Engagement Is Key

By Chris Mc Loone

I’d like to take a break from my soap box this month. I remain alarmed at the number of apparatus accidents we have experienced so far this year, so I won’t be off if for long. However, I want to focus on something different this month.

The Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) is coming. This is an important event for purchasing committees and firefighters around the globe and really ushers in the trade show season for the fire service. Understandably, not everyone will be able to make it to Indianapolis, Indiana, to join the more than 29,000 other attendees who take over the town while they are there. That said, there will be myriad departments in the United States this year preparing to specify new apparatus.

As you attend trade shows this year to see what’s available, don’t just kick tires. You and the rest of the committee you go with are responsible for specifying fire apparatus that will be firematically functional as well the safest the industry has to offer at this time. Read up on National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, and make sure everyone on your committee does as well.

As you decide on equipment for your new piece, make sure you think about how to mount it. Look at what other fire departments are doing, but ensure that you separate the “cool” from the “practical.” Think of the firefighters in your department-their shapes, sizes, and numbers. Although it may seem like common sense, it bears repeating that you should be designing your apparatus to be used efficiently by the most realistic number of people who will be riding it. Don’t make it impossible to get to the equipment you use most. Tool mounting is one of the biggest challenges when putting together an apparatus. Carefully choose where you are placing equipment and organize it logically. It doesn’t help anyone to have firefighters running back and forth from one side of the truck to the other to collect equipment to do their jobs.

Remember to spell everything out in your specifications. Bill Adams has said it over and over again that if you don’t write it out in the specs, you will be surprised where something ends up.

Your dealers will be attending FDIC to see some of the new innovations available to the fire service on both the apparatus and equipment sides and will be offering them to you as you begin to investigate your apparatus or equipment purchase. Engage them. And if your dealer can’t get an answer for you, go to the manufacturer.

I visited a manufacturer at the end of January and took a look at a rescue truck under construction. Members from the truck committee were there and were taking a hands-on approach to the construction of their truck. The rescue truck product manager for the company was there working alongside the group, and he couldn’t have been happier. No one-not the manufacturer or the end user-wants to be surprised at final inspection by a major problem that could have and should have been addressed early in the process.

If you are not going to make it to FDIC next month, you’ll be able to find extensive coverage via the Web and various social media outlets. I will be out and about at the conference’s hands-on training (H.O.T.) sites looking for apparatus and equipment in action and will be tweeting them and posting to our Facebook page. I’ll be doing the same from the show floor. You can also find continuing coverage of the show at www.fireapparatus.com.

The importance of this show to fire departments currently in the specification process is immeasurable. Remember, the key is engagement. Ask your dealers anything and everything. If any bit of a spec sheet or blueprint isn’t clear, demand clarification. You’re building 20-year vehicles. Ensure proper tool mounting as well.

And, embrace technology. Featured in the next issue is a new “showroom” being launched by Performance Advantage Company (PAC). I had a chance to sit down with Dick Young, founder of the company, and Chick Granito, vice president, and talk about their new initiative. They are taking the excuses out of improper tool mounting by providing a means for OEMs, dealers, and end users alike with a “virtual showroom” where they can troubleshoot problems in real time with PAC technicians to provide solutions to tool mounting problems.

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