Designing Fire Apparatus for Austerity

By Chris Mc Loone

Every year, Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment’s December issue lays out what buyers/specifiers of fire apparatus should expect during the coming year. The December 2011 and 2012 issues both featured outlooks that cited the continued trend toward departments spec’ing multipurpose apparatus.

Crunched budgets have reduced personnel per apparatus as well as funds for apparatus replacement. When the time comes to replace apparatus, multipurpose units are an ideal fit for many departments. These rigs pack a tremendous amount of equipment into trucks that are often comparable in size to what they replace. These trucks are a win-win for departments. They often combine two vehicles into one and allow one company to perform multiple tasks, including suppression and rescue functions. But, is the equipment easily accessible?

Spending the Time
A recent Web Exclusive by Bill Adams covered Apparatus Cabs and Common Sense. Adams covered how a purchasing committee had not planned the cab those who would be riding in it—with full personal protective equipment (PPE). In a nutshell, Adams espouses taking the time to not only make sure those evaluating a cab are wearing their full PPE and but also to make sure those evaluating a cab are the ones who will be using it. But, are we doing the same thing when we look at equipment mounting?

Designing apparatus for austerity should not only include spec’ing out a combination piece that can perform suppression and rescue functions, for example. It should ensure that the equipment used most often is easily accessible and deployable by one person. It’s not an ideal situation, but unfortunately it is the reality we all face today.

Additionally, although most departments already do this, it bears mentioning that compartments and equipment mounting should be logically planned. Consider having firefighting equipment on one side of the body and rescue equipment on the other side. Take the guesswork out of the equation for personnel that will be riding the truck. On the career side, those who are staffing the apparatus will be very familiar with the layout of the apparatus by virtue of the frequency with which they use it. On the volunteer side, there will always be that core group of personnel, who make the majority of the calls, but you also must ensure that it’s not impossible for those that aren’t able to make every call or drill to remember where equipment is located.

Make sure that equipment is mounted where the firefighter who stands at five feet, three inches can easily retrieve the tool. Mounting hydraulic rescue tools high up in a compartment is not going to assist in the efficient removal and deployment of the tools.

Also remember that heavy equipment stowed on tilt-down trays may end up being the source of many finger/hand injuries if it slides forward when the tray tilts down. Keeping potential injuries to personnel in mind as you consider where to stow and mount equipment will prove invaluable when the rig lands.

Planning More Important than Ever
The realities of today’s economic climate are driving departments to consider multipurpose apparatus more consistently. Make sure that when you decide on a multipurpose apparatus that you make equipment storage locations a priority so everyone in your department can easily locate, remove, and deploy a piece of equipment singlehandedly. Today’s economy is not only dictating that we consider more innovative ways of getting our personnel from point A to point B, we must make it as easy as possible for firefighters to get what they need quickly once they arrive at point B.

CHRIS Mc LOONE, associate editor of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment, is a 19-year veteran of the fire service and an assistant chief with Weldon Fire Company (Glenside, PA). He has been a writer and editor for more than 15 years. While with Fire Engineering, he contributed to the May 2006 issue, a Jesse H. Neal Award winner for its coverage of the Hurricane Katrina response and recovery.

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