Tunnel Vision, Specs, and Rear Preconnects

Issue 8 and Volume 18.

Bill Adams

Tunnel vision, the loss of peripheral sight, is a constricted tunnel-like ability to see. Medically, it can be caused by glaucoma. In the fire service, complacency causes it-better defined as an extremely narrow point of view. It’s common in old-timers, past-their-prime white coats, and occasionally those who write apparatus purchasing specifications (specs). Affecting vendors as well as firefighters, it’s a predetermined prejudiced outlook on any change from the status quo. Severe cases provoke that embarrassing, denigrating, but sometimes factual statement of “200 years of tradition unimpeded by progress.” Look no further than a pumper’s hosebed and, in particular, at rear preconnect storage.

Stowage-wise, little has changed since preconnected collapsible hose replaced booster lines for initial attack-crosslays and speedlays being exceptions. The recent trend to eliminate traditional pump houses with alternative pump locations has seen a renewed awareness and usage of rear preconnects, probably from necessity rather than choice. Advantages and detriments of crosslays, speedlays, reel storage, and front bumper lays are left for another day.

This Spartan-ERV has three removable aluminum hose storage trays
(1) This Spartan-ERV has three removable aluminum hose storage
trays. Two hose storage areas are located above the trays and two to
the right of the trays. Stainless steel rollers facilitate removal and
reloading. (Photo courtesy of Alan Smith, a Spartan-ERV dealer.)

No preference is shown for the quantities, sizes, and lengths of rear preconnects or for the methods of loading and deploying them. Whether they are packed flat or on edge; one tier wide or two tiers wide; or in a reverse horseshoe, pull-and-dump, or shoulder load configuration is a local matter. Do what’s best for your department. This article looks at various locations to store rear preconnects and the importance of specifying them in a clear and understandable manner.

The Bidding Process

Not all fire departments are mandated to follow governmental bidding protocols. Some political subdivisions give fire departments extraordinary leeway in writing purchasing specifications and recommending bid awards. However, in most scenarios, the fire department writes the technical specification and the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) finalizes the legalities and makes the legal purchase. If the fire department does a lousy job writing the spec, it stands the chance of getting a lousy rig. The same applies to hose storage for preconnects.

An AHJ, especially one not firematically oriented or fire department friendly, can award a bid to a vendor just meeting the written word of the specification. That AHJ may have no concern or little care for what the fire department expected, really wanted, or thought it specified. In political subdivisions, the AHJ is legally obligated to ensure competitive bidding statutes are followed. Be careful. Today’s public bidding environment has changed. Vendors are aggressive. Vote-conscious politicians, bureaucrats apprehensive about personal job security, fiscally conservative watchdog groups, and economically strapped taxpayers may not care what the fire department likes, dislikes, or thought it wrote. Specification verbiage, or lack of it, weighs heavily in awarding a contract. Write carefully.

Comprehensive Specifications

It’s important to write understandable and definitive purchasing specifications when describing any hosebed. It’s imperative when addressing nontraditional storage. Not doing so can cause turmoil when evaluating proposals and may create ill feelings between the fire department, the AHJ, and the bidders. A consequence might be a rig that’s hard to work off of and one the troops hate. It’s happened before and can result in a legacy the spec writer may deserve but not appreciate. You can’t blame the bidders if you wrote the specs.

One fictitious fire department’s purchasing spec read, “The hosebed shall be 24 inches deep by 68 inches wide with adjustable dividers to accommodate 1,400 feet of five-inch and five preconnects including one each 150 feet and 250 feet of 1¾-inch, 150 feet and 250 feet of 2½-inch, and a 400-foot-long line consisting of 200 feet of 1¾-inch attached to 200 feet of 2½-inch. If room is available, a bed for 200 feet of preconnected three-inch shall be priced as an option.”

For simplicity and ease of comparison, each tier in this fictitious hosebed can hold 300 feet of five-inch large-diameter hose (LDH) or 500 feet of smaller double-jacketed rubber-lined hose (DJRL) when packed flat. “When packed flat” is important. Most specs omit it-sometimes regrettably.

Buyers, take note. Bidders may not be intimately aware of every purchaser’s fireground procedures and unique hose-packing idiosyncrasies that are liked and wanted but seldom, if ever, detailed in purchasing documents. In today’s competitive marketplace, bid estimators price apparatus based on the written word only. It’s the smart thing for them to do. Bear in mind, it’s usually the “factory” that prices out a rig-not the local dealer. Purchasers should be cognizant that that person may not be firematically oriented. Another reminder: A purchasing specification is a legal document. If your requirement isn’t written into it, that requirement doesn’t legally exist. You lose.

