Apparatus Improvements and Desirable Options

Bigger labels and print make this important information easier to read.
Bigger labels and print make this important information easier to read.
These under-truck lights are required by NFPA 1901.
These under-truck lights are required by NFPA 1901. They vary in quality. Be sure you know exactly what you are getting.
Black interiors and black handrails are a poor combination.
Black interiors and black handrails are a poor combination. Yellow rails are far safer because they are much easier to see. (Fire Apparatus Photo)
Hose or equipment bins should be free floating to keep from ruining the running board when hit from below.
Hose or equipment bins should be free floating to keep from ruining the running board when hit from below.

In the early 1990s, I began publishing lists of desirable options that fire apparatus buyers might want to consider as they developed specifications for new rigs. The lists have been upgraded as more items have been moved into the National Fire Protection Association 1901 apparatus standard – or they have become standard offerings from most manufacturers.

Many times, as I lecture on apparatus purchasing, attendees will comment that they do not need all that new stuff. (“Gimme old Betsy who was easy to understand and operate.”) But there are just as many folks saying that manufacturers are too slow to integrate new options. It’s one of those debates you can’t win. But looking at some of the changes I have seen over the last 50 years, it is easy to see that the scale has tilted toward the improvement side.

Think about it. We don’t see many cabs without doors or roofs or firefighters riding the back step. Rarely do we see manual steering and transmissions, failed aerial ladders, steel booster tanks or horns and sirens on the roof, just above the driver’s ear. That’s progress.

Back to my desirable options list. Let’s look at some of the items and review where we are in the buying process.

Class A foam and compressed air foam systems (CAFS) are tops on my list, and I’m pleased to report that the consensus of the experts in the field indicates that approximately 70 percent of new apparatus are specified with foam systems. That’s up from 10 to 15 percent in the 1980s. Don’t forget, a ground refill system should be specified so the tank can be replenished without having to climb on top of the rig.

Warning Systems

In the warning device area, there is a strong movement to LED lights. However the suggestion that all trucks have rear light sticks has not seen the same popularity. Maybe the buyers feel we already have enough “blinky” lights.

Reflective striping on the compartment shelf edges and in the rub rails should be considered. Red and either yellow or green reflective chevron striping is now required on the rear vertical surfaces (NFPA 1901). This was a good move, although not all departments are in love with the colors.

The electronic versions of the “Q” sirens have had a slow acceptance. They sound like a mechanical siren, but have a desirable lower amp draw.

Specify that the officer’s air horn and siren buttons be on the dash and off the floor.

When possible, move the yellow turn signals away from any warning lights. Require an air horn button at the pump panel to alert the troops when the structure needs to be evacuated.

Perhaps you should consider a center brake light like cars have. Toyne Fire Apparatus has made this a standard feature on its apparatus.

Scene Lighting

Brow lights are becoming more common, but you will see more of them as buyers learn that you can get 12-volt versions that do not require a generator. High intensity 12-volt scene lighting is also available and should be specified if there is not a 120-volt source available.

A light tower is a nice feature to have and can be fitted on the roof or at the front of a hose bed on the engines.

Electrically, multiplex systems have received mixed acceptance from departments. Maybe when all the systems on board the rig are tied together, we will see higher acceptance.

Really look at the need for a pump any larger than 1,500 gpm. Most of the time, there are not enough firefighters to dispense more than the 2,500 gpm available (pump, plus a decent hydrant flow). Master intake valves are now required for large diameter inlets, and it is a good idea to have them controlled at the pump panel. While you are at it, move the intakes and discharges away from the engineer’s panel. It’s a safety item.

Specify at least one 1-1/2 at the front bumper and one at the back if possible. (Two are required by 1901.)

Stainless piping and flexible hose will require less maintenance. When specifying a deck gun, spend the extra money to make it remote controlled. Make provisions for a quick deployment personal deluge gun.

It is a good idea to spec windows at the back of the cab (or mirrors on the back seat doors) so personnel can see if there is any traffic alongside before they step out.

Specify yellow cab assist (grab) rails at all entrances and in the cab.

Look carefully at how you expect to reload hose or gain access to the pump dunnage area. You may want to consider reinforced aluminum hosebed covers with power assists to open and hold open the doors. It is a good idea to eliminate any need for firefighters to be on the top of any vehicle.

If specifying hose wells in the running boards, make them “free floating” so they will pop up if struck from below by a dirt mound or snow pile.

NFPA now requires a seat belt annunciator system. Use it.

Add NFPA-required AEDs, traffic cones and warning vests to all existing apparatus. Most of the previously mentioned items are not required by 1901 or any other standard. But they make your apparatus safer and more functional. Please consider them on new and existing rigs.

Be safe!

Editor’s Note: Bob Barraclough is a 50- year veteran of the fire service and fire manufacturing industry. He is chief columnist for Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment magazine and a 20-year member of the NFPA 1901 Fire Apparatus Standards Committee. A principal organizer of the annual FDSOA Apparatus Specification Symposium, he is also a past president of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Association. Barraclough serves as a consultant to Rosenbauer America and is called upon as an expert witness in litigation involving fire industry products. His career includes executive positions at E-ONE, Hale Fire Pumps, National Foam, Span Instruments and Class 1.

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