Aerials, Apparatus, Ciampo

Judging Outrigger Placement Using a Six-Foot Hook

Issue 6 and Volume 21.

Although most apparatus have lights that shine down on the ground to show firefighters where the actual base or pad of the jack or tormentor will go, there will be times when the light is burnt out or its position has changed because of road vibration and loosening of the light’s components, which then provides the wrong location.

1 The six-foot hook placed into position and sitting off the road bed to help the chauffeur spot the outrigger placement. <em>(Photo by John Simpson.)</em>
1 The six-foot hook placed into position and sitting off the road bed to help the chauffeur spot the outrigger placement. (Photo by John Simpson.)

In addition, on some apparatus these lights are mounted onto a sturdy surface, and a firefighter may climb up onto the apparatus and use the light as a stepping surface, knocking it out of the proper position. With some apparatus, the lights are mounted underneath the running boards or compartments. They have been known to be knocked out of place when the apparatus comes in contact with an object; some have even been bent and sheared off the rig. With all these possible scenarios, there is a little trick of the trade that firefighters can use to assist them in knowing where the outrigger will land.

2 A close-up photo of the hook’s head placed between the hinge pin and locking pin. <em>(Photo by John Simpson.)</em>
2 A close-up photo of the hook’s head placed between the hinge pin and locking pin. (Photo by John Simpson.)

Using a Six-Foot Hook

The six-foot hook is one of the most common tools firefighters take off ladder company apparatus and into a fire. It makes perfect sense that the tool would be in close proximity to where they exit the crew cab. Since the tool is so close and easily accessible, firefighters can use it for another duty prior to even reaching the structure. A firefighter can place the hook’s head or butt end up against the apparatus (at a predetermined point, depending on the specific apparatus) to judge the outrigger’s placement. This would be a very beneficial thing for a member to do if the chauffeur was having a hard time looking in the opposite side mirror trying to spot the light mark on the ground from his seat. Plus, if an obstacle such as a curb is in question and the light is almost or partially hitting the mark, the hook may eliminate the guesswork and provide the answer if the obstacle is free from being struck.

3 A firefighter measuring the outrigger placement off a Seagrave Aerialscope. <em>(Photo by John Ciampo.)</em>
3 A firefighter measuring the outrigger placement off a Seagrave Aerialscope. (Photo by John Ciampo.)

Some instructors teach with certain apparatus that a firefighter can stand an arm’s length away from the apparatus and then extend his other arm or stand with both arms outstretched to determine where the outrigger will most likely end up being. It seems logical for some, but when we look at the physical makeup of each firefighter, we clearly can see we all have different lengths of reach. Another method often seen is a firefighter grabbing one of those large jack pads and twisting it back and forth a few times, from the apparatus out toward where the outrigger will land. It must look comical to spectators let alone to the more seasoned chauffeurs or firefighters who have mastered better skill sets.

4 With the hook’s head inside one of the step grating spaces, it keeps the hook off the ground so the chauffeur can pull into position, judging his outrigger placement. <em>(Photo by John Ciampo.)</em>
4 With the hook’s head inside one of the step grating spaces, it keeps the hook off the ground so the chauffeur can pull into position, judging his outrigger placement. (Photo by John Ciampo.)

Another way a six-foot hook can help the chauffeur is when he’s shorthanded and may have to move the apparatus or position it in a tight spot. The chauffeur may be able to use the hook as a guide as he moves the apparatus into position without any help but the hook. It is a great little trick to use but remember, the hook is sticking off the side of the rig and the rig is moving, so it must be done slowly and cautiously. Let’s look at a variety of apparatus and hooks to see how we can use them to better judge outrigger placement on our apparatus.

5 Using the hook’s butt end off the turntable access ladder provides the distance for the outrigger’s placement. <em>(Photo by Ryan Murphy.)</em>
5 Using the hook’s butt end off the turntable access ladder provides the distance for the outrigger’s placement. (Photo by Ryan Murphy.)