This fictitious hosebed and preconnect storage specification was poorly written. It only specified a capacity for the preconnect beds, saying nothing about location or how hose will be packed. Figure 1 and the following are examples of what could happen when vendors submit proposals based on the above vague hosebed specification.

Depicted here are five not-to-scale hosebed configurations compliant with a vague specification.

Figure 1. Five Bids for a Vague Spec

Depicted here are five not-to-scale hosebed
configurations compliant with a vague specification.
Bidders must know the measurements of a purchaser’s
hose to propose workable layouts. Piping supplying
upper stacked preconnects should be at the front of the
hosebed. Traditionally, rear preconnects are located on
each side of the supply line beds. By moving all to one
side, it may be less expensive to notch the tank for rear
piping. Hosebed side sheets are probably sturdier than a
divider when containing large-diameter hose. (Illustration
by author.)


Bidder 1 proposed single-stacked (one-tier-wide) beds for the five required preconnects and ample room for the LDH. It met the specs; however, the apparatus purchasing committee (APC) recommended rejecting the bid because the three-inch bed was not proposed and it wanted the 1¾- and 2½-inch beds packed two tiers wide. The AHJ said the three-inch bed was optional; the two-tier width was not specified by the fire department; and the proposal met the specs as written and, if low bid, the fire department will have to live with it.

Bidder 2 proposed all the 2½- and 1¾-inch beds be packed two tiers wide with the 150-foot beds stacked above the 250-foot beds with removable flooring between them. The 400-foot preconnect was single-stacked and the main bed accommodated the LDH. The APC rejected this bid because the stacked preconnects were not reachable from ground level, the 150-foot beds would have to be unloaded to repack the 250-foot beds, and the three-inch bed was not provided. The AHJ said the fire department did not specify a height requirement for the preconnects. There was nothing in its specs prohibiting stacking preconnects one above the other or removing one to repack another. And, the three-inch bed was not specifically required. If the lowest, this bid would also be acceptable.

Bidder 3 showed a bit of ingenuity. It proposed a bolt-in module for three removable trays for both 1¾-inch lines and a single 2½-inch line, each packed two tiers wide. It proposed single-tier beds for the second 2½-inch and the 400-foot line. All preconnects were reachable from ground level. There was room above the bolt-in module to hold 500 feet of five-inch, and with three full-height tiers of five-inch next to it, it met the 1,400-foot capacity. Despite no three-inch bed, two beds being single-stacked and not caring for removable trays, the APC found this proposal the least dislikable and said it would be acceptable. Unfortunately, it was the high bid; the AHJ rejected it.

Bidder 4 proposed the five required and one wished-for preconnect beds and the 1,400-foot five-inch bed. Both 1¾- and the 150-foot 2½-inch beds are two tiers wide in removable trays in a module similar to Bidder 3’s. All three are ground-accessible. On top of the module, adjustable dividers provide individual two-tier-wide beds for the 400-foot line, the three-inch line, and the 250 feet of 2½-inch. Although the proposal said the LDH would fit, there wasn’t enough room for five tiers flat packed vertically inline. Tiers would have to be staggered or the hose packed on edge. This layout confused the purchasing committee. It recommended rejecting it because the three preconnects stored above the module were not accessible from ground level; members didn’t want to pack hose on its edge and they wouldn’t like the way the LDH would look if it was not loaded perfectly inline. The AHJ said the fire department’s specifications did not require hose to be packed flat, height and looks also were not bid requirements, and the proposed beds met the written specifications. The bid, if low, would be acceptable.

Bidder 5 also proposed the six preconnect beds, all single-stacked. Both 150-foot beds were located above their respective 250-foot beds with removable flooring between them. To hopefully influence the APC, a 1,700-foot-capacity LDH bed was proposed. It didn’t help. The APC didn’t want single-stacked preconnects. The 150-foot-capacity beds were too high and would have to be unloaded to load the lower preconnects. The AHJ said the APC’s objections were not justifiable reasons to legally reject the bid, and the bid, if the lowest, is also acceptable.

These photos are of a rig with five removable preconnect trays at running board level These photos are of a rig with five removable preconnect trays at running board level These photos are of a rig with five removable preconnect trays at running board level
(2, 3, 4) These photos are of a rig with five removable preconnect trays at running board level. Four
additional hose storage areas are in the main bed. This rear-mount pumper features a 2½-inch discharge
immediately above each tray. Use diligence when writing a purchasing specification describing unique or
job-specific layouts. (Photos by CustomFIRE.)

Lesson Learned

There are multiple ways vendors can propose compliant hosebeds when purchasing specifications are vague. Unfortunately, they may not be in the best interests of the fire department. In the previous cases, each proposal met the fire department’s specification verbiage as written, and all were acceptable to the AHJ. Be careful. If a vendor’s proposal is rejected because of an unwritten requirement or a nonspecified fire department whim, wish, or want, the AHJ could be legally challenged in court. Most AHJs will not place themselves in that position. The fire department shouldn’t either.

