By Bob Vaccaro
Published Monday, August 6, 2012
| From the September 2012 Issue of FireRescue
Over the last 12 years, I’ve seen more new apparatus technology introduced than in my 35-plus years in the fire service. An increased focus on firefighter safety, brought about by the introduction of NFPA 1901, is driving this trend—as it should be.
Ergonomics, green technology, larger compartment space, computers, higher ladder reach, lower hosebeds, more cab space, rollover protection, front and side air bags and LED lighting are just a few examples.
Following is a round-up of some of these advancements—all of which are key considerations when speccing and purchasing vehicles.
The EPA has conducted extensive evaluation of idle-reduction technologies/devices on air quality, fuel consumption and driver health. Its conclusion: Idle-reduction technologies save fuel and reduce emissions when compared to idling the main engine.
According to the EPA, idle-reduction technology “is generally defined as the installation of a technology or device that:
- is installed on a vehicle
- reduces unnecessary main engine idling of the vehicle or equipment, and/or
- is designed to provide services (e.g., heat, air conditioning and/or electricity) to the vehicle or equipment that would otherwise require the operation of the main drive engine while the vehicle or equipment is temporarily parked or remains stationary.”
Several fire apparatus manufacturers have introduced idle reduction to their line-ups. Rosenbauer’s GREEN Star, introduced several years ago, shuts down the chassis engine on scene when the fire pump is not engaged. Electronic controls then start the diesel driver auxiliary power unit (APU), which supports the 12-volt electrical system and provides a minimum of 8-kW of 120/240-volt power. This APU is also capable of maintaining the chassis heating and cooling requirements. The APU uses approximately one-fourth the fuel compared to the chassis engine. Smeal also offers an APU on new pumpers, which provides 12-volt DC power, 120/240-volt A/C power and HVAC for the apparatus. Other manufacturers, such as Pierce, offer similar technology, and KME is currently partnering with vendors to develop APUs for its apparatus.
Today’s apparatus committees would be remiss not to factor ergonomics into new vehicle specs; doing so not only makes the rig more user-friendly, but can cut down on firefighter injuries and the subsequent workers comp costs. Fortunately, the apparatus manufacturers make this easy.
It’s now common to see lower hosebeds, larger cabs with more room in the front for the driver and officer, and a flat floor in the rear of the cab, reducing the engine hump that used to exist. Cabs now come in configurations that seat up to 10 firefighters, although the six-person cab is becoming more popular due to reductions in staffing.
A few highlights in the area of ergonomics and safety:
Pierce’s Velocity and Impel chassis provide more room front and back, as well as a one-piece front windshield that gives better visibility. The new Pierce PS6 seats feature double-length seatbelts and dual retractors, improved cushions, hands-free SCBA holders and integrated side air curtains. Pierce was the first manufacturer to offer frontal air bags along with side air bag protection. Its newest chassis, the Dash CF, has even more room front and back, a new, larger, one-piece windshield and a flat floor in the rear of the cab.
E-One’s Quest chassis features flush-style doors with hidden hinges for maximum sealing and noise reduction, and large driver and officer front-door windows that improve visibility by using a single piece of roll-down glass. The doors swing open 90 degrees to provide easy entry and egress. A flush, oversized door latch is mounted low for gloved hands and easier access. The Quest also features steps designed to reduce injury when entering or exiting the cab. The steps are 26 inches wide; the first step is 21 inches from the ground, the second step is 11 inches up and the third step is 9 inches over the second step.
KME’s Predator chassis features the RollTek rollover protection system for front and rear occupants and frontal impact protection. The interior is made of ABS plastic for increased durability as well as ergonomics. The Predator also offers a large interior access door that enables mechanics to perform fluid checks without the need to tilt the cab. All electrical lines are encased in a protective loom and are color- and function coded. The center of the dash houses an easy access area for electrical system additions, service and diagnostics.
Hosebed size and height are additional important ergonomic concerns when speccing apparatus. The easier we can make stretching and packing hose, the better. Smeal offers an ergonomic hose load, which is a hosebed that virtually pulls out of the rear of an engine or ladder and puts hose loading at waist-level—no more falls or slips when climbing on top of the apparatus. E-One offers an “urban pumper” with a low hosebed; KME and Pierce have options as well.
Another area where fire apparatus technology is changing: pump panel size. Pump panels are becoming smaller, which allows compartments to get larger—the perfect mix, since we’re carrying more tools than ever. Manufacturer highlights when it comes to pumps include:
- KME just recently designed a smaller digital pump panel. The touch-screen pump display provides both pressure and flow readings and a central controller for all valves to minimize cost. In addition, without handles on the panel, it’s easy to access the pump for maintenance. As is becoming common, this narrow design allows KME to offer increased compartment space.
