Equipment, Features, Fire Apparatus

Setting Up Your Nurse Tanker for Fast and Effective Operations

By Bill Adkins

So, your department has chosen to go with nurse tanker operations for your rural water needs. Now you will want to take the time to set up that nurse tanker to work for you. Believe it or not, you do not necessarily have to sweat when setting up your rural water operation as long as you have put the sweat, and sometimes tears, into setting up your nurse tanker correctly in the beginning.

First-due apparatus operator sets supply line in place for nurse tankers arrival.

Think about what needs to be completed when your nurse tanker arrives on that scene. Usually the first-due apparatus is either getting low on water or maybe even empty. Most of the time, the first thing needed is to start giving it your tank water. With knowing that, what is something we can do to accomplish that fast and effectively? To start, equip your tanker with a fitting that connects to your first-due company’s supply line. If you use 5” LDH with Storz connections, have the fitting already mounted to a discharge. Make sure you have a cap for that fitting to prevent road grime from compromising your valves. Whatever supply line your department uses, have that fitting mounted. Don’t forget your mutual aid companies. If they use a different supply line, you will want that fitting mounted on a different discharge. Keep in mind you may be second due to a mutual aid company and will need to supply them. Now all you need to do is make that connection and start giving them your tank water.

Engine laid tail at end of the driveway to allow the nurse tanker to stay by roadway.

Multiple Nurse Tanker Operation
Now that we have started giving our first-due company the tank water, we have time to set up our next operation. Here we have a few options, and you need to be prepared for that operation. If multiple tankers in your area have pumps, then maybe the best option is to be prepared to receive their water when they arrive. Have them pump their water into your tank. The goal with this is to keep your tank full for that first-due apparatus. This will keep you from setting a dump tank on the ground. If this is your option, then have everything ready before that next tanker gets on scene. Lay out your supply line, have it connected either to your pump intake, or just connect it to a direct tank fill. Again, having the proper fittings already mounted to the tanker helps us stay fast and effective. Now when the next tanker shows up, all it will need to do is to complete the connection to its discharge and give you its water.

Nurse tanker sets dump tank at end of driveway to prevent tankers from backing down narrow driveways.

One Nurse tanker Operation
If only one nurse tanker is in your area and you know you don’t have other tankers with pumps arriving, then a dump tank will need to be set up. That should not be a hard task either. Again, this task can be done before the next tanker reaches the scene. After getting the dump tank down and in place, set up your drafting operation. When connecting your hard suction hose to your pump and low-profile strainer, connect a section on 1½” or 1¾” hose to a pump discharge and low-profile strainer as well. This will allow you to jet syphon your water into your pump instead of priming your water. When jet syphoning your draft, do not forget to save a little water to make this successful. This will make the drafting process easy, and if there are any small air leaks, it will aid in still accomplishing your draft.

When setting up drafting operations, use a jet syphon to aid in obtaining the prime.

Our setup now consists of the first-due apparatus with its handlines off and fighting the fire. From the first-due apparatus is a section(s) of supply hose connected to the nurse tanker. The nurse tanker is, at first, pumping its tank water to the first-due apparatus. Once the dump tank has water, the nurse tanker will establish its water supply from the dump tank by either pulling a draft or jet syphoning. The nurse tanker will slowly fill its own tank along with relay pumping to the first-due apparatus. As the first-due apparatus starts receiving water from the nurse tanker, the first-due apparatus needs to slowly fill its tank as well. This keeps both apparatus tanks full for “safety water” if the water shuttles are not able to keep up with the volume of water needed on the fireground.

The large-diameter discharge is set up to supply 2-1/2-, 3-inch, or 5-inch supply hose to the first-due apparatus.

No Nurse Tanker Available
So, you don’t have a nurse tanker available. This does not mean this operation will not work. Instead of using a nurse tanker, use an engine or other apparatus with a pump. Make sure the nurse apparatus has a pump that can handle the water volume needed on the fireground. If you have nurse tankers but the second apparatus is an engine, just use the engine as your nurse. This will allow the nurse tankers to shuttle water if needed.

The nurse tanker’s direct tank fill valve to receive water from next due nurse apparatus.

Final Thoughts
You do not have to have the top-of-the line nurse tanker to make your operation work smoothly. Make sure to take time and experiment with your apparatus to find what scenarios work best with your capabilities. Make sure your apparatus has the equipment needed to accomplish any task thrown at you. I strongly believe that using some type of nurse apparatus in rural areas is safer than drafting from the first-due apparatus. In future articles, I plan on discussing this further.

BILL ADKINS is a captain with the Loveland-Symmes (OH) Fire Department Training Division/Maintenance Division.