Although specifying preconnect storage is seemingly small and insignificant, the preconnect is an engine company’s primary piece of equipment, and its location can dictate how efficiently that company operates on the fireground. Purchasers may not want to relinquish to a vendor the location and method of storage of such an important tool-especially when it can affect fireground operations and firefighter safety. Again, it’s important to remember if a wish, want, or desire isn’t written, it doesn’t exist. An unknown requirement cannot be evaluated. Be specific in writing preconnect storage requirements or be content with whatever configuration and location the successful bidder proposes and the AHJ accepts. Good luck.

Apparatus purchasing is a two-way street, and although it’s sacrilege to challenge an APC, vendors sometimes should. Beforehand they could inquire how preconnects are to be loaded, what locations are acceptable, and if there are specific requirements. A conscientious APC should appreciate it. Before expending time, effort and expense in preparing a proposal, bidders ought to consider requesting a formal interpretation of vague hosebed specification verbiage. It could save all parties unnecessary grief and aggravation when evaluating bids. Purchasers with tunnel vision may not have considered alternatives. They should-before an ill-written specification and a cost-conscious AHJ force them to do so.

Preconnect Trays

Speedlay trays are typically found on the new multitasking apparatus without standard pump houses. Some are stacked three high. There is no rule, law, or regulatory agency that says hose storage trays must be mounted perpendicular to the frame rails just behind the chassis cab or only in front of a midship-mounted pump house. Consider using them in the back of the bus. You’ll not be the first to do it. It is the same principal as having rear slide-in ground ladder storage. Call them preconnect trays.

This traditional bodied pumper features four rear preconnects
(5) Conventional storage still works well. This traditional bodied
pumper features four rear preconnects. Bed widths are specific for
each preconnect: Two are single-stacked; one is two tiers wide; and
another is three tiers wide. Adjustable dividers and unused space
allow unlimited future expansion and modification. It looks smart,
simple, and inexpensive and probably works well for this company.
(Photo by Tom Shand.)

Be smart. The weight of the tray alone is contingent on the material type, thickness, and physical size. Work closely with your vendor. The approximate weight of 50 feet of 1¾-inch hose is 20 pounds and 31 pounds for 2½-inch. Choose a workable height from ground level to store them. Remember, the troops have to pick them up and load them on the rig without becoming candidates for workers’ compensation. Recent trade shows have shown speedlay trays mounted on mechanical slides. That may have merit.

This shows a traditional styled rear hosebed layout with four discharges piped low to the front of each preconnect bed

Figure 2. Traditional Rear Hosebed Style

This shows a traditional styled rear hosebed layout with four
discharges piped low to the front of each preconnect bed. (Illustration
courtesy of Alan Smith.)


Figure 2 shows a rig with four rear preconnect storage areas. If packed two tiers in width, about two-thirds of a total hosebed capacity can be used just for the preconnects. If removable trays are used with flooring above them as depicted in Figure 3, about one-half of that space could be gained back. While the hosebed’s length, hose sizes, preconnect lengths, and room required for piping and structural supports and flooring will all enter into the equation, the use of trays is a concept purchasers can consider.

This shows a similar traditional layout with removable trays and rear discharge piping for the preconnects.

Figure 3. Traditional Rear Hosebed Style with Removable Trays

This shows a similar traditional layout with removable trays and rear
discharge piping for the preconnects. Think outside the box.
(Illustration courtesy of Frank Riccobono, Firehouse Apparatus, Inc.)

Figure 4 shows the rear of a typical rescue-pumper body with full-height and full-depth side compartments. This popular pumper design usually results in a narrow hosebed relatively high off the ground. Using preconnect trays recessed into the booster tank below the main hosebed may make firefighters’ tasks easier in deploying and repacking an attack line. Preconnects could even be recessed in the upper section of a rear step compartment. An APC can pick a height from just above the frame rails to as high or as convenient as they want.

This shows the rear of a typical rescue-pumper with a narrow, high, and small hosebed

Figure 4. Typical Rescue-Pumper Rear Design

This shows the rear of a typical rescue-pumper with a
narrow, high, and small hosebed. Recessing preconnects
into the booster tank on removable trays eliminates
crawling on top of the apparatus to deploy and repack. Be
innovative-the trays and discharges can be located in any
portion of a rear compartment. (Illustration courtesy of
Frank Riccobono.)

