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Apparatus Maintenance: Severe Conditions Require Extra Apparatus Care

Editor's Note: This article is one of four that features web exclusive coverage of the "Apparatus Maintenance: Ensuring Extreme Service in the Toughest Conditions" feature starting on page 56 of the May issue of Firehouse Magazine. Look for additional articles and podcasts below.

Fire apparatus and emergency equipment must respond in any weather, 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 park their vehicles and wait, firefighters and first responders must go and take care of the situation regardless.

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 collection of stories equals the second of at least four topics on apparatus maintenance planned for 2010.

When the temperatures hit minus 40 degrees F, 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."

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