When they are not out on calls, firefighters have a host of duties to perform – cleanup and maintenance of equipment at the top of the list.
Turnouts: The yellow/off-orange coats and pants firefighters put one when responding to emergency calls. If they aren’t wearing them while zooming down the street with sirens blaring, they are responding to a medical aid call. A whopping 80 percent of all calls to fire stations are for medical aid.
ALS/BLS: You hear these terms a lot, and they refer to equipment/supplies. ALS stands for Advanced Life Support, BLS for Basic Life Support.
Staples: Not the retail chain where you go for office equipment. This term refers to food items typically found in a home pantry (coffee, sugar, snacks, etc.). “You guys have some awesome staples!” will bring a smile to the face of any firefighter.
Rig: A fire engine or truck (trucks are ] rigs with ladders on them; fire engines do not have ladders).
USAR: Acronym is for Urban Search and Rescue.
Dorm: A room where a firefighter sleeps.
Header: The plume of smoke from a fire. “There’s the header!” a firefighter might say while responding to a fire.
Apron: The driveway fire engines and trucks use to get out of and into the apparatus bay. Another military term.
Chow: Food, as in breakfast, lunch or dinner. A firefighter never will announce, “Dinner’s ready!”
“You pump at 150 and cook at 350”: Common fire station phrase referring to the pressure of an average fire hose when putting out a blaze and the temperature of the oven when cooking.