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It’s All in the Options

By Ricky Riley

When looking at Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment or browsing all the manufacturers’ Web sites, there is no lack of great looking apparatus perfectly posed and gleaming in the sun. And as good as the units look, regardless of the type truck or the apparatus builder, what really makes the rig are the options the department chooses. The right options should be based on your individual response area, building stock, and firefighting tactics.

I’m not saying that a stock unit or demo won’t put out a fire or serve your community well, but by looking at all the possibilities for your vehicle, the right options can turn your unit into an efficient combat ready rig.

Two (2) 150-feet rolled preconnected hose storage well and front-bumper suction inlet with hose storage.

Going over all the types of options a department can choose would be impossible in one article. My goal is to get you thinking about all the space on the apparatus and to make sure you are using every inch to your best ability. Whether you are buying a small compact urban pumper, a large, water-carrying combination tanker-pumper, ladder truck or rescue, instead of looking at the aluminum rims, finely polished paint, and catchy phrases over the rigs, look at something else. Look at the functional ability of your purchase and how it will serve the firefighters who ride it and the tactical priorities of your organization.

Go outside of your comfort zone and take not only internal suggestions, but look outside your area and across the country for ideas. The amount of new and innovative option designs and ideas out there today is astounding, even for someone who has been dealing with apparatus for many years. Our firefighters’ ingenuity and passion to have their rigs operate at the highest level is evident in the apparatus on the streets today. Credit needs to also be given to the designers and engineers at the manufacturers for listening to our ideas and making them come true.

I’m going to present some options companies can evaluate and have their apparatus committees start thinking about as well as what they can ask their salesperson or manufacturer to build into their new purchase.


Using Space

Photo 1

Making use of all available space on an apparatus has always been a big concern for me. The best way to make sure you know the available space is to look at the drawings and to get out and actually touch the rigs and look behind the paint. This will give you an idea where you might be able to store equipment and tools, thus freeing up more compartment space, which can be a commodity on many rigs. On a recent apparatus trip, we saw firsthand a good use of dead space on a new rig from Hackensack, New Jersey (photo 1) . The department used the area behind the front bumper and the extension to store pressurized water extinguishers. This option makes the extinguishers easily accessible for crewmembers and does not require them to open a compartment to retrieve the “can.” Additionally with all the room on the extension, it would also be a great place to add roof hooks if needed.

Photo 2

Another practical option that Hackensack employed was to use the wheel well area to store spare SCBA cylinders. These bottles can eat up room in compartments and create storage problems on smaller apparatus (photo 2). Hackensack took it to a new level by making use of every inch of this space and stored seven bottles in just the officer-side wheel well of this tandem axle ladder truck.

The Hackensack apparatus is a great example of why it’s beneficial to look at these options and have them built into your apparatus. They will save room in your compartments for more storage of additional tools and equipment.

Driver Input

Photo 3

It’s also important to listen to your drivers and understand what they are doing day and night with the apparatus. The apparatus committee from Fairfax County, Virginia, added the option of additional lighting for the jack spread area on their new tiller trucks (photo 3). This option needed to be designed, as it was not a part of the standard lighting configuration. By adding this option, the committee increased the lighted area where the stabilizer jack will land to ensure a safe, solid landing zone for the stabilizer. Once again by using creativity, the committee created usable areas on units that enhance operations.

Photo 4

It’s important to focus on ensuring the versatility of our apparatus. It’s possible to make your rigs work better on the fireground by seeking options. Let’s look at another one recently on display (photo 4) . Instead of placing the discharge piping inside the crosslay on a Chicksan swivel, the department placed the piping outside on the pump panel below the crosslay. This configuration lends itself to the minuteman load for the crosslay, providing a quick and controlled hoseline deployment by the using a drag section and a shoulder load. By having the piping out of the crosslay, a crew can quickly disconnect the female coupling instead of having to reach inside the crosslay area and place the entire load on their shoulder. By doing this, they can easily take the whole length of the crosslay and add it to another line to extend it or have another complete length of line to add to a gated wye or water thief.

Thinking ahead and understanding the way your department handles line advancement and extending lines means you can apply this to the options on your apparatus. This is a great example of using options that will make your rig functionally combat ready on your fire scenes.

Hydraulic Reels

Photo 5

The last example is another engineered design from the manufacturer. The option is on a heavy-duty rescue squad for Prince George’s County, Maryland—Rescue Squad 806. This particular unit has all roll-up doors and a number of preconnected hydraulic reels and electrical cords (photo 5). They had the manufacturer install telescoping slides for the rollers and guides to assist in deploying the hydraulic hoses and cords. Doing so places the change of direction and deployment rollers out past the edge of the body. This design ensures the hoses and cords do not rub against the body or the door gaskets and prevents damage to the hoses. This is another example of understanding the tactical needs of your apparatus and designing and adding an option that helps the department achieve success at emergencies.

I hope that by showing you some examples I have sparked some ideas for various options. Hopefully on your next apparatus purchase you will not just look within your department for ideas but look at apparatus from across the country to see what departments are doing to make their incident scenes and firegrounds safer and more tactically sound by using different options.

Finally, be sure to ask your fire apparatus salesperson about what the new trends are and any unique options they may have included in recent purchases by other departments. Don’t forget to talk to your manufacturer for ideas and suggestions and look at all their recently built units. Always be looking for the next great option.

RICKY RILEY is operations chief for the Clearwater (FL) Fire & Rescue and a member of the Kentland (MD) Volunteer Fire Department, where he served as chief of department. He also served for 20 years with the Fairfax County (VA) Fire & Rescue before his retirement in 2005.

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