By Ricky Riley
It is a spectacular day when you and your department receive that brand new fire apparatus—all nice and shiny, engineered for perfection, and crafted with care by all the builders at the manufacturer of your choice. You start opening compartments, and it still has the new fire engine smell. Then you look at all the equipment lying on the floor next to the rig and realize you have to figure out how to make it all fit in those compartments somehow.
What makes me cringe is when I see departments just pick up the drill and start putting holes in the walls and floors of their brand new units—holes that we can never undo after they are there. They stay with the apparatus for the next 20 years. Believe me when I say it hurts to drill those holes, especially when you have to move the piece of equipment or make an adjustment, leaving your rig scarred for eternity.
In recent years, I have encouraged departments, including my own, to install a track system or pegboards along with removable floor slats or trays in all or most of their compartments. Installed properly, these items will result in just one set of holes drilled in your rig. This will also allow the department to make adjustments to tool mounts and change configurations as operationally necessary without putting more holes in the apparatus.
One track system is made by Performance Advantage Company. This system has aluminum slat-like pieces called PAC TRACs that can be mounted anywhere in the compartment. They can be customized to fit each wall, floor, tray and slide-out. PAC TRACS provide a platform to mount any piece of equipment using their mounts, or another manufacturer’s mounts, depending on your department’s preference. The tool mounts are held in with expansion plugs that fit in the slotted tracking (photo 2). They give compartments a very clean look and ensure that equipment is securely mounted and not rolling around the brand new compartment. Performance Advantage Company has mounts designed to hold a vast majority of the equipment carried on apparatus today and the mounts are NFPA 1901 compliant.
Another option is a pegboard system. This is a sheet of metal that has predrilled holes to allow for the using any manufacturer’s mounts. These can be placed on walls and floors and can also be put on doors to fit in compartments to help stack equipment. The one thing I have found with these boards is that you can usually get the first side bolted down, but the second hole will need to be drilled. Once again, this is all dependent on the equipment brackets you are using.
With both of the above systems, one of the best features is that they are easily replaceable. The track or pegboards can be replaced if they become worn or have excessive holes resulting from constant equipment movement. This can be done locally at the department without the need to drill more holes in your apparatus. Your apparatus manufacturer can also install both of these systems during construction, as an option of course.
By using a track system and pegboards coupled with the proper equipment mounts, your new apparatus will have a clean and professional look. With all your equipment properly secured in the compartment and the ability to move that equipment if needed, you won’t have to make your apparatus look like Swiss cheese with that drill.
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.