Firefighter Accountability Tags: Protecting Our Protectors

Actor Steve Buscemi of Reservoir Dogs and Con Air fame was a firefighter with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) before he switched gears and went into acting. In his informative and moving documentary, A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY, Buscemi says, “I was a New York City firefighter for only about four years back in the 1980s. What I did not realize then is how much the job would stay with me and be a part of my life.”

One need only watch the documentary for a few minutes to recognize the courage it takes to be a firefighter and the risks they take to rescue strangers they do not know and save things they do not own. But who and what saves those who save us? While gear and training are the trusted tools in a firefighter’s arsenal, knowing their exact whereabouts amid the smoke and confusion of a conflagration is imperative for their welfare. And that is where firefighter accountability tags play an integral role.

Disastrous infernos can often have small, seemingly innocuous beginnings. A stove left burning, a lit cigarette thoughtlessly flicked away, an overheated laptop—these can all grow into ravenous flames, bringing down homes, charring vehicles, eviscerating airplanes, and snuffing out human life along the way. Firefighters endure intense training to tackle a wild and unpredictable opponent. A game plan is always in place, and that includes knowing the location of all the firefighters deployed in the danger zone. A firefighter accountability system ensures the safe return of all—including volunteers—who place themselves in harm’s way.

Properly implemented, the firefighter accountability system allows incident command personnel to track the number of boots on the ground and their exact location at any given time. There are two types of firefighter accountability systems:

  • Active: Think of this as the “cow-tag” style that requires fire fighters to check in and out of the location in question.
  • Passive: This is a high-tech GPS-based transponder system that gives the incident commander the ability to locate the firefighters inside the structure via a computer.

A hybrid of the two systems is ideal. While modern technology is often impressively accurate, it can give personnel a false sense of security. And let’s not forget Murphy’s Law. Because technology is not foolproof, layers of redundancy in security protocols can save lives. The two-tag firefighter accountability system meets the standards set by the National Fire Protection Association. These systems allow Rapid Intervention Teams to rescue personnel if needed.

According to, in 2021 there were 70 fatalities among firefighters while on duty. In addition to the hazards of getting trapped in burning debris, firefighters also run the risk of becoming disoriented. A 2002 FEMA report documented the loss of two Missouri firefighters who “became disoriented in a residential structure fire and became lost.” Firefighter accountability tags exponentially increase the odds of rescuing our rescuers in such situations.

At Ketchum Mfg., we are committed to protecting our firefighters. We custom-engrave the information you need in contrasting colors for maximum perceptibility in low-visibility conditions. Our firefighter accountability tags come with sturdy trigger snap hooks, bolt snap hooks, or c-clips to suit your specific needs.

Firefighter accuntability tags
Firefighter accountability tags
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