Ferrara MidMount Tower Ladder

Firefighters can use a six-foot hook to measure the outrigger spread on Ferrara midmount tower ladders. With the fiberglass pike pole, the butt end is placed next to the apparatus to prevent scratching the rig; the outrigger placement will be pinpointed by the head of the hook. The firefighter can now place the jack pad on the ground in the right place. Remember, using the jack pads helps distribute the weight of the apparatus to a larger surface area on the ground. When a firefighter places the hook with its head on the stair bracket assembly, the chauffeur, when shorthanded, is now able to drive closer to an object and judge his outrigger distance by using the hook as a measuring device. Although it won’t pinpoint the exact location for the outrigger, it will provide the chauffeur with a method to get close to a stationary object such as a parked car, fence, wall, or dumpster (photos 1-2).

6 If the hook is placed against the rear marker light and angled to the ground, it also spots the outrigger placement. <em>(Photo by Ryan Murphy.)</em>
6 If the hook is placed against the rear marker light and angled to the ground, it also spots the outrigger placement. (Photo by Ryan Murphy.)

Seagrave Aerialscope Tower Ladder

With a six-foot hook placed up to a Seagrave Aerialscope’s 75-foot middle outrigger’s frame and extended outward from the apparatus, the firefighter will know if there is ample room for outrigger placement. With so many congested areas in New York City, all members assigned to tower ladder units understand the importance of assisting the chauffeur in setting up the rig and rig placement. They also rely on using the six-foot hook to quickly judge the distance so they can tend to other firefighting duties. In addition, with the open grating design on the tower ladder steps and running boards (this design allows water to run off and not build up, which can cause a slipping hazard, and it won’t freeze in the winter months), the chauffeur can place the head of a six-foot New York hook into the grating spacing and have the hook sticking outward. Now he can maneuver the apparatus slowly into a tight area or up close to an obstruction such as a light post, traffic signal box, dumpster, or parked car. The city uses 75- and 95-foot Aerialscopes, and the 75’s outriggers are almost exactly the size of the six-foot hook. But, the 95’s are a little bit longer. When judging those, firefighters must know to add a few inches onto their estimate when using the six-foot hook tactic. Some firefighters make a fist against the apparatus and place the butt end of the hook there to add about six inches to their estimate while others just add six to 10 inches by eye to place the jack pads or estimate jack clearance (photos 3-4).

7 On the side of the Pierce without a turntable access ladder, members found that they could use the rear marker light or open up the rear compartment and use a shelf rail to provide them with the location for outrigger placement. <em>(Photo by Ryan Murphy.)</em>
7 On the side of the Pierce without a turntable access ladder, members found that they could use the rear marker light or open up the rear compartment and use a shelf rail to provide them with the location for outrigger placement. (Photo by Ryan Murphy.)

Pierce Rear-Mount Aerial Platform

On this particular Pierce rear-mount aerial platform, the six-foot hook maneuver will be different when operating on each side of the apparatus. On the chauffeur side, the hook can be placed in two different locations. If a firefighter holds the hook perpendicular to the apparatus and holds the butt end up against the turntable access ladder, it will pinpoint the outrigger spread. This position will give you the spread of both the front and rear outriggers. Another option on this side of the apparatus is to hold the butt end of the hook up to the rear clearance marker light. Now with it angled to the ground, it will show you the outrigger’s spread and where to put the jack pad down on the ground. On the opposite side of the rig (officer’s side), there is no ladder to the turntable. So, members found that they could either use the rear marker light or open up the rear compartment and use the shelf-mounting brackets to give the position of the outrigger’s spread. Having a secondary mark is a very good thing to point out; these rubber mark lights have been known to tear off the rig if the rear end does come in contact with an object such as a tree, light pole, or firehouse wall (photos 5-7).

8 Each firefighter has different reach. This firefighter’s outstretched arms won’t work for estimating outrigger reach for this Stuphen 110-foot tower ladder. <em>(Photo by J.J. Cassetta.)</em>
8 Each firefighter has different reach. This firefighter’s outstretched arms won’t work for estimating outrigger reach for this Stuphen 110-foot tower ladder. (Photo by J.J. Cassetta.)

