Firehouse® Roundtable: Apparatus Maintenance

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...


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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Marvin said there are still a few apparatus out there with mechanical pressure-relief valves that seldom get exercised sufficiently and, because of that, don't work when they need to.

"Lots of times, someone sets the pressure-relief valve and says 'don't touch that,' " Marvin said. "But that's not the way it works. It needs to be moved to make sure it works."

The same goes for two-stage pumps, he said, noting that often departments don't test the high side and the volume side of the pump just to make sure they can get water in both modes.

"Can you get water to the other side?" Marvin said, asking a rhetorical question about a department's ability to get water from the high-pressure side of the pump.

The Elgin Fire Department's Covert has pump operation testing down pat — Covert hires Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to do annual pump testing on his fleet. "UL does it exactly the same way every year so it's easy to trend pump performance year to year," Covert said.

He added he also appreciates having the documentation and being relieved of the liability for certifying pump performance. That way when he goes to his superiors or to the City Council for money for repairs, he has third-party testing documentation to support his request for repairs or replacement.

And when it comes to body maintenance, Reedy said cleaning and lubricating door locks, hinges and jambs goes a long way to making the bodies serviceable for the life of the apparatus. Exposed surfaces and chips ought to be covered as soon as possible to prevent corrosion, Reedy said, noting that general cleaning and washing is a given. And, that's one thing most firefighters do well.

"You can tell when you see a clean fire truck, it's usually a well-maintained truck," Covert said.

ED BALLAM, a staff writer for Firehouse.com, is a firefighter with the Haverhill Corner, NH, Fire Department, a nationally certified EMT, and holds certifications in emergency vehicle operations and pump operations. He is a former managing editor of Fire Apparatus and Emergency Equipment magazine.