Different places might call it different things, but here when one company is called to respond for another, it is called Covering-In. Our dispatch system already knows who will cover for who depending on the severity of the incident. Most commonly used when greater alarm fires are transmitted, this system puts companies into the effected area to maintain basic coverage.
We are dispatched as follows: “This is a directed cover for Engine 99 to the quarters of Engine 77, Engine 99 you are now first due in place of Engine 77.” And we head over to Station 77.
There are rules you should follow when covering-in.
1. Get the map book from the office and put it on your rig, after looking it over. Maybe you’re lucky enough to come from a nearby area and know the neighborhood you’re covering, but if not, become best friends with that book if you’re the driver.
2. Cover the food. If they were in the middle of a meal when the bells rang, cover their plates and tend to the food left out. Do not eat the food, they’re expecting it to be there when they return, so go out and get your own food.
3. Make up a hose pack. If your department has a standard strapped hose load, make a new one so the company can go back in service faster when they return. Make it up or ensure there is enough line to restock their pre-connects and get it ready.
4. Don’t sleep in their beds. If you’re stuck there overnight, you get to sleep in a chair. Do you want some stranger sleeping in your bunk? Didn’t think so.
5. Secure the house and the yard. Make sure all the doors are closed and locked (and that you can get back in) and cars in the lot are secure. Goodness only knows what they were doing when the call came in.
6. Make a fresh pot of coffee. Also check for bottled water and put some in the fridge.
7. Post a night watch. This person will be pre-selected to answer the phone, front door and monitor the radio to wake the crew when the home company is returning. That way they return to lights on, fresh coffee and extra hands to help get back in service.
8. Check the washing machine and dishwasher. Do basic chores to make less work for your co-workers when they return, likely exhausted.
9. Keep a log of any supplies you use while gone, from coffee to medical supplies.
10. Before leaving, make sure there is nothing else you can do for that company including chores, dishes, cooking, anything. Pay it forward. Do onto others, etc etc.