By David Durstine
Has your department ever laid large-diameter hose (LDH) down the freeway at 65 miles per hour (mph)? Have you ever dumped a crosslay onto the sidewalk while taking a corner? Well, I can tell you first hand that it happens when you least expect it, and it can be prevented.
My department, a small rural volunteer department in central Ohio, was en route to a vehicle fire one Sunday afternoon when a simple gust of wind lifted a section of four-inch hose up off the hosebed of our engine. Before we knew what had happened, we laid 1,000 feet of four-inch hose right down the middle of a busy county road at 55 mph. This came much to our surprise when following apparatus called on the radio to notify us that we had no LDH on our engine.
This type of incident typically would not have happened to my department, but just days before we had performed our annual hose testing and decided it would be okay to leave our hosebed cover off to allow any remaining moisture in the hose to dry. In my case, it ended with a disgruntled crew of firefighters rolling and reloading 1,000 feet of four-inch hose and a department understanding the importance of hose restraints-but it could have ended much differently.
Prior to 2006, the traditional North American-style hosebed rarely had anything to restrain the hose from falling off the sides or the back. In fact, we often saw loops of hose hanging off the back of the hosebed as if yearning to escape. As with my department’s situation, once one length begins to drag on the road it is liable to keep on going. The more hose that comes off, the more friction there is to pull the rest of the hose out of the bed. And with each section connected, there can be a lot of hose dragging behind the truck without the driver ever being aware.
In the best case, the driver looks in his mirror and notices the ribbon of hose left behind the truck. And just like in my department’s case, it is just an inconvenience and embarrassment to the crew. In the worst case, the hose will whip its way down the street, leaving mayhem in its wake. This is what happened on August 19, 2004, to two young girls and their mother when the Coraopolis (PA) Volunteer Fire Department unknowingly drove down the street trailing hose behind it.
It was this incident that prompted the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Apparatus Committee to initiate an immediate change to the NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus and NFPA 1906, Standard for Wildland Fire Apparatuss in January 2006. This mandate required each new apparatus to have a means of restraining hose, whether stored in the main hosebed, or anywhere else on the apparatus. Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Association (FAMA) companies scrambled to come up with an effective means of keeping the hose where it belongs during travel. Fire departments soon weighed in with their own ideas, and today hose restraints are available in any number of shapes, sizes, colors, and designs. Besides the simple nets or straps secured with clips or hook-and-loop material, departments can select metal, vinyl, or even roll-up covers.
So what about all those apparatus that were manufactured prior to 2006? Many fire chiefs, like my chief, have recognized the need to update their older apparatus. Restraint solutions suitable for retrofit onto older apparatus are available from most FAMA companies. Alternately, department safety officers can work with local canvas, tent and awning, or boat cover shops to custom fit their hosebeds with satisfactory restraints.
Hose restraints had been around in limited use for many years but until 2006 were still optional equipment. There is a definite parallel here with the introduction of automotive safety devices such as seat belts and air bags. These, too, were optional equipment for years before they were mandated. Automobiles are not retrofit or taken out of service when new safety devices are mandated. Older cars without these devices stay on the street until they are disposed of.
But, most automotive safety devices serve to keep the occupants of the car safe and only secondarily may impact the safety of those around them. The case of the hose restraint is different. A hose restraint offers no immediate safety advantage to firefighters riding in the cab, but there is a definite safety advantage for the citizens whose neighborhoods the fire apparatus is driving through.
The NFPA recognized this when it issued the new version of NFPA 1451, Standard for a Fire and Emergency Service Vehicle Operations Training Program. This revised standard specifies that all personnel be trained to properly adjust the hose restraints on their apparatus. If the apparatus does not include hose restraints, personnel shall be trained to pack and secure hose in a manner that eliminates the possibility that the hose can come out of the storage area during transport.
Sadly, the promulgation of standards does no good unless people are willing to take action. Erin Schmidt’s death and Joeylynne Jeffress’ disfigurement in 2004 were not the end of the story. Several more cases of property damage, citizen deaths, and injuries have occurred in the years since.
Do No Harm
As the doctor’s first concern is to “do no harm,” this too should be the mantra of the fire department. However it is accomplished, it is in the best interest of fire departments and the communities they serve to take action on older units in their fleets. If you have newer apparatus that include hose restraints, make sure they are being used. If you have older apparatus without restraints, add them.
We have been laying our hose in patterns for many years, looping the ends off the back, and expecting friction to keep it on the truck. We have learned all too tragically that, once in a while, this just does not do the job. As a fire service, we have reversed this tradition in our new apparatus. Let’s finish the job and rest assured that our hose is staying where it belongs.
DAVID DURSTINE, vice president of marketing with Akron Brass Company, grew up in the fire service and has worked in the industry for more than 12 years. He is a fourth-generation firefighter with the Apple Creek (OH) Volunteer Fire Department, serves as a board member for the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA), and is a member of the NFPA 1901 Apparatus Committee.