It’s a Fire Department Decision

Given the number of regulations regarding what can be carried in the crew cab, what do you consider the best layout for tools and equipment that used to be carried in the cab that allows for the most efficient deployment once on scene? Advisory Board Members Bill Adams (left) and Ricky Riley answer below.

My response is the familiar military axiom used to answer—or avoid answering—a question: It depends on the weather and the terrain.

Cab Storage

Equipment that used to be carried in the cab either temporarily or on a permanent basis should be defined by each fire department and not some regulatory agency or commentator. Whether any remaining equipment in the cab is stored per National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) criteria is also the determination and policy of the fire department. Enforcing said policy is up to its hierarchy.

Photos abound of in-service apparatus with helmets propped on the dash leaning against the windshield—so much for using compliant helmet and equipment holders in the cab that must withstand predetermined g-forces. It is another instance of fire service hypocrisy: “We believe in and demand NFPA compliance unless we personally don’t like it.”

I don’t believe any equipment should be stored in the cab. NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, sentence 15.8.5 states: “Handrails and handholds shall be constructed so that three points of contact (two hands and one foot, or one hand and two feet) can be maintained at all times while ascending and descending.” Whatever is stored in the cab should be capable of being safely removed. It’s dangerous having both arms full of equipment while trying to safely negotiate two or three cab steps to ground level while following the “three points of contact” rule.

NFPA 1901 appendix sentence A.15.7.1 agrees: “Ascending into and descending from certain types of driving and crew compartments is ergonomically difficult and sometimes results in falls and subsequent fire fighter injuries.” It should be “one hand for me and one hand for thee” when accessing or egressing a fire truck, especially the cab.

Body Storage

Locating specific equipment on a rig’s body can’t be addressed on a national level. That is a fire department decision. A first-due rig whose response district consists primarily of senior citizen facilities and retirement communities might emphasize accessing emergency medical services (EMS) equipment. Common sense dictates that if 80% of the runs require the use of medical bags, oxygen units, automated external defibrillators (AEDs), and bandages, then that is what should be quickly and easily accessible.

It may be advantageous or even a requirement to store EMS equipment in a safe and possibly temperature-controlled environment, which, unfortunately, is probably the cab. AEDs, oxygen units, and medical supplies probably shouldn’t be stored next to never-washed smoke ejectors or traffic cones that are constantly exposed to road grime and dirt.

Some EMS equipment and supplies (drugs) may require storage within certain temperature ranges. Did you ever check to see if your self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) does also? Consider time-consuming back-to-back runs in extreme temperatures. Maintaining a compartment’s set temperature range will vary between lower Florida and northern North Dakota.

Active suppression companies no longer have firefighters all packed up leaping out of crew cabs carrying the irons in one hand and a closet hook in the other. Store tools in the apparatus body where they are accessible and easily removable—preferably with one hand—perhaps on a shelf. Swing-out and slide-out tool boards might be efficient use of compartment space; however, it might take two distinct actions to unlock and pull out a tool board or tray and one or two hand movements to unlatch and remove a tool.

Another statement worth considering is in NFPA 1901’s appendix A.15.3.1: “Fire fighter injuries resulting from climbing on apparatus to retrieve, store, and operate equipment can be minimized if specifications require that equipment be accessible from ground level.” When on an EMS run, consider how labor-intensive and safe it will be for the single firefighter sent back to the rig to retrieve a backboard or stokes basket.

Clean Cab Considerations

The “clean cab concept” has influenced some departments to store SCBA and personal protective equipment (PPE) outside of the cab. It may not be advisable to have contaminated SCBA and PPE stored in a compartment with EMS equipment. If SCBA and PPE are stored in a single compartment, it might not be efficient or look good having four or five firefighters standing in a row waiting to gear up like they’re in line at a fast-food takeout window. What firefighting equipment must be relocated or eliminated to store SCBA and PPE in the body? Ask the firefighters riding the load how safe it will be to don SCBA and PPE outside of the cab in a traffic lane or in the pouring rain or during a below-zero winter blizzard. Good luck.

