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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All of that specialized equipment needs routine maintenance, as much as any other component on the apparatus. Christiansen, the marketing director for Ferrara, said climate control for personnel is not only a matter of comfort for occupants, but it can be required for many medical supplies often stored in apparatus cabs.
"We don't always think about climate control in apparatus, but it's important for a lot of reasons," Christiansen said.
In very hot climates, apparatus are often equipped with 120-volt AC current-powered air conditioning systems that are plugged in around the clock in the station and then powered by AC on the apparatus during responses. That way the medical supplies and other equipment in the cab are kept at a constant temperature and occupants are comfortable from the moment they get into the cab, Christiansen said. There are not many things that are user serviceable on those kinds of climate-controlled systems, but Christiansen said there are filters that should be changed routinely to keep the air fresh and the systems working efficiently. "They work like furnace filters," he said.
Ferrara also has done a lot with insulation to keep cabs cool and has found a spray-on ceramic product, called Lizard Skin, which has been found to shed heat well and has been effective on apparatus the company has shipped to Saudi Arabia.
On the extreme opposite end of the climate scale and even continental geography, Suche, who is in Manitoba, said cabs are warmed with auxiliary heaters. Pumps must also be kept warm with heater cores that take hot water from the engines and circulate it through the pump houses to prevent freezing, he said, adding that in those conditions the pump house must be completely sealed and enclosed to keep the heat in.
In Canada, where many of Suche's trucks are in service, the responses can be 50 to 80 miles. In that time, pumps can freeze solid and cause damage, or at the very least not work upon arrival. In those cases, the diesel engines may not generate sufficient heat to keep the engine at the appropriate operating temperature, and the cabs comfortable as well as the pump house, he said. Some apparatus have separate diesel-powered engines to produce supplemental heat for external uses, he said, noting that those apparatus need routine maintenance, like any mechanical equipment.
Experts agree that pumps requiring supplemental heat need more than just a heat-retaining pan on the bottom of the pump house, which does little more than catch the crud thrown up under the apparatus and provide a place for corrosion to spawn.
Pump and Body Considerations
Special attention to the pump and body components is also required to keep severe service apparatus performing optimally. Cold is an enemy of pumps that must operate with pure water in them. Freezing can do irreparable harm to the castings of even the best and newest pumps. Central drains that remove all water from the pumps, including on the discharges and intakes, can be a good option on cold weather operations.
Reedy, from General Safety, also reminds pump operators that it's important to circulate water in the pumps, from the tank to the pump and back to keep water moving and consequently keep it from freezing. It's also important not to churn water in the pump without letting it go back into the tank to dissipate heat from friction. Like extreme cold, extreme heat from friction and hot water in the pump can cause mechanical failures of the pump.
Another tip offered by Suche is to place ecologically safe antifreeze in the caps of the discharges and intakes to keep the threads from freezing and making the caps difficult to remove in the cold. And Reedy and Marvin from General Safety say exercising the pump valves often is required to make sure they open and close smoothly when needed.
"A lot of departments have one or two discharges they use all the time, and those work fine, like the front-bumper discharge, or the officer's-side rear discharge," Reedy said. "But when it comes time to use the deck gun, it's stiff and doesn't work well. That's because it hasn't been exercised regularly." He added that penetrating oil like WD40 goes a long way to routine maintenance and lubrication for many moving parts on apparatus.