- E-One’s eMax pumper features a pump panel that’s less than 24 inches wide, which also allows for more compartment space. There’s no cab overhang to restrict the pump operator, and the intakes are lower than previous models, allowing for easier hose connections.
- The Pierce PUC also has a narrow pump panel as well as low intake and discharge connections placed out of the way of the pump operator. In addition, the tilt cab provides easier access for maintenance of the pump by mechanics.
- The Spartan ERV Transformer features hydraulically controlled valves that allow you to spec the panel anywhere on the truck. These valves have been utilized in the marine industry for a number of years with a proven track record. Spartan says the new panel provides 130 cubic feet more storage than traditional panels.
Higher Ladder Reach & Ladder Technology
Sometimes it seems that the manufacturers are in the midst of an aerial war, each trying to outdo the other in terms of options and aerial reach. E-One has a 137' rear-mount ladder and a 78' quint; Spartan ERV in collaboration with Gimaex (a French fire apparatus firm) just introduced a 127' articulating platform; KME offers a 109' rear-mount aerial and a 79' quint; and Pierce just introduced the 105' Dash CF, which has the retro look of the Pierce Arrow. Of course, your budget and your response area needs will largely determine what options you can consider.
One stand-out when it comes to building aerial platforms: Sutphen. Compared to most rear-mount aerials, which position the ladder over the cab, Sutphen mounts its boom lower, lowering the truck’s center of gravity and providing better handling and maneuverability. This reduces the travel height and makes it easier to place the aerial over the cab at less than 10 degrees elevation. In addition, Sutphen apparatus typically weigh 7–10 tons less than other apparatus. The lower weight allows Sutphen to provide stainless-steel bodies, increased water supply, larger hose loads and more compartmentation.
When the first generation of LED lights came out, I thought that they were just a cheap example of blinking lights that would be installed on fire apparatus. The new generation is vastly superior, however, and and has taken the fire apparatus industry by storm. I don’t think there are many departments that haven’t installed one or more forms of LED lighting on their apparatus.
And why shouldn’t they? The new lights use less than half the electrical load on an apparatus battery and alternator and projected maintenance costs are unbelievable; many of these lights can be used for 50,000–100,000 hours before they have to be replaced.
Not only are LEDs being installed as warning lights, but we’re now seeing LED compartment lighting and floodlighting.
A Lot to Consider
I’ve tried to give you an overview of some of the new technology you should be looking into if you are speccing out a new apparatus. This is by no means a complete list. All fire apparatus manufacturers have invested heavily in the past several years to bring you safer, more functional vehicles. You just have to look around and investigate what is right for you and your department.
Get that Apparatus Grant (excerpt)
Easy tips for securing a fire vehicle grant through the AFG program
By Wayne Eder
Fire apparatus grants are a big deal. Engines, ladders, water tenders, rescues and hazmat vehicles are big-ticket items, and the competition for these grants is fierce. Unfortunately, most vehicle grants are dismissed in the initial phases because the grant writers failed to stick to the basics or asked for an unrealistic sum to purchase their “dream rig.” With this in mind, following are a few tips on how to get a new vehicle for your department using grant funds.
- Read the Directions: All grants have clear objectives. Determine the objectives for the current year, and determine if your department’s needs meet the current year’s funding priorities. Also, read the FAQ section prior to writing your grant, and be sure to fill out all sections completely and accurately.
- The Narrative: The narrative is the single most important part of the AFG grant application, because this is where you mustmake the evaluators feel your need. Also clarify your objectives and why you cannot fund this purchase through other means. Successful narratives take into consideration the guidance documents and FAQs, as well as the specific requirements found in the narrative section. In addition to NFPA standards, other valuable resources to quote in your narrative include the various statistics and publications put out by the USFA. Key point: Don’t forget to address all specific financial issues in the narrative, including purchase price, cost of performance bond, loose equipment, and tax and training costs.
- Training Topics: The apparatus grants that don’t make it typically don’t address driver operator training, so make sure to request funding to certify all drivers to the latest edition of NFPA 1002.
- Be Realistic: Some departments claim that they cannot live without an $800,000, 10-person apparatus with custom cab. Is that realistic? All of the successful AFG apparatus awards that I’ve written have been in the $210,000–$250,000 range. Start doing your research early. Find a competitive, commercial chassis or even an economical custom chassis for your apparatus. Include NFPA-required equipment in the cost to demonstrate that the unit going in service is properly equipped. Key point: Used or refurbished apparatus are eligible for a grant provided that they meet NFPA standards and DOT requirements. Consider a multi-purpose unit. Check the grant guidance documents to see which vehicle is a priority for your type of community.
