Clear interior panel doors allow rescuers to quickly see needed equipment while keeping it safe and secure. (Fire Apparatus Photo by Allen Baldwin)
Rollout tool boards provide easy and quick access to equipment when it is needed most. Lake Meade firefighters and rescue personnel are frequently called to make ice and water rescues, so having rafts at the ready makes sense.
Dedicating compartment space for special features like a cascade system and refilling station always make sense. Make sure heavily used features and equipment are readily accessible. (Fire Apparatus Photo by Allen Baldwin)
Rollout awnings should be easy to deploy to provide personnel with shelter from the elements. (Fire Apparatus Photo by Allen Baldwin)

As you head out to the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) or many of the other conferences and equipment shows, take some time to see what’s new and exciting in the rescue field, from vehicles to the latest widgets. Attendees and participates have the opportunity see everything under one roof.

Shows are a great place to see all the latest in rescue equipment and vehicles. Rescue squads can get inspiration by looking at how individual departments design vehicles to meet current and future needs while using existing equipment within the department’s cache.

To get some ideas, let’s look at how the Lake Meade (Pa.) Fire Department has improved its rescue capabilities.

First-Due Area

The department serves 3,800 people in its first-due area, which includes a gated community with a large private lake located in northern Adams County, Pa., just south of Harrisburg on U.S. 15. The department operates an engine, tanker, ambulance and a medium-duty rescue.

The department entered the rescue business in 1996 with the purchase of a used small rescue vehicle. It carried a limited amount of ice and water rescue equipment as well as extrication tools and quickly became overloaded as the department’s equipment and needs grew.

Focus On Water/Ice Rescue

The original assignment for this vehicle was focused on water and ice rescue due to the lake area. Extrication equipment consisted of a Porta Power hydraulic ram system and basic hand tools.

It quickly became apparent that a new, larger vehicle was needed, and specifications were developed. The department developed a design that met its needs and had additional space for future needs.

Department officials met with several vendors and reviewed various designs, learning a great deal about apparatus in the process. After extensive research, KME was selected as the manufacturer to build the rescue on a Freightliner M2-106 cab and chassis with a 186-inch wheelbase. The chassis selection provides the department with a serviceable short-wheel base and durable chassis.

A short wheelbase was desirable because it allows the driver to maneuver into tight areas along the shore for water rescue responses.

The vehicle was designed with three main functions: fire suppression support responses; water/ice rescue responses; and vehicle rescue responses.

The vehicle features an observation deck on its roof with a fold-up railing. The department uses it during water rescues for incident commanders to keep an eye on operations.

A roll-up canopy on the officer’s side of the box provides weather and sun protection for personnel and is easily deployed.

The body is designed to maximize available storage space on board, accommodating existing equipment while leaving room for expansion. This included the installation of a hydraulic generator to save compartment space for equipment. The area under the rear door to the rescue body was made into a compartment to take advantage of unused space, providing for storage of throw bags and related equipment.

Other compartments include racks for personal floatation devices (PFDs) to be hung up, keeping them safe, secure and readily accessible.

Heavy equipment is placed low in the larger compartments to make it easy and safe to remove. Lighting was provided on the sides and portable lighting on the rear of the unit.

The front bumper included a recessed winch and accessory boxes. The inside of the rescue body is set up for seating of five firefighters, which include self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) seating for three.

Additional water rescue and support equipment is stored in large compartments on either side of the interior. These compartments have clear door panels so compartment contents can be easily viewed. The interior is also well lit and includes a command area with radios and a command board. The rescue body features a heater and separate AC unit.

The department took its existing cascade and fill station and mounted it in a compartment on the officer’s side designed specifically for the equipment.

Cache Of Gear

All equipment is securely mounted and accessible throughout the vehicle. Additionally the department added cribbing, saws, a hydraulic extrication tool, a cache of rescue hand tools, portable generator and a whole host of other support tools to enable this unit to fulfill its mission.

The department has come a long way from its first rescue to this unit, giving itself room to grow while purchasing a compact and highly functional unit.

Here are some thoughts on some items that may make your rescue a little more functional. It is always a good idea to have reflective striping not only on the rear of the apparatus and along its sides, but also inside the cab and compartment doors and at the ends of the rollout tool board so they are more visible at scenes. And, when considering visibility, it might be a good idea to think about warning lights mounted on the inside of the cab doors so, when the door is open, the light is facing traffic as it approaches from the rear of the vehicle.

It’s also a good idea to install receivers on both sides and at the front and rear of the vehicle to accept a portable winch.

If the vehicle might be used as an incident command post, consider mounting a couple of regular phone jacks on the outside and inside of the box and purchase a couple of hundred feet of module phone cable and a couple of phones so you can have hard-line phone communication if needed.

It’s impossible to have too much lighting, so departments should include whole compartment lights, not just front or ceiling lights. Underbody lights are also good things, as are fixed and portable scene light – necessities in the rescue business.

Departments considering preconnected extrication tools should install preconnect outlets in the front bumper and at the rear of the apparatus to make sure rescuers can reach the scene with tools.

Along those same lines, departments should make sure they have enough electrical power and outlets for scene operations.

The inside of the apparatus cab also needs some attention too. It’s critically important to properly mount and secure all equipment kept inside the cab. A laptop in the cab is also a good idea as there are programs for the latest hazmat and vehicle rescue information, and having quick and easy access to that information can be life saving.

So, when writing specifications for a rescue, take time to do research and don’t hesitate to go to the shows, or visit other department for fresh ideas and directions.

As always, stay safe and return to quarters.

Editor’s Note: Allen Baldwin is the manager of operations and incident response for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and a volunteer captain with the Gettysburg (Pa.) Fire Department. He has been a firefighter and EMT for over 25 years, once serving as a career fire chief, and is an instructor with the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy and several community colleges.

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