Acceptable Thievery

Issue 9 and Volume 22.

Chris Mc Loone   Chris Mc Loone

Firefighters and fire departments are thieves. It’s true. They will blatantly steal a good idea when they see it.

That’s not to say they will claim credit for the good idea, but they will quickly steal it if it works. It could be an apparatus design, a new piece of equipment, a new training evolution – anything if it is good for the department. It’s even better when a fire department takes an idea and ends up improving it in ways the originator didn’t conceptualize. That’s what the fire service is all about.

So, it’s not a bad thing that fire departments steal from each other. Or, maybe emulate each other is a better way of describing it. But, it’s an important aspect of the fire service because if you emulate or steal an idea and don’t adapt it to your department’s deployment methods, there will be repercussions when you design the rig.

I’m no stranger to stealing ideas. Through the years, I’ve traveled to trade shows and I’ve certainly taken my fair share of pictures of fire apparatus, the way equipment is mounted, the locations of the equipment, how cabs are configured, etc. But, forwarding along such pictures has always carried a caveat that it might not work for our current truck or future truck, and we need to look at things first before jumping in.

This is why this month’s article by Bill Adams, “Apparatus Purchasing: FDNY-Style Hosebeds,” is so important. Although it refers to a specific hosebed style, its caveats cross all aspects of apparatus design. It’s not only about hosebeds – it’s a cautionary piece that transcends spec’ing hosebeds.

There is a give and take with almost every item on an apparatus spec. Some are simple. To reduce wheelbase, for example, you’re probably going to have to narrow the pump panel or reduce your compartment space. Going with a walk-in vs. walk-around rescue will cost you compartment space as well. Adding more compartments and, therefore, more weight through increased equipment may cause you to go from a single axle to a tandem axle – often increasing a rig’s length. And certainly, there are many decisions made that require the rear hosebed to be higher than some would prefer.

Beyond tradeoffs, what Adams explains is that you really need to know what it is you’re asking for, and simply asking for an FDNY style or low-hosebed style doesn’t really define what you are asking for. Unless an apparatus manufacturer specifically has a low-hosebed configuration option that details length, height, cubic footage, etc., then a fire department must be ready to provide its own definition of what a low-hosebed style is. Otherwise, it is extremely likely that it will get a truck that isn’t exactly what the department expected or wanted. Additionally, simply spec’ing a hosebed in use by another department means that you’re assuming that you will use the same amount and type of hose packed the same way as the department you are emulating.

Ultimately, thievery among fire departments isn’t a bad thing – provided, of course, they’re not stealing equipment from each other. The fire service’s success is predicated on improving on the past, mastering the present, and looking to the future. There will always be a better or more efficient way to do something, provided that however your department decides to do something more efficiently, members practice it often. There’s nothing wrong with adopting something from another department as long as it fits your first due and allows you to provide expert service.

There is also nothing wrong with forward thinking, and it ends up being pretty flattering if your department is the one being emulated. There are certain things my fire company has done through the years where it would have been pretty cool if other fire companies or departments looked at something we did and emulated or even improved it. If a design worked for us, we drilled on it, and we were able to deploy the equipment efficiently. Ultimately, that is what counts the most.