BILL ADAMS is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board, a former fire apparatus salesman, and a past chief of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.


Mounting Equipment

To prevent injuries to firefighters riding in these rigs, measures were taken to remove a lot of this equipment from the cab. This was outlined in NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, section regarding equipment mounting.The amount of equipment that departments carry to fulfill their mission to their community can vary from the bare bones to an overflowing rig. This storage of equipment can drive the size, wheelbase, and compartment layouts on almost all apparatus. Most departments are multimission and do require more than just the standard equipment cache. Just the amount of firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE) can take up a lot of room in the cab. Then add self-contained breathing apparatus, tools, meters, computers, mapbooks, disinfecting supplies, and medical equipment. The list could go on and on, depending on your rig’s operational mission.

I do believe that tools necessary for quick deployment on our incident scenes can still be stored in the cab. The tools and equipment must be stored properly, and the storage must meet the NFPA standard on the amount of g-force in case of an incident. Rigs also must provide storage that will prevent injuries, providing proper coverage of any points or sharp items that could cause injuries. This equipment should be fully enclosed or in a latched compartment, once again with the ability to withstand the g-force. A number of equipment mounting hardware companies have successfully manufactured hardware that complies with NFPA 1901 requirements. When mounting anything in the cab, I strongly suggest you ensure the bracket or storage system your department uses is 1901 compliant.

Another consideration when placing this equipment in the cab is how well a firefighter in full PPE will be able to exit the apparatus. Look at the ergonomics of all the firefighters in your department. This equipment may be heavy or cumbersome to get in and out of the cab with the firefighter maintaining three points of contact with grab rails and steps. Closely evaluate this equipment placement and firefighter ability and safety if you are going to put equipment in the cab.

In departments that I am associated with, equipment is still placed in the cab. We have dedicated a lot of time and effort to make sure that firefighters can retrieve and return this equipment with as much ease as possible. Anything heavy is mounted near the exit door and can be retrieved and returned while standing on the ground. This may move our seating inward on the apparatus, but we are reducing chances of injuries and allowing for the rapid deployment of this equipment. We are supposed to move with a sense of purpose and be able to rapidly deploy our firefighters and equipment as part of our mission.

If we are going to remove the bulk of the equipment from the cab, then where do we put it? We have to understand that this equipment may require power and climate-controlled storage, be delicate, and may be a bit bulky. So, let’s look at some options for this storage:

  1. Replacing the rear-facing seats in the cab of the apparatus with compartments. These compartments can be accessed from the inside of the cab or through an exterior compartment door (photos 1 and 2).
  2. Make use of the front bumper to store hand tools and equipment (photo 3).
  3. Adding compartment room in the void spaces on the cab. These compartments can even be made transverse, depending on the size of the cab. They can store hand tools, extinguishers, and even pike poles (photo 4).
  4. Mounting equipment on the back wall of the cab (photo 5).
  5. Using compartments on the body with power supplied to the compartment if needed. These compartments are vented in different ways by the manufacturers. Be sure if you are going to store equipment in these compartments that you talk to your apparatus builder about the vents not allowing road dirt into the compartment.

These are just a few suggestions on where to put the equipment. Remember, we are not prohibited from putting equipment in the cab, but we should do so safely. I know from experience that even a little clipboard can make you get 18 stitches in the back of your head. Imagine what a loose fire tool or computer will do if not secured properly. It is easy to become complacent or use the excuse of having it fire ready and not put the equipment back properly. You never know when an accident or g-force event might occur, so always be ready for it when you have equipment in the cab. Or, find another place to put it on the rig.

Author’s Note: Thanks to my friend Chris Mc Loone for all he did for Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment and for all the opportunities he afforded me. It was a pleasure to talk fire trucks with him, and I wish him the best on his new adventure.

RICKY RILEY is the president of Traditions Training, LLC. He previously served as the operations chief for Clearwater (FL) Fire & Rescue and as a firefighter for Fairfax County (VA) Fire & Rescue. He also is a firefighter with the Kentland (MD) Volunteer Fire Department and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board.



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