By Alan M. Petrillo
For many years, the typical kinds of coverings found on fire trucks were either swing-out or swing-up doors, the latter of which sometimes provided a sort of awning during inclement weather. But in recent years, roll-up doors have made big inroads into fire apparatus design, so much so that their popularity continues to increase year by year.
Not New to the Fire Service
Steve Touchton, emergency products manager for R-O-M Corporation, says his company has been in business more than 60 years and has made roll-up doors since the early 1980s, first for the European market. “We were the first company to bring roll-up shutters to the United States and the fire market,” Touchton says. “We now make the Series III roll-up shutter and have about 80 percent of the United States fire market.”
|1 R-O-M Corporation makes Series III vertical roll-up doors of aircraft-grade 6063T6 aluminum alloy, shown here in the partially opened position. (Photo courtesy of R-O-M Corporation.)|
A&A Manufacturing, makers of Gortite roll-up doors, got into making roll-up doors for the fire industry in 2000, Ken Czyzewski, sales and marketing manager, says and has 40 years of experience in making roll-up covers for the machine tool industry. “All Gortite roll-up doors are available with manual and power lock options, as well as LED lighting and door ajar switches,” he adds. “We also make a walk-on hosebed cover that retracts to the back end of the hosebed. It’s a stainless steel skin with aluminum ribs for reinforcement and will hold 250 pounds every two feet of length.”
Ray Van Gunten, president of Dover Roller Shutters Inc., says his firm is part of AM Group, which owns Diamond Roll-Up Doors and purchased Dover Roller Shutters in England in 2004. “We had been making roll-up doors under the Diamond name since the 1990s, but now it is all under the Dover name,” Van Gunten says.
|2 DuroStrip LED compartment lighting is built into the roll-up doors that R-O-M Corporation fabricated for this Seagrave pumper. (Photo courtesy of R-O-M Corporation.|
John Seehof, president of Hansen International Inc., says his firm has been in business for 40 years providing D-ring door hardware for swing-out and swing-up compartment doors and also makes roll-up doors for the fire service. “Ten years ago, we surveyed firefighters about what they wanted to see in roll-up doors,” Seehof says. “They wanted better hand clearance, an unlatched door indicator, and the ability to have a custom-designed door. We addressed all those issues for them.”
Czyzewski says, “Everyone’s roll-up doors are fairly similar in design, with individual slats hinged together to form the door. They are made out of aluminum and have a weather seal in between the slats to keep out dust, dirt, moisture, and road salts.”
|3 R-O-M Corporation also makes horizontal shutters for fire apparatus, such as this pumper’s hosebed cover. The cover is electrically operated and has an 800-pound working load rating. (Photo courtesy of R-O-M Corporation.)|
Gortite doors are made out of 0.028-inch-thick anodized aluminum, Czyzewski says. “We make a lighter door, which means less weight on the truck, less aluminum, and lower cost,” he notes. “We use a three-inch-diameter spring-loaded roller, the smallest in the industry.”
R-O-M Series III vertical roll-up doors are made in five varieties, all out of aircraft-grade 6063T6 aluminum alloy: a standard front-roll shutter, which is most commonly specified on fire apparatus; a rear-roll door that is used to save space; a minimum-height shutter, which takes up the smallest head space at the top of the compartment; the Auto Latch; and the Quest 2000 electrically controlled power shutter. Toh Meng, vice president of R-O-M’s Safety Emergency Division, notes that with electrically operated shutters, the power switch can be located wherever a customer desires on the truck and also can be operated with a wireless key fob.
|4 The Richfield (WI) Fire Department chose A&A Manufacturing’s Gortite roll-up doors for its new pumper, Engine 61. (Photo courtesy of A&A Manufacturing.)|
Seehof says Hansen’s roll-up doors have sensor switches in two fixed locations-mounted on top of the compartment, so it can’t be damaged by cargo shifting, and a magnet in a double-wall extrusion in a dimple fixed on each side of the doorway. “Each of our roll-up doors is custom-made and carries its own serial number,” he observes. “If it gets damaged, [customers] call an 800 number and give us the serial number so we can pull the files on the door and get the slats replaced within 24 hours. We don’t want a vehicle down for any length of time.”
