By Scott Cook
Published Friday, May 4, 2012
While kicking around some ideas with a colleague in Connecticut a few months ago, the discussion turned to fire apparatus and how we configure them. The conversation made me think about the bonus items we could put onboard that can make life and the job a little bit easier and safer. So here’s a list of my top five extra items on an apparatus, in no particular order:
- Little Giant Ladder ($200): This is undoubtedly the most versatile ladder out there. If you have a dedicated rescue apparatus, get two so you can use them as scaffolding if you’re doing an extrication from a big rig or monster truck. The ladder makes extrication ops go much more smoothly and improves the ergonomics, reducing the chance of injury. The good folks at Ziamatic even make a bracket that allows you to mount the Little Giant to your fire truck (around $135).
- Two-wheel dolly ($150 for a good one): How many times have you carried a load of cribbing from the apparatus to the accident scene and wished you had one of these? How many times have you been rolling up after a run and wished you had one of these? If you haven’t bought one yet, it’s time to do so. You can find them at Home Depot, Sears, Lowes and other home improvement retailers.
- Slide-out trays (prices vary depending on size and configuration): There is simply no excuse not to spend a few extra dollars to save your firefighters’ backs with slide-out trays. These items bring the fans, chainsaws, hydraulic tools and pumps out to where the firefighter can easily grab hold using proper body mechanics. SlideMaster (http://www.slide-master.com) makes some great ones and even makes “tip-down” trays so that items stored up high can be brought down to an easily accessible height. If you have full-width compartments, there are trays that will slide out of either side of the apparatus—keeping your folks out of traffic.
- Fold-out/roll-out tool boards (prices vary depending on size and configuration): Fold-out/roll-out tool boards improve ergonomics and increase usable storage space at the same time. PacTools (http://www.pactoolmounts.com) can get you set up with everything you need to do this. Make sure the compartments you’re going to put the fold-out boards in are deep enough to handle the board and tools on both the board and the compartment wall. There are options for the roll-out boards as well, made by both PacTools and SlideMaster. If you have a full-width compartment, you can get a board that fully rolls out from either side, keeping the board and firefighters out of traffic.
- FLIR camera ($3,300): Yes, I think that mobile FLIR (forward-looking infrared) cameras have a definite place on fire apparatus, especially on rural and wildland apparatus. Standard vehicle FLIR systems allow you to see four times farther than you can with your headlights on high. Remember: High beams only project from 350 to 500 feet. And we all know how easy it is to overdrive our headlights on a dark night. FLIR systems also give you the advantage of improved sight in inclement weather, including fog and rain—not to mention smoke.
So there you have it. None of these is going to greatly improve firefighter performance, but I believe that each will definitely improve firefighter safety—and that’s something we can’t ever have too much of.
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