The Rig: Pump Panel Options
By: Ricky Riley
I really have not given much thought to pump panel options in my years of apparatus specification writing. I usually took what the manufacturer had given me, and it always seemed to work.
In recent months, my interest in this area of apparatus design has piqued. In my travels to factories and manufacturers, it seems that departments are making full use of options in this area of their apparatus. In engine companies, the pump house, along with the hosebed and the attack line storage, are crucial parts of the rig.
In researching and talking to departments that use this design process to ensure the pump panel is designed to their specifications, it is evident that they have put the time and thought into how they are laying the panel out—and putting in the effort to ensure proper training and familiarization for the driver/operator.
The options for this area can be as simple as color coding the discharge handles and outlets to as complex as arranging the piping and handles to correspond with their position on the apparatus. In one configuration I saw recently, the gauges and discharge handles were laid out from the front to back of the apparatus. The first gauge and handle in the row, horizontally across the pump panel, were for the front bumper discharge. Then the last gauge and handle in the row were for the rear discharge. The layout was pretty methodical, and attention only had to be paid to which side of the truck the discharge was actually on. But, the department grouped the valves together for easy recognition by the operator.
I found an interesting looking panel on a new delivery to Kansas City, Missouri, where the department bucked the standard layout, lined up all the gauges, and did not use the standard push-pull handles on the discharges and intakes. It certainly is eye-catching and not the standard most of us are used to seeing. But, it is a very efficient and clean design for this department. As with all options, they may come with a cost. But, this enhanced and simple layout is centered around ease of operation for the driver/operator rather than what is convenient for the builder.
In looking at pump houses on a recent visit to a manufacturer, I noticed the use of prefabricated pump house options on a number of engines. When talking to a pump manufacturer recently, I was informed that it could build a pump house for our department directly to our specifications. Once we were satisfied with every gauge, valve handle, drain line, and all their locations, this could be our department pump house. Then each time we want to order a rig, regardless of the manufacturer, the pump manufacturer could build the pump house and have it shipped to our builder of choice, thus not having to go through the design phase with each builder in case our department wanted to change manufacturers. I thought it was a pretty neat option—especially for departments that are not dedicated to a specific apparatus builder.
The size of the pump panel/pump house drives not only the truck’s ability to pump water, but also has an impact on the wheelbase of the rig. Now if you are like me, you want the shortest wheelbase you can achieve with all the operational options to meet your response area. So, the smallest pump panel/pump house is always a top agenda for us when designing engines. This is great for one of the problems we would like to solve—the wheelbase. But, it can be a mechanic’s nightmare depending on how the builder has to squeeze everything into this small area. We try to assist the mechanics by incorporating removable or swing-out pump panels to allow easier access to the pump area. But, valves, handles, gauge lines, and piping all need a place to be mounted and stored. Plus, they need to be reached and repaired. So, jamming all of this in a small area does have a disadvantage for repairs but pays off operationally.
So always being in search of the best options, I can guarantee you that on the next engine I am involved in specing we will be looking at a number of options for enhanced ease of operation, standardization, and function of our department pump panels. The attention you dedicate to this area of your rig will certainly pay off on a fireground in the future. Always be thinking of the next best option and how it will better your rig. But as always, ensure that it works for your response area and department.
As always thank you for checking in with “THE RIG.”
RICKY RILEY is the fire apparatus manager for the Prince George’s County (MD) Fire/EMS Department. He previously served as the Operations Chief in Clearwater, Florida, and as a firefighter for Fairfax County (VA) Fire & Rescue. He also currently serves as the rescue-engine captain at the Kentland (MD) Volunteer Fire Department. He is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board.