Hansen roll-up doors are made from double-wall anodized aluminum slats that interlock. A co-extrusion is placed between slats to prevent metal-to-metal contact and to create water resistance.
McNabb says that AMDOR makes its roll-up doors with one-inch-wide slats. “The shorter slat contributes to strength while allowing the door to wind up into the smallest coil in the industry,” he says, “maximizing compartment space. Also, a flat and smooth interior wall avoids equipment hang-up, which is an AMDOR exclusive.”
Oran McNabb, sales manager for the Whiting Group, which makes AMDOR roll-up doors, adds, “The design of our product extends the service life of side and bottom seals minimizing water ingression, our snap-lock end shoes allow fast and simple door repairs, and our reliable automotive-grade door-ajar switches have been tested to more than one million cycles under full load.”
R-O-M makes two distinct types of roll-up shutters, Touchton points out, vertical shutters for side and rear compartments and horizontal shutters, better known as hosebed covers. “The horizontal shutters are load bearing, where our vertical shutters are not,” he notes.
Meng says that R-O-M’s roll-up shutters can be either manually or electrically powered. “We make our vertical shutters with the choice of being operated manually or electrically,” Meng points out, “while our horizontal shutters are power-operated only.”
|5 A&A Manufacturing also installed its Gortite roll-up, walk-on hosebed cover on this Richfield (WI) Fire Department pumper. (Photo courtesy of A&A Manufacturing.)|
Touchton notes that the R-O-M hosebed cover also is made out of 6063T6 aluminum alloy but has slats that are wider and not as concave as on its vertical brethren. “The slats are double-wall thickness because they are a load-bearing surface and are coupled to a track system,” Touchton says. “As a whole, the cover has a working load of 800 pounds and can be made up to 76 by 226 inches maximum width and length.”
Van Gunten says Dover is strong in the work truck market and also has been supplying roll-up doors to the fire industry. “We are developing a new door under the Dover name that modernizes our existing model,” he says. “It will be the N35, designed for the fire service, and uses a 35-millimeter slat. Its advantages are fewer seams and lower manufacturing costs, without affecting the operation of the door.”
The N35 is being designed so it can accommodate any size compartment on a fire vehicle, Van Gunten points out. “It will have a thinner wall than our work truck models, so the truck will carry less weight in terms of the doors. We also will offer locking systems for the N35.”
|6 Dover Roller Shutters developed the N35 roll-up door for the fire service using a 35-millimeter slat that means fewer seams in its doors. The N35 doors are shown here on this demo Hawk Quick Attack pumper. (Photo courtesy of Dover Roller Shutters.)|
Czyzewski says his company has made roll-up doors up to 100 inches wide, primarily for rescue trucks that require one large door on the side of the vehicle. “We also have done some tall, narrow doors, approximately 15 inches wide by 60 inches high, but use a different spring technology for tall doors instead of coil springs.”
Touchton says roll-up doors have advantages over swing-out or swing-up doors. “The single biggest advantage is safety because roll-up doors keep the user out of the street,” he says. “Also, a firefighter is able to access equipment more easily in a confined area. If you can walk between an obstacle and our roll-up door, you can get the equipment out of the compartment.”
|7 Interior cabinets also can be covered with roll-up doors, as seen here with the model N30 made by Dover Roller Shutters. (Photo courtesy of Dover Roller Shutters.)|
McNabb says fire departments usually select roll-up doors for better visibility on a scene, ease of equipment deployment, and the speed and cost of replacement doors damaged in operations vs. custom swing doors.
R-O-M offers roll-up doors painted in three finishes to match a vehicle’s body and also makes the DuroStrip LED compartment lighting product that can be built into its roll-up door products or retrofitted to existing compartments.
|8 The Langley (SC) Fire Department chose roll-up doors made by Hansen International Inc. for its new pumper, Engine 44. (Photo courtesy of Hansen International Inc.)|
Seehof notes that Hansen has introduced a new product, the Backlit Handlebar, that incorporates an LED light into the handlebar. “A truck manufacturer can wire it the way a customer wants,” he says. “For instance, it might be set so that once the emergency brake is set, the handlebar lights up and also provides ground lighting for the firefighter. When the firefighter opens the handlebar and the door reaches the top of the compartment, it lights at a 30-degree angle to illuminate the compartment. We also have a cordless model coming out later this year.”
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.