Naysayers may bemoan losing booster tank capacity or rear compartment space although it’s done all the time for slide-in ladder and suction hose storage. If the rear compartment on a rig is, for example, three feet deep and the approximate dimension of the tray and its enclosure is 14 inches by 12 inches, about 3½ cubic feet of compartment space are lost per tray. If the tray extends into the tank by seven feet, then about 60 gallons of water are displaced. Big deal-raise the tank height by three or four inches. Raise it, notch it, tunnel it, or make it T- or L-shaped. Make it work. It could be a small price to pay to locate a primary attack line where it can be quickly and safely accessed-hopefully from ground level.

This 1997 pumper has 1,500 feet of five-inch LDH packed three tiers wide and five preconnects-two packed two tiers wide and three single stacked
(6) Not all unique preconnect storage is new. This 1997 pumper has
1,500 feet of five-inch LDH packed three tiers wide and five
preconnects-two packed two tiers wide and three single stacked.
Although the hosebed is 15½ feet long, the two-tier-wide preconnect
beds are only half that length. A hinged treadplate cover over them
serves as a walkway to load the other beds and to access storage in
front. The nozzles for two 1¾-inch preconnects do not fit inside the
single-tier-wide beds. They’re strapped to the dividers. (Photo by

Be Part of the Solution

If a favored vendor helps write specs for unique hose storage and you know that vendor will get the award, there may not be a problem. If there’s a chance an unexpected outside vendor gets the contract, there might be a problem. Make sure your purchasing specs work for you and not against you.

Campbell Supply rig
(7) This rig was specified with hosebed capacities of (left
to right) 500 feet of 1¾-inch preconnected at the front of
the bed, 750 feet of 2½-inch, 800 feet of five-inch, and
another 500 feet of 1¾-inch preconnected at the front of its
bed. Although many departments are comfortable with and
operationally prefer storing hose on its edges, that should
be noted in their purchasing document. (Photo courtesy of
Campbell Supply.)

My personal opinion is that it’s inefficient and dangerous if a firefighter has to physically climb onto the apparatus to deploy a rig’s primary piece of equipment-in this case, a preconnect. Technology can put people on the moon and return them safely. But in the fire service, getting that first line off the rig and into service can sometimes be a perilous task. Spec writers should be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Remember, the fire truck is a workplace, and the AHJ is responsible to provide a reasonably safe working environment. It all starts with a competent apparatus purchasing committee.

Depicted here is typical flat vertically aligned hose storage
(8) Depicted here is typical flat vertically aligned hose storage.
(Photo courtesy of Campbell Supply.)

BILL ADAMS is a former fire apparatus salesman, a past chief, and an active member of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has more than 45 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.

Hosebed Preconnect Considerations

• Do your purchasing specs specify that all hose will be packed flat? Most hose manufacturers say hose should be loaded flat because packing it on edge may cause premature hose wear and doing so may affect the hose warranty.

• Did you specify the number of “tiers” in width you want each hosebed to be?

• When specifying flat hose storage, do you expect the tiers of hose to be loaded so the lays of hose are inline vertically and not staggered?

• Do you anticipate carrying nozzles on top of preconnected hose loads? Bidders must be made aware so adequate room can be provided-both in height and width.

• Are there enough discharges for the preconnects specified? It could be an embarrassing oversight, and it has happened before. Most vendors’ computer-driven software specifications have hosebed storage requirements in different areas than the pump discharges. Be as specific in locating the discharges as you are in describing the storage areas.

• Do you want your preconnects at a certain height? Avoid generic statements such as “preconnects shall be easily accessible from ground level.” Being “easily accessible” cannot be measured or compared. Use dimensional criteria such as “the bottom of the preconnect bed shall be no higher than (xx) inches from ground level.” Bear in mind the top of a hosebed can be a couple feet higher than the bottom. Do you expect to reach the nozzle from the ground?

• When describing a unique or a first-of-its-kind preconnect storage area, be very definitive in describing it. To receive competitive bids and to be fair and equitable to all bidders, they must know exactly what you want and how you want it. That’s the fire department’s responsibility. Descriptions should not be subject to multiple interpretations. Put a diagram in your purchasing specs-it might help.

• Before writing purchasing specifications is the logical time for fire departments to comprehensively analyze hose loads, sizes, flows, lengths, and fireground operations such as methods of deployment and ways to store preconnects. Vendors could diplomatically suggest doing so or at the very least discreetly ask if they have done it. It might be appreciated.

• When evaluating proposals, be leery when vendors claim they have “met the intent” of your hosebed specifications. Make them prove it. Intent and compliance are not necessarily the same. Regardless of how you pack it, ten pounds of hose will not fit into a five-pound bed.

• The saying “if it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it” has a degree of merit. Although maintaining tradition is admirable and being progressive is commendable, being stuck in the past is lamentable. If a vendor asks the apparatus purchasing committee a question starting with “why,” avoid saying, “because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” That’s the first sign of tunnel vision. It can be contagious and detrimental. Look outside the box.