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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From a financial viewpoint, having custom-made mounting brackets for each piece of equipment together with using fire service-grade hardware for mounting within body compartments can add to the cost of the unit. For pumpers, plan on spending $5,000 to $8,000 for tool and equipment mounting as a minimum. Remember that any equipment that is carried inside of the cab must be enclosed within an enclosed compartment or carried in a certified 9G bracket. Better yet, carefully consider what you must carry in the cab interior and mount the hand tools adjacent to the cab on the exterior or where personnel will exit the crew-cab area.

The Upper Frankford Fire Company operates an engine, engine tanker, brush unit and several support units as Company 48 in Cumberland County. All tools and equipment carried on the company's apparatus were mounted and labeled by members of the fire company. Engine 148 is a 2008 KME Predator pumper equipped with a 1,750-gpm pump and 1,000-gallon water tank with a 20-gallon Class A foam tank. The department designed this unit to serve as the primary response unit on structural fires and automobile accidents. With this in mind, Engine 148 carries six pre-connected attack lines, 1,400 feet of five-inch supply line, an Amkus rescue tool system, four gas-powered saws and full complement of hand tools. This unit, together with Engine 248, a 2000 Spartan/Four Guys engine tanker, provide a great deal of fire attack capabilities for any incident.

Both of these units have each piece of equipment down to individual mountings for adapters, nozzles and fittings mounted and labeled within each body compartment. Department members used varnished hardwood fastened on the vertical surface of the high side compartments and inside of adjustable slide trays for equipment mounting. Then, using a commercial labeling machine, each piece of equipment was marked and identified on each shelf, slide tray and tool board. This makes equipment identification simple and easily shows when a piece of equipment is missing at the scene of any incident.

This style of tool mounting takes some time and talent to properly locate everything that we carry on our apparatus, but the dividends are large when considering the ease of training, tool maintenance and incident operations where you can account for each piece of equipment on the apparatus. The Upper Frankford Fire Company operates several well-designed apparatus that provide both safety and efficiency on the fireground.

Tool and equipment mounting can be considered to be the "icing on the cake" when it comes to apparatus design. The difference between a well-designed unit where every piece of equipment is properly secured and mounted and one where tools are lying on the floor, fittings are carried in a used milk crate and forcible entry tools are hidden behind a fire extinguisher is in the final details. The time spent up front in the planning process will pay big dividends in the end when the apparatus is delivered and placed into service. If your department is in the process of specifying a new piece of apparatus, take the time to visit stations like those in Carlisle and Upper Frankford to gain some ideas and find out how other fire companies operate with their apparatus.

TOM SHAND, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 33-year veteran of the fire service and works with Michael Wilbur at Emergency Vehicle Response, consulting on a variety of fire apparatus and fire department master-planning issues. MICHAEL WILBUR, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a lieutenant in the New York City Fire Department, assigned to Ladder Company 27 in the Bronx, and has served on the FDNY Apparatus Purchasing Committee. He consults on a variety of apparatus-related issues around the country. For further information, access Wilbur's website at www.emergencyvehicleresponse