Fire apparatus and emergency equipment must respond in extreme heat, bitter cold, flooding, dusty conditions, over pothole-filled roads — you name it, it's got to be able to get there. Firefighters and first responders are like the letter carriers of the emergency services. When other people...
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That kind of severe service takes a lot out of emergency vehicles. Fortunately, there are ways fire departments can mitigate the damage extreme service can do and keep their apparatus in top shape, ready to go in any weather and any condition.
Firehouse® Magazine and Firehouse.com have talked to several experts in the care of apparatus used for severe service, including manufacturers making vehicles for use in the Arctic and in the Middle East and points between. They tell us keeping apparatus fit for severe service starts with building vehicles to meet the needs and is followed up by sound, practical maintenances.
This is the second of at least four articles on the topic of apparatus maintenance planned for 2010. Additional coverage on the topic of maintenance for severe service apparatus, including additional stories and podcasts, can be found at www.firehouse.com/0510-apparatus.
Aerial Product Manager
Ferrara Fire Apparatus Inc.
CAPTAIN RANDY COVERT
Elgin, IL, Fire Department
General Safety Division
Vice President and General Manger
General Safety Division
President and Owner
Fort Garry Fire Trucks Ltd.
When the temperatures hit minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or plus 115 degrees, all kinds of bad things can happen to apparatus that are not prepared for the extremes, including catastrophic failure of critical components. Apparatus in a continuous salt spray from road treatments used to melt ice and snow can experience serious body and suspension failures if they're not cleaned and lubricated regularly. And apparatus subjected to routine pounding over gravel and dirt roads, or city streets pocked with potholes can experience suspension damage without the proper care.
Overall, many apparatus are subjected to conditions that can be considered immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) to mechanical devices on a daily basis.
Experts from General Safety-Rosenbauer America, Fort Garry Fire Trucks, Ferrara Fire Apparatus and the Elgin, IL, Fire Department all offer advice on how to keep apparatus going no matter what Mother Nature throws at them.
"The key to keeping apparatus on the road is to keep them clean and the crude off of them and make repairs as soon as you discover an issue," said Captain Randy Covert, fleet manager for the Elgin Fire Department. "You need to go through apparatus top to bottom to make sure everything is in good repair."
Starting at the bottom, apparatus frames, suspension and tires are critical areas to be maintained in severe conditions. It's where the proverbial rubber meets the road, and also the place that is most subjected to all the crud and dirt the elements can sling at them.
Rick Suche is president and owner of Fort Garry Fire Trucks Ltd., an apparatus builder in Winnipeg, Manitoba, building a full line of emergency equipment for all of Canada with some apparatus making their way into the United States and around the world. His trucks are in service in some of the most extreme areas of the planet, including the Arctic.
"People look at our trucks and think we're building tanks," Suche said, noting apparatus endurance for extremes starts with solid apparatus construction. Fort Garry trucks are constructed of 5083 saltwater marine-grade aluminum to stand up to the rigors of what is essentially a constant saltwater spray, Suche said, adding the company also paints all surfaces and seals seams. To maintain the integrity of the body and prevent corrosion, Suche recommended the surfaces be kept cleaned, covered with paint and seams sealed.