Are Ground Monitors Safe?

12 Questions to Ask About Your Portable Monitor 

 Are you checking out different portable monitors and trying to choose the best one for your needs? Are you just diving into the world of ground monitors?  

If so, you’re probably wondering about safety, personnel requirements, and other elements that can help you make the best choice.  

In firefighting, we know that you put safety first. And since you prioritize safety and the health of your team, you want to choose the best initial attack monitors possible. 

Let’s talk through 12 – yes 12! – safety questions you should ask before choosing your ground monitor. 


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Flow and Pressure: 

What is the maximum flow rate and pressure rating of the ground monitor? 

You know the flow rate and pressure rating for your handline nozzles, master stream nozzles, and other firefighting appliances. Your ground monitor should be no different. Compare the flow and pressure ratings of each option you’re considering. Confirm that it will meet the needs of your response district and that your typical crew can safely and efficiently use the appliance. 

Can the flow and pressure be adjusted? If so, what is the range and how easily can it be adjusted in emergency situations? 

Understanding how you can control the flow of the appliance can help you when things change rapidly. See if the ground monitors you’re considering have detents and what type of valve they use to control the flow of water. 

Are there any safety mechanisms in place to prevent excessive flow or pressure? 

Water hammer and inconsistent water supply can wreak havoc on your fire ground. How is your ground monitor set up to handle these situations? Some monitors come equipped with a safety shut-off or flow-limiting device that will engage if there is sudden movement or an unexpected increase in pressure. If you deal with these issues, or want the safest fire scene possible, consider choosing a model with these features. 

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Stability and Mobility: 

How stable is the ground monitor during operation? Does it have any features to enhance stability, such as adjustable legs or stabilizing mechanisms? 

Your portable monitor should be equipped with multiple stability mechanisms. Consider how you will place your monitor in multiple situations – like a parking lot, a grassy area, or near trees or posts. Will you need two or four stabilizing legs? How do they fold up for storage and do they have strong tips at the end to help with gripping the ground and keeping the monitor stable? Does the monitor use other mechanisms to remain stable? 

Consider if the monitor is heavy enough to stay weighed down at maximum flow and if it needs personnel on it. Some monitors can be left unassisted and even oscillate to cover a wider area! 

Each monitor should come with a tie-down strap attachment point as required by NFPA 1964. 

You can also look through the owner's manual for the monitors you are considering. Find out how the manufacturer recommends securing them for safe use. Does one have more versatile features than the other? 

Can the monitor be easily moved and repositioned? What are the considerations for moving it over various terrains? 

If you get the chance to handle the attack monitor prior to deciding, don’t just flow! Spend time connecting and disconnecting the appliance, folding up the legs and safety mechanisms, lifting it, and carrying it around. Most monitors are a little awkward, so experiment with the recommended ways of carrying it. If you can, set it up as if it were a preconnected appliance on your apparatus and see what deploying it feels like. 


Safety Features: 

Does the ground monitor have any safety features like automatic shut-off in case of excessive pressure or unexpected movement? 

Think of how often your monitor will be used unassisted, potentially set up in a low light scenario, or need to be used on uneven surfaces. Safety features that shut down or limit flow can enhance safety on the fire ground if the monitor shifts unexpectedly. 

Are there any built-in mechanisms to prevent the monitor from tipping over or being accidentally dislodged during operation? 

This calls back to the stability of your monitor. Will the safety strap keep it up right? Are there legs to help with balance? If it does tip over, will your monitor shut down completely?  

Get a good grasp of how these features can work together and work in your response district. 

A burnt up blitzfire flows water

Material and Construction: 

What materials are used in the construction of the ground monitor? Are they durable, corrosion-resistant, and suitable for firefighting environments? 

Your initial attack monitor is going to go through some rough environments. It must work in a range of weather conditions and will likely deal with poor water quality at some point. Question what your options are made from and what types of coatings and corrosion-resistant treatments they receive both internally and externally. 

Are there any features in place to prevent freezing or clogging of water flow in freezing weather? 

You work in all weather conditions. What is the operating temperature range of the monitor you’re considering? Will it freeze up during operation? Can you fully drain it after use to minimize the risk of freeze damage?  

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Maintenance and Training: 

What are the recommended maintenance procedures for the ground monitor? Are there any specific training requirements for its proper use and maintenance? 

You spend a lot of time maintaining equipment, so it helps to understand exactly what you will need to do for your portable monitors. Look into the annual and longer-term maintenance requirements to understand how much time your crew will spend on it. 

Are there any warranties or service agreements available for the monitor? 

Broken or damaged equipment is unusable and unsafe. A good manufacturer's warranty can help you if you encounter a problem. Find out about the warranty length and what it covers for your options. If you do need to send a product in for service, what is the process you will need to follow and how much time does it typically take? 

Is there any training or technical support provided by the manufacturer to ensure proper operation and troubleshooting? 

If you work on your own equipment, it can be helpful to have training directly from the manufacturer. See if your chosen manufacturer offers any training and how you can access it. Do they have troubleshooting videos, articles, or documents available online? Do they have a service line you can call for help? Is there an in-person training option? 

 Wrap Up 

These questions are meant to address the safety concerns you might have as a firefighter evaluating ground monitors. It is likely that you and your crew will have other questions about storage options, use, flow characteristics, and compatible nozzle options! Make sure to ask them all and get your answers before making your decision.