I find myself in a unique and sometimes precarious position as associate editor of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment. It's great for the firehouse, since I get information on recent innovations sooner than many that I can pass along. It's unique in that not many firefighters get the opportunity to write about apparatus and equipment every month or spend every day reading articles on such topics. It's precarious because part of my job is to give our suppliers a voice by asking them what's new and what's available so I can pass that onto you. You might not think it's that precarious, but you never want any article to become too much of a commercial for one vendor. It's my job to do the balancing act, giving manufacturers and suppliers that voice without tilting in favor of one manufacturer over another, and so on. The relationships Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment has forged with vendors are important to the success of this magazine.
This is a two-way street, though. It's critically important to deliver manufacturer information to you, but it is equally as important to hear from you. I'm especially interested in hearing from our end users. I've said many times that the backbone of the fire service is its ability to innovate and come up with solutions to problems. That goes for apparatus and equipment too. What works on your new rig? What doesn't? You don't need to be manufacturer-specific. Have you bought a tool that doesn't do what you need it to for one reason or another? You don't need to name names-just explain why the tool isn't working for you in the application you chose it for. It could be that the application doesn't match the tool or truck you bought.
Another example is rescue. When talking about rescue equipment, it's the big stuff that often comes to mind-hydraulic rescue tools, pneumatic strut systems, and large jacks, to name a few. But, there is a plethora of smaller pieces of equipment from which countless departments have built various kits. Machinery rescue kits come to mind. So, if you've taken equipment and organized it into one collective unit that can be rapidly deployed, brag about it and why it works so well-here's your chance.
At the same time, did you recently buy a new rig you're particularly proud of? What is special about it that makes it unique that you can share with the rest of us? Give readers a tour of the new truck. It's not easy spec'ing out apparatus. But, Bill Adams's apparatus purchasing features have hammered home that it is often as hard on the seller as it is on the buyer to spec out a piece of apparatus. How did your salesperson work with you to build the apparatus of your dreams? They'll appreciate the good word on their behalf, and the fire service will benefit from your hard work with them.
As a captain, I get to see much of what we write about within these pages used on a daily basis. Because I am a volunteer firefighter and daytime calls are often light on personnel, I also find myself driving and operating our apparatus. And, on some occasions, like a vehicle rescue a few weeks ago, I can find myself as a driver/operator of the apparatus as well as a tool operator once the truck is set up. This type of scenario affords me the hands-on, field experience to write about apparatus and equipment. But at another recent call, a chief engineer from a neighboring fire company, who is also a reader, asked me how I know about what I write about. It's an excellent question, with an easy answer. End users and fire service vendors tell me. The only way for me to gauge what is going on in the fire service industry is to ask questions and listen.
So, let's talk. Here are a few things for you to ponder:
- Is customization of apparatus coming to an end? With budgets shrinking, does is it make more sense to purchase a stock vehicle vs. designing one from scratch that is customized to the hilt?
- Do you ever wish you could just buy engines to do engine work and trucks to do ladder work again?
- Speaking of apparatus purchasing, how are you paying for these things? Spec'ing out a truck is hard enough. Buying it once it's spec'd out is equally as challenging at times. What creative ways has your department come up with to pay for apparatus?
- When are our tactics going to catch up with advances in personal protective equipment (PPE)? This month, Robert Tutterow discusses the second National Fallen Firefighters Foundation's National Fire Service Research Agenda Symposium. I was there, and one of the things we discussed is PPE and how advanced it is, yet those advances allow us to get into trouble at times because we haven't always adjusted our tactics.
If those topics don't necessarily get your wheels turning, I'm always available to shoot the breeze with anyone and just talk fire trucks. Aren't the rush of a fire truck and the sound of the "Q" two reasons we got into this in the first place? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.