Sutphen Tower Ladders

When we look at Sutphen tower ladders, we can see that there’s a difference when we try the six-foot tactic on the 95-foot tower compared with the 110-foot tower. Unfortunately, with the 110-foot model, holding the six-foot hook up to the apparatus to measure outrigger distance will not give us our full spread distance. The hook comes up short, and the outrigger still travels to its full extension-well past six feet. However, the hook off the side of the apparatus does measure to the inside of the jack housing or jack pad, depending on where the hook is placed. Even with firefighters attempting to use their arms to measure the full distance of the jack spread on these models, you will notice that the spread of the outrigger goes past the reach of some firefighters’ arms, while with others it may work for placing the jack pad plate.

9 This firefighter’s reach is almost perfect for judging the outrigger’s maximum travel distance. <em>(Photo by J.J. Cassetta.)</em>
9 This firefighter’s reach is almost perfect for judging the outrigger’s maximum travel distance. (Photo by J.J. Cassetta.)

With the 95-foot tower, the butt end of the six-foot hook is rested on the running board of the apparatus and is angled toward the ground. This position gives you the proper spread of the outrigger and will work fine. You could also angle the hook from a reflective stripe of the apparatus down to the ground to measure the outrigger distance. Either position works, but the main thing to do is teach all your firefighters who operate on this apparatus this tactical tip in setting up the rig (photos 8-12).

10 The six-foot hook on the Stuphen 110-foot tower ladder reaches to the inside of the stabilizing jack. A foot or so would have to be estimated after measuring with the hook for outrigger clearance. <em>(Photo by J.J. Cassetta.)</em>
10 The six-foot hook on the Stuphen 110-foot tower ladder reaches to the inside of the stabilizing jack. A foot or so would have to be estimated after measuring with the hook for outrigger clearance. (Photo by J.J. Cassetta.)

Aerial, Quint, or Tiller

Many apparatus, such as a single-axle quint, aerial, or even tiller apparatus, may have a shorter outrigger reach than six feet off the side of the rig. One would think that this setup tactic would not assist them because of this reason. A quick change in the tactic can still assist firefighters in locating the final outrigger placement. To teach all your firefighters how to use this method, set the outrigger fully out and onto the ground. Now locate a specific point on the apparatus near the outrigger where the hook will measure the distance. This spot could be the handle of a compartment, a reflective stripe running down the apparatus, the rain gutter above a compartment, or even a marker light on the side of the rig. The hook will be at an angle toward the ground from this specific spot, giving you the true location of the outrigger.

11 Using the hook with the butt end laid up onto the running board will spot this Stuphen’s 95-foot tower ladder outrigger. <em>(Photo by author.)</em>
11 Using the hook with the butt end laid up onto the running board will spot this Stuphen’s 95-foot tower ladder outrigger. (Photo by author.)

After teaching this tactic to some departments, they found that it worked fine once they learned their specific location. In addition, some found that their different size hooks (four-foot or five-foot) were the exact length of their outriggers’ spreads. Again, it is very important to stress that before you use this tactic, you must learn the appropriate spot/length/distance for your individual type of apparatus.

12 An alternate spot to place the butt end of the hook is up against the bottom of the red reflective tape on the rig for outrigger placement. <em>(Photo by author.)</em>
12 An alternate spot to place the butt end of the hook is up against the bottom of the red reflective tape on the rig for outrigger placement. (Photo by author.)

MICHAEL N. CIAMPO is a 30-year veteran of the fire service and a lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York. Previously, he served with the District of Columbia Fire Department. He has a bachelor’s degree in fire science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. He is the author of “Compartment Corner” on www.fireapparatus.com. He is the lead instructor for the FDIC International Truck Essentials H.O.T. program. He wrote the Ladder chapter and co-authored the Ventilation chapter for Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II (Fire Engineering, 2009) and is featured in “Training Minutes” truck company videos on www.FireEngineering.com.