The Apparatus Architect

Several dynamics are changing the course of fire apparatus design during a time when we are "trying to do more with less." First is the impact of our country's economy and the resulting deployment strategies within fire departments.


Several dynamics are changing the course of fire apparatus design during a time when we are "trying to do more with less." First is the impact of our country's economy and the resulting deployment strategies within fire departments. In some instances, the result has been reduced staffing on engine...


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Several dynamics are changing the course of fire apparatus design during a time when we are "trying to do more with less." First is the impact of our country's economy and the resulting deployment strategies within fire departments.

In some instances, the result has been reduced staffing on engine and ladder company units; in other communities, fewer companies are responding on the initial alarm in an effort to reduce costs and the associated wear and tear on apparatus. The end result in many cases is having to bring more tools and equipment to the scene of any emergency, as staffing and financial resources no longer can support multiple pieces of apparatus with staffing of four or five personnel on each unit. Whether by design or circumstances forced upon us, departments will continue to respond to incidents with their available resources to work to effectively mitigate the condition.

The apparatus that we design today are called upon to do a multitude of duties, which requires larger, multi-function apparatus with increased compartment space for personnel, tools and equipment. When you consider the cubic-foot storage capacity of the aluminum or stainless-steel body on your apparatus, this space is some of the most expensive storage space that you will ever purchase. For this reason, it is incumbent upon your apparatus committee to carefully evaluate how this enclosed compartment space is going to be used.

Consider for a moment the standard equipment that must be carried by an engine company: nozzles, fittings, adapters, hand tools, AED, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) with spare bottles, forcible entry tools, high-rise hosepacks, extinguishers, hose clamp, portable monitor, tool box and many other items. How you decide to lay out and mount this equipment will have a direct impact on your fireground operations, training and maintenance of the equipment on the unit. The time spent in the design process of determining exactly where the equipment is going to be mounted before the engineering conference will assist both the department and the manufacturer to properly locate adjustable shelves, slide trays, tool boards and divider walls within the apparatus body.

Several fire companies in Cumberland County, PA, have taken delivery of newer units that exemplify well-designed body compartments with properly secured tools and equipment. The Empire Friendship Fire Company in Carlisle operates a 2008 Sutphen pumper as Engine 45 and responds to over 550 calls each year. The engine was designed to operate as an attack unit and is equipped with a 2,000-gpm pump, 1,000-gallon water tank, 20 gallons of Class A foam with CAFS, and a 100-gallon Class B foam cell. Engine 45 carries nine pre-connected attack lines together with three-inch leader lines and 1,500 feet of five-inch supply line.

The tools and equipment on this engine were mounted by members of the fire company who are trade craftsmen working with a combination of wooden tool boards and mounting hardware. Each piece of equipment carried on the engine is mounted with similar equipment, such as foam appliances, rural water equipment and extinguishers, which are carried to minimize the amount of space required to store each item. The Empire Friendship Fire Company set out to design a pumper that could make a good accounting of itself at the scene of any incident and with the combination of multiple attack lines, Class A and Class B foam capability and the extensive equipment inventory, Engine 45 is an excellent example of the well-developed engine company.

Some departments may take advantage of having their tools and equipment mounted at the manufacturer's facility or the dealer's location; however, this requires some coordination to have all of the appliances, tools and fittings shipped to the builder's location at the appropriate time. In addition, unless your department is acquiring all new equipment with the apparatus, it may not be feasible to have some of your equipment removed from in-service apparatus to have it sent out to the factory location.

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