In the beginning of 2014, I paid Performance Advantage Company (PAC), located in Lancaster, New York, a visit during what was one of the coldest winters on the East Coast in probably 20 years.
During my visit, Dick Young, PAC’s founder, could not have been more hospitable. One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to the Greater Lancaster Museum of Firefighting connected to PAC’s headquarters. Contained therein are various pieces of American fire service history, including an entire section dedicated to Scott SCBA. Looking around the museum, there were countless examples of firefighter ingenuity through the years.
As many know, PAC’s specialty is equipment and tool mounting. And, Young is well qualified to run such a company, having been an apparatus manufacturer himself. Through the years, PAC and other companies like Ziamatic and GearGrid have come up with innovative ways to mount and store equipment and tools on fire apparatus. In recent times, as apparatus manufacturers have worked to meet the fire service’s demands to fit more and more into packages that are remaining the same size or sometimes getting smaller, new ways of “fitting” everything on a truck have become the norm.
I asked Young where the ideas come from for the various PAC offerings. Specifically, I asked if fire departments contacted PAC in need of mounting solutions, and Young told me very few if any come from fire departments. “We sit and we dream,” he told me.
I was pretty surprised when he said this because with the trend toward multipurpose apparatus gripping the industry right now, I figured the tool location challenges departments face would have tool mounting companies’ phones ringing off the hook.
Looking at the bigger picture, though, I wonder if the fire service is doing enough to engage our suppliers and let them know the challenges we face for which we are looking for solutions. Although firefighters, in general, are problem solvers, we must not forget that there are myriad resources at our disposal to help us solve various problems. And, the folks who work for our suppliers are chomping at the bit to give us a hand. Engineers love problem solving. Also, many of our suppliers’ employees are firefighters. These resources are tremendous assets for us, and we should be engaging them.
Speaking of sitting and dreaming, I’ve been wondering why so many private vehicles are hitting our apparatus lately at accident scenes. I’m hard pressed to come up with a solution for that one. I’m not sure what more we can do. We build the brightest, most reflective fire trucks we have ever built, and yet somehow people still fail to see us and crash into us. It reminds me of an expression we often hear in the fire service: You can’t fix stupid.
Just recently, three people were injured-including two firefighters-and one killed when a driver struck the rear of a parked apparatus that was protecting an accident scene. That same week, a rescue vehicle that had pulled over to help a motorist was rear-ended. Talk about needing a solution. It looks to me like we’ve covered all bases and still Joe Q. Public is finding a way to remain oblivious to what’s going on around him.
I’ve often said that I find line-of-duty deaths resulting from preventable apparatus accidents unacceptable. I still feel that way. The injured firefighters mentioned above were inside the parked apparatus when the private vehicle struck it. Firefighter injuries resulting from civilians striking apparatus are just as unacceptable to me-especially when we have worked as hard as we have to make our presence unmistakable at these incidents.
It is time for the fire service to demand that roads be closed well before the scene of an accident and that they remain closed for the entire duration of the incident. We cannot tolerate having “one lane getting by.” We can’t have firefighters arrested at the scene for doing the right thing and not moving a truck before it is time. How will you approach apparatus placement and road closures at your next accident response?