- Preventative Maintenance: Address how you will maintain and insure this vehicle in the grant narrative.
- Other Costs: Don’t forget to calculate sales tax, license fees and your share of the matching funds for the grant.
What’s your #1 priority when speccing an apparatus?
- Price: 2%
- Function/purpose: 91%
- Manufacturer: 2%
- What apparatus surrounding resources (i.e., mutual aid) already have: 4%
- Safety features: 1%
NFPA 1912: Standard for Fire Apparatus Refurbishing
Ready for a Refurb? Refurbing allowed Oklahoma City to upgrade its ladders at a good price (excerpt)
By Bob Vaccaro
From the June 2010 Issue of FireRescue
The refurb allowed the OCFD to make a change in the design of the vehicles, too. “Our older ladders were quints, but we really never embraced that concept,” Clay says. “When we did the refurb, we had the pumps removed and added compartment space.” That added space allowed the ladders to cover the gap that was created when the heavy-rescue units were abolished. “The refurbed ladders respond as rescue ladders,” Clay says, “which means that they carry the extra extrication equipment as well as other tools that the rescues would normally carry. The extra compartment space allowed us to take on the added tasks. These new ladders run on all rescue calls, auto extrications, etc.”
Should You Refurb Your Apparatus? Considering the current economic situation, consider the “refurb route”
By Bob Vaccaro
December 15, 2010
“Before you decide on any refurb, obtain a copy of NFPA 1912: Standard for Fire Apparatus Refurbishing. You’ll want to make your decision using a host of factors, including age, mileage, engine hour and pump hours. Don’t just let cost savings be the deciding factor. And make sure that whichever route you take, you consult the manufacturer that built the original vehicle (if still in existence) to see if the work is feasible. If not, you’ll want to go with another manufacturer that specializes in the type of work you need.”
Tips for Buying a Used Apparatus: Doing a little homework prior to an apparatus purchase can save you a ton of money in the long run
By Bob Vaccaro
July 20, 2011
“There are numerous used fire apparatus dealers around the country that can help you out, but ask around before you purchase from a particular company. Interview past customers to see if they were satisfied with their purchase. Can you get a warranty? If so, if the dealer is out of state, can you take it to a local apparatus repair shop? When purchasing any type of used apparatus, ask to see past maintenance records as well as recent pump tests and aerial tests. If you go out to a dealer, take your department mechanic out with you, or if need be, hire a certified emergency vehicle technician to go with you to examine the vehicle. Also ask if the cost of flat-bedding the vehicle to your location is included in the price—or if your department is close to the dealer, ask if you can just drive the vehicle home.”
Compartment Space Specs
Tips for Writing Apparatus Specs (excerpt)
Need-to-know information, from forming the committee to selecting the features of the vehicle
By Bob Vaccaro
From the February 2008 Issue of FireRescue
A great tool to use is included in NFPA 1901: Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, and also on the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association Web site at www.fama.org/resourcelibrary/weightcube.cfm. It’s an equipment list of every conceivable tool, hose and nozzle and its weight. You can actually plan each compartment and what tool you would likely carry in that compartment so you can determine the weight.
Another area of concern is hose storage. Look into some of the ergonomic hosebed arrangements that some manufacturers have engineered, especially for large-diameter hose (LDH). If this proves too costly, then build a lower hosebed in the rear of the apparatus; this makes for a less back-breaking job when deploying and repacking hose.
Compartment layout and design is another concern. There are numerous types of shelves and storage devices out there to meet your needs for all types of equipment. I suggest you plan out ahead of time what types of tools you will carry in each compartment and request that the local dealer or, in some cases, manufacturer, mount the tools for you before you take delivery. This will help with space management and maybe even save you space for added equipment.
Apparatus Age & Replacement
According to a 2002 FEMA Survey of U.S. fire departments,
- 13% of fire trucks are over 30 years old
- 21% of fire trucks are over 20 years old
- 16% of fire trucks are over 15 years old
That’s 50% that are more than 15 years old! Further, 35.2% of U.S. fire departments have an apparatus replacement program, meaning 64.8% DO NOT!
According to the NFPA’s U.S. Fire Department Profile research paper (October 2011) by Michael J. Karter Jr. and Gary P. Stein, estimates of the number of apparatus in the United States for the 2008–2010 period indicate that there were 66,800 pumpers, 6,800 aerial apparatus and 72,800 other suppression vehicles (which includes pumpers less than 1,000 gpm, hose usage, brush vehicles, tanker, etc.).
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