Hose and rescue tool trays that slide out, tool boards that swing out, electrical equipment shelves that roll out, and fittings trays that drop down are only some of the many compartment configurations that fire departments are requesting in their new apparatus. With fire departments trying to do more with each piece of apparatus, the amount of equipment needed on each rig has increased, making orderly storage that uses every inch of space a necessity.
Efficient Use of Space
Donley Frederickson, national sales manager of Rosenbauer, says swing-out and slide-out tool boards have become popular because they allow fire departments to use storage space much more efficiently. “One department gave us a list of what it needed to carry on the apparatus, the same amount of equipment it carried loose on shelves in its other vehicles,” Frederickson says. “By organizing the equipment on pull-out boards and roll-out shelves, we were able to save them two compartments to use for other equipment.”
Wayde Kirvida, sales and product manager for CustomFIRE, points out that because apparatus responses have changed in recent years, where firefighters are first responders on EMS and rescue-type calls more than fire calls, the focus of the equipment being carried has changed and even expanded. “We’re seeing departments get away from the big compartments with adjustable shelves,” Kirvida says. “That’s gone by the wayside. Now people expect vertical tool dividers on one side of a compartment and pull-out or roll-out shelves on the other. It’s almost like a California Closet in a truck.”
Kirvida says he always queries departments first on the type of apparatus they want—for instance, a standard pumper or a rescue-pumper. “For a standard pumper, we’ll give them shallow upper compartments, full-depth lower compartments, and a T-shaped tank,” he says. “The rescue-pumper will get full-depth compartments all around, with coffin compartments on top of the apparatus. We’ll use a square tank about 40 inches wide, which gives us a usable compartment depth of 28 inches on both sides.”
That’s when Kirvida and his crew begin fitting tool boards on slide-out trays and swing-out dividers and equipment mounts on roll-out shelves. “By planning properly, you can fit a lot more equipment when it’s mounted than if you just place it on the shelves,” he observes. “We place the items that get frequent use so they are handy and easy to locate. The less time it takes a firefighter to find a piece of equipment in a compartment, the faster he can get into action.”
Fire departments are getting creative in “thinking outside the shelf,” Kirvida notes. He cites the Minneapolis (MN) Fire Department as hanging its apartment packs on tool boards inside a compartment for easy access. Some departments are mounting charging strips on tool boards, Kirvida adds, because use of cordless tools on fire and rescue scenes has risen. The mountings have a spring-loaded harness on the charging cord to prevent the units from getting damaged.
CustomFIRE also has been putting chevrons on tool boards to draw attention to them. “You roll up to a scene with a truck that’s 100 inches wide and pull out tool boards on both sides,” he says. “Now you’re extended out 150 inches, increasing the vehicle’s width by 50 percent. So, we trim the boards in reflective strips and often with LED lights.”
There seems to be no end to the kinds of equipment being mounted on tool boards, Kirvida notes, including gear such as Little Giant ladders, backboards, nozzles, and tripod lighting units.
Frederickson points out that the swing-out tool board is one of the most popular formats that his company installs in compartments. “There’s even a storage option where we put four self-contained breathing apparatus packs on a swing-out and drop-down board in a compartment over the rear wheel,” he says. “It uses up the entire compartment, but firefighters can don the air packs by backing into them.”
Dick Young, the founder of Performance Advantage Company (PAC), says his company makes PAC tool mountings and the PAC Trac mounting system. “We use composite materials that are not affected by electrolysis,” Young says. “Our brackets are tough and injection-molded under extremely high temperatures in accurately-made molds.” He adds that PAC brackets are designed to withstand ozone, ultraviolet light, and temperature extremes.
PAC’s most popular mounting bracket is the handle lock, according to Young. “When trying to mount axes on trucks, the handle was always the problem,” he points out. “We came up with a bracket that held different size handles and locked them firmly. When National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, required tool mounts to withstand nine Gs of force, we tested all our brackets and they passed easily.”
The PAC Trac mounting system can be put safely and securely into a compartment and forms a wall on which mounting brackets can be secured without drilling any holes, Young notes. He confirms that swing-out and slide-out tool boards are in popular demand by fire departments, as well as slide-out tray mountings, chiefly because they allow equipment to be organized and easy to reach.
Bob Foht, sales and marketing manager for GearGrid Corp., says that while the concept of the swing-out tool board has been around for awhile, he calls the open design swing-out grid that his firm makes “groundbreaking.”
An advantage to the open metal grid, constructed as a square tubular frame with a wire grid inside it, is complete visibility throughout a cabinet, even without the grid swung out, Foht points out. “Once the grids are installed in compartments, tool holders can be affixed to the wire grids,” he says. The 52- by 24-inch-tall grids are used mostly in a horizontal orientation. GearGrid has been making swing-out grids for tool boards for three years, but the pull-out grids are new this year.
Peter Miller, first assistant chief of the Highland (NY) Fire District, says his department had E-ONE make custom Slidemaster roll-out equipment trays that could hold 400 pounds and 1,000 pounds of equipment, respectively. The rig is a nonwalk-in heavy rescue built on a Cyclone II long cab with a 20-inch Vista roof on a 233-inch wheelbase with a Cummins 500-hp ISM diesel engine and Allison EVS 4000P transmission.
“The roll-out units are for our Hurst tools, with the left side of the apparatus being set up for auto extrication and the right side as the toolbox for fire suppression,” Miller says. “We’re an all-volunteer district that covers most of the town of Lloyd in Ulster county,” he points out, “so it is important to us to have all the equipment accessible quickly.”
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based freelance writer 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.