By Ricky Riley
I’ve posted a number of pictures on Twitter and other social media of rigs with rack storage. I hope to better explain what rack storage is with this brief article for The Rig.
The article demonstrates the versatility and options available when a department sets up its rigs and bundles hose loads for this type of tactical deployment. The racks require a department or company to train extensively to understand the myriad uses of these racks on incident scenes. One of the pieces to go with the hands-on training portion using these racks is the hardware piece, or how we store racks.
A variety of storage configurations exists for the racks, and each department has to decide what is best for it. One of the options is on the side of the apparatus, usually underneath the stored ladders on the officer’s side. I agree that this is a good spot and can make for an easy deployment, although the apparatus purchaser will need to understand the loss of compartment space that this requires. This is a question the buyer should discuss with the members of the apparatus committee and the operational members of the department. If they can afford the reduced storage space, then this is a great option to have built into the rig and allows for a rapid deployment of the racks.
If you take this approach, consider adding a vinyl flap that mounts to the bottom of the floor of the storage area. This flap should be long enough to cover the entire rack and be held in place by straps or some other mounting device. This vinyl flap can serve two purposes. The first is it can reduce the effects of weather and road grime on the pack. Second, it can act as a layer of protection for the side of the apparatus as crews remove and replace the pack in the storage area. As they take off the pack, and more importantly replace it back on the apparatus, the flap may reduce the chances of nicks and dents in the side of the rig. This is a good idea I’ve seen on a number of pieces of fire apparatus.
You should also look at the height of the ladders on the side of the apparatus and their ease of retrieval. A number of departments opt for stationary ladder storage, and this is a good option provided they can be retrieved by the members of the department. How high are the ladders, and how much reach past the rack storage do firefighters have to extend in to grab them? Will this cause any problems in removing the ladders, and how balanced are they going to be coming off the apparatus? If traditional stationary storage causes issues for your personnel, there are a number of companies that manufacturer devices to lower the ladders away and down from the apparatus for easy removal. Sometimes these devices can be costly, and this is one more operational/buying decision to be made by the purchaser.
For departments that want to keep all their compartment space, storage inside a compartment is another option. Manufacturers have a number of ways to accomplish this along with the ingenious ideas that come from members who ride the rigs. One of the ways is to hang the racks on fabricated posts or U-shaped formed metal. This storage allows for the racks to be at a good height for removal from the compartment and easy placement on a firefighter’s shoulder or on the top of his SCBA bottle for hands free carrying. We currently use this option on all our apparatus and it works well for our crews. This storage option takes up a lot of compartment room but keeps the hose and nozzles out of the weather and free from dirt and grime. Another option is, of course, is to go very low-tech and just place the racks on the floor of the compartment.
Building a special storage compartment on your apparatus is yet another option. The Kentland (MD) Fire Department recently added a compartment on its new rescue engine specifically designed to hold their racks. They don’t use crosslays, so they took the crosslay space and made it into a compartment to store the racks out of the weather but in a low and manageable compartment accessible from both sides of the apparatus.
These are just a number of thoughts on rack storage for your next engine. Regardless of how you plan to store them, just make sure it works for your department, your area, and your firefighters. By building these storage areas, your engine will be set up for operational deployment of the racks and show a well-planned and spec’d out piece of apparatus.
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. He is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board.