By Bill Adkins
Whether it’s brand new or “new to us”, we all enjoy acquiring an apparatus that will help enhance our profession and organization. The excitement of possibilities in using the new piece of equipment on that first working structure fire has us eager with anticipation. So, what can we do to make that first use an exceptional one? For one, ensuring you’ve made the right choice in equipment is a great start.
When obtaining that new rig, it’s important to recognize the need for certain additional accessories to maximize its use. Some years our budget allows for purchasing new equipment, however, sometimes we need to scrape up what we have laying around the firehouse or recycle what we have from the outgoing rig. Both can be viable options. I understand what it’s like to have a tight budget and what it’s like to have extra money to buy the newest item on the market.
When equipping our new apparatus, overall functionality is key. Unfortunately, I’ve been on the wrong side of this in the past. It’s quite embarrassing when you think you have everything set up and ready until you go to use it and you realize you didn’t have the correct adapter, fitting, accessory, etc. For example, a number of years ago, I discovered a missing $200 piece of equipment that prevented us from doing what we needed to do on the fir ground. Needless to say, this was an important lesson for a young firefighter to learn. I vowed to do my best to not let that happen again. Just as in our everyday life, we must grow and learn from our mistakes. The fire service is no different.
I recently conducted training at a local fire department where they were putting a recently purchased ladder truck in service. They had equipment on the truck and wanted some training prior to placing it into service. This rural department, and their members have “the right heart for the job”. They live for serving others and take their job seriously. In this instance they failed to check equipment functionality and whether or not it fit this particular apparatus.
Upon my arrival, I immediately noticed the 4” hard suction. This department relies heavily on tanker shuttle operations. While an argument can be made on whether you want to draft using an aerial apparatus on a fire scene, we’ll have to discuss that in a future article. If you are going to draft from your aerial apparatus with a water way, you will most likely need larger than a 4” suction hose. When testing this at the training, we were using more water than we could draft or “running away from our water”. To add to the problem, with the 4” hard suction, there wasn’t an adapter on the truck from 6” to 4”. Indeed, this is why we train. We must identify these problems before we get on the scene. I applaud this department for the dedication it had to train on the apparatus before placing it into service.
Talking to the members, they decided to place 6” hard suction on the apparatus. They were then able to successfully operate their elevated master stream without running away from their water. We continued to add lines to see how much water they could flow from their 1,500-gpm pump with the equipment they had. I believe they were happy with those results. It was gratifying they were able to understand and acknowledge first-hand just how meaningful having the right equipment is to achieve their goals.
Let’s take this a step further. If you have 6” suction hose and a low-profile strainer, can you get your max flow? The answer is: not always. When buying equipment for your apparatus, it’s not always best to buy the first thing you see. Are you aware that the low-profile strainer can be the weakest link in your setup? A 6” low-profile strainer can have a range of max flows from 500 gpm to well over 1,500 gpm. It pays to do your homework before you buy. Sometimes all you will ever need is 500 gpm for your operations, and that is great. But if you need more than that, you’ll want to get a higher flow strainer. Pick equipment that pertains to your apparatus. If it’s meant to flow large volumes of water, then make sure it can do it. If it’s an apparatus for tanker shuttles, make sure the equipment on it helps aid in those shuttles.
Picking functional equipment for your apparatus does not only pertain to pumping equipment. Does your electric equipment plug directly into your generator? Do you need a pigtail to make those connections? Do all your intakes and discharges have the right adapters for your hose connections? Does the equipment you have mount up to the rest of your fleet? Keep in mind that your mutual aid partners may need to coincide with your equipment as well. It’s good practice to periodically meet up with your neighboring departments to see what adaptors you may need.
In closing, I would like to stress the importance of checking and testing all your equipment on the apparatus prior to placing it into service. Make sure your equipment is mounted and located in a way that makes it easily accessible in time of need. You can have a well-equipped rig, but make sure it functions the way you need it to.
BILL ADKINS is a captain with the Loveland-Symmes (OH) Fire Department Training Division/Maintenance Division.