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The Rig: It’s the Little Things

Front Grab Handle

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We placed these small handles above the headlights to assist our firefighters in climbing up on the front bumper.

By Ricky Riley

When trying to come up with ideas for this month’s Rig article, I spent a lot of time looking at our new delivery of engines. We were fortunate enough to purchase six engines over the last year and just took delivery of the first three. In the past, we have discussed a number of options that we feel enhance the apparatus mechanically and operationally. But upon looking at the engines for this article, I noticed all the little things that help enhance the rig. I wish I could take credit for all these ideas, but we have been fortunate to have a number of people involved in our purchases. These stakeholders all bring different ideas to the table that are just not all based on the operational aspect but also on the mechanical and downtime perspective. So, these little things are not so little if they help extend the life of the engines, prevent them from being out of service, or prevent damage to the rigs. So, let’s take a look at a number of these ideas that we have incorporated in our apparatus.

Front Grab Handles
Usually when people first see these we get a lot of questions about them. We placed these small handles above the headlights to assist our firefighters in climbing up on the front bumper. Placing them there alleviates firefighters’ need to grab onto the windshield wiper arm to assist them up to clean the windshield or wash the truck. The weight of a firefighter can be no match for the small set screw that is on the wiper arm, and they can become dislodged or broken off. The handles have helped stop the trips to the shop to get the wiper arm replaced after such an event.

Front Corner Mirror
The addition of this mirror assists the driver when cornering in tight streets or roadways. This quick glance into the fisheye-type mirror will give the driver the assurance he needs to make sure he has cleared a vehicle or obstacle. It can look a little funny sticking out there, but it is well worth the expenses in preventing accidents and scratches.

Dual Fuel Fills
The miles traveled by some of our engines is incredible, and having to get fuel at different locations is a necessity. With the varied filling sites, we wanted to give the driver the ability to fill up on either side and to avoid backing up as much as possible. It is an added expense for the dual-fill tank, but we feel that it has the chance to reduce minor accidents and is an additional convenience and eases refueling the apparatus. We also are fortunate that we could purchase an extra tank with the dual fills to have in stock. This custom tank could take weeks to get from the manufacturer, so we wanted one ready in case we damaged a tank and it needed replacement, once again looking to reduce the out of service times for the rigs.

Stainless Steel Fuel and DEF Plates
On the outside of the apparatus under the fuel fills, we have placed stainless steel plates to protect the apparatus paint from the damaging diesel fuel and the dreaded DEF fluid. Included in the fuel door itself is an overflow drain for when the DEF fluid is overfilled. We wanted to make sure that this fluid does not get on the paint and is properly drained to the ground. In looking at some of our mudflaps after not having this routed drain, we found the mudflaps to be warped and destroyed by the DEF.

Rubber-Protruding Turn Signals
On the rear corner of the apparatus we placde a set of rubber turn signals that protrude from the rig. These are in addition to the standard turn signal light on the rear of the apparatus. The light provides not only an additional visual turning light for civilian vehicles but also provides a visual focal point for drivers when on tight streets or taking corners. Being able to use this light in tight streets and corners offers the driver a point to look at and hopefully prevent minor accidents and damages to the apparatus and civilian vehicles. If by chance it does hit or rub a vehicle or obstacle, it will not create that much damage to the other object or the apparatus.

Polypropylene Rub Rails
We decided to use polypropylene rub rails in place of the stainless steel or aluminum rub rails that are on most apparatus, again a tight street/tight corner decision. With the stainless or aluminum rub rail coming in contact with another vehicle or obstacle, usually damage occurs to the other car and our rig. With the poly rub rail, this contact can be easily buffed out or cleaned away. This option is a needed feature for departments that deal with congested parking lots, tight streets, and bad parking by civilians. We certainly strive for no accidents or civilian property damage from our apparatus, but unfortunately it can happen.

Angled Rear Step
To assist our drivers in the tight street/tight parking lots, we reduced the overall wheelbase and overall length of our apparatus. Having a small, compact engine is important to the crews in the street. To help them even more, we angled the rear step to prevent the corner of the tailboard from catching on cars and obstacles. Any reduction in the rear end swing-out assists the driver when driving and turning.

Electric Front Intake Valve
In our latest engines, we have returned to an inline valve for the front suction. Past units have eliminated the inline valve and had an intake valve mounted on the end of the front suction pipe. The drivers, in their desire to have a simple pump operation, have requested as many simple valves and intakes on the new units as possible. On one side of the apparatus, we use a gated inlet that has two 2½-inch inlets on the driver side pump panel. On the officer side where we hook up the LDH, we installed a new Akron Revolution valve. Both valves are manually operated and very easy to operate. For the front suction, we went with an electric valve that is operated from the driver side pump panel. The drivers wanted a backup in case the electric valve had an issue or failure with electrical power. We specified that the valve have a manual backup located on the officer side pump panel. The access panel for this manual backup was made big enough for a firefighter’s gloved hand to reach in and operate the manual valve. An electrical cut-off switch disconnects the power to the valve and allows manual operation. Once again, the operational ease for the operators and the desire for simple operation drove this option choice.

As I said in the beginning of this article, these are just some simple additions that we did to our tigs to help the operators in driving and turning, reduce damage to our apparatus and civilian property, ease of operations, and lower out of service times. If they make sense to you and your department, add them to your next apparatus purchase. Just because they work for our area and operations does not mean that they work for everybody’s areas. Thanks to Battalion Chief Eric Reith, Technician Chris Abbott, and Garage Supervisor Doug Thorn of the Prince Georges County (MD) Fire/EMS Department for these great ideas to make our apparatus better for our firefighters and our citizens.

Thanks again for taking the time to read “THE RIG” and I can be contacted at rriley@traditionstraining.com if you have any questions. Hope to see everyone out at FDIC at the end of the month.

RICKY RILEY is the fire apparatus manager for the Prince George’s County (MD) Fire/EMS Department. He previously served as the Operations Chief for Clearwater (FL) Fire and Rescue, 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 editorial advisory board of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment.

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