Improving Safety For Older Apparatus

Issue 4 and Volume 14.

Helmet secured to withstand the gforces noted in NFPA 1901
If equipment, such as this helmet, must be stored in the cab, it must be secured to withstand the gforces noted in NFPA 1901.
NFPA 1901 requires hose containment as depicted on this KME unit.
Truckers are required to secure their loads, and fire trucks should do the same. NFPA 1901 requires hose containment as depicted on this KME unit.

(Second of a two-part series)

Without undertaking total refurbishment, there are ways for fire departments to upgrade older apparatus to make them safer and improve their eventual resale value. But none of these suggestions are substitutes for driver training and vehicle maintenance, which are paramount to apparatus safety.

Last month we covered vehicle data recorders (VDRs), seat belt monitoring, chevron striping, traffic vests, cones, flares and signage. Refer to the National Fire Protection Association 1901 fire apparatus standard for requirements relating to those suggestions and the ones that follow.

Consider installing reflective tape on the inside of cab doors. See and be seen is a mantra we can all live with. Opening a cab door and stepping into on-coming traffic can ruin your day. Placing fluorescent and reflective striping on the inside of cab doors will help alert motorists to move away from the apparatus so that a safer exit is possible.

The new NFPA 1901 standard requires a minimum of 96 square inches of retroreflective material on the inside of crew doors. A few departments have added LED light strips on the inside of their doors to complement the striping. It is not as expensive as you might think.

Older apparatus may not be equipped with slip-resistant steps and surfaces. This can be easily and inexpensively corrected with the application of slip-resistant coatings or strip-resistant adhesive strips. Tailboards, running boards and some steps may need perforations to allow for drainage.

Add A Slip Handle Or Two

Also take a look at your grab handle placement. Adding a slip handle or two in the proper place can make apparatus cab and hose beds easier to access. Remember the thumb rule of three points of contact – one hand and two feet or one foot and two hands in contact with the steps and grab rails when ascending or descending apparatus.

If you add grab handles, please do not purchase them from local hardware or automotive stores. Get them from an apparatus dealer so they meet the requirements for diameter, slip resistance and mounting distance from the cab or body. In lieu of steps, perhaps a ladder should be added. Consider a ladder that tilts out from the bottom so that climbing is at an angle rather than straight up.

Slide-Out Trays

Departments should look at how their firefighters can better access their equipment without being contortionists or climbing on the apparatus. Lowering equipment (if possible), adding slide-out trays, slide-out tool boards and tilt-down trays greatly improve equipment access. If there is a deck gun, consider upgrading to a deck gun with remote control.

There has been considerable emphasis by manufacturers and fire safety personnel to limit the amount of equipment carried in the cab and to make sure that anything carried in the cab is properly secured.

For example, the 2009 edition of NFPA 1901 requires helmet holders if the helmets are not carried in compartments. Helmets are not to be worn during the response. If worn, they can actually contribute to injuries. Structural firefighting helmets and wildland hard hats are not designed for crash protection.

SCBA brackets must have a positive-locking mechanism. The very popular spring clamps do not work and are not compliant. In fact, the new SCBA brackets must be designed so that they will house the SCBA unless the positive latch is engaged.

If you must have equipment in your cab, consider placing it in a metal box with a positive-locking lid and secure it to the cab floor. Remember, only the equipment needed during the response is to be carried in the cab. Any equipment mounted in the cab must be designed to withstand a 9-g longitudinal force and a 3-g force in any other direction.

Hose containment is not necessarily a firefighter safety issue, although it could be. But hose containment is a safety issue for the public and a potential liability for the fire department. Hose coming off of trucks have struck and killed people and caused thousands of dollars of personal property damage.

The NFPA 1901 standard does not provide requirements on how to secure the hose. It only requires that it be secured. Hose can be secured by hose bed covers, netting and strapping. Good hose containment can be inexpensive and, remember, it is expected by the public.

The trucking industry is required to secure its loads and is liable for any damages for failure to do so. There is no exemption for the fire service in securing loads. And there is absolutely no excuse not to add this to your older apparatus.

Last, consider adding a Class A foam system or CAFS system to your older apparatus. Though it will not make your apparatus safer, it will make fire-fighting safer.

It is interesting to see how some departments have embraced Class A foam and CAFS, while others have rejected it. Regretfully, it takes 15 to 20 years for new ideas to be accepted in the fire service.

There seems to be a general body of knowledge that recognizes that water is twice as effective with Class A foam and three times as effective with CAFS. It does not take a great leap of faith to accept that better suppression capabilities is directly proportional to improved firefighter safety.

It is generally accepted that firefighters face less heat exposure when Class A foam and CAFS are used. There are other advantages cited by users: less time for overhaul, which reduces firefighter stress; improved interior visibility to reduce slips and falls; less steam generation to reduce burns; and lighter hose lines (CAFS) that are more maneuverable, which reduces and improves fire stream reach.

A final reminder, please never shortchange your driver training and maintenance. For proper maintenance, get a copy of the 2007 edition and comply with the NFPA 1911 Standard for the Inspection, Maintenance, Testing, and Retirement of In-Service Automotive Fire Apparatus.

If you are thinking about refurbishment, get a copy of the NFPA 1912 Standard for Apparatus Refurbishing. The standard contains requirements for both Level One refurbishment (using a new cab and chassis and other components to bring the apparatus to current NFPA requirements) and Level Two refurbishment (upgrading of major components and other systems of the apparatus to return the apparatus to the standard to which it was manufactured).

Editor’s Note: Robert Tutterow, who has 30 years in the fire service, is the Charlotte (N.C.) Fire Department health and safety officer. He is a member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Fire Department Apparatus Committee and is on two other NFPA committees, the Structural and Proximity Firefighting Protective Ensemble Technical Committee and the Technical Correlating Committee for Fire and Emergency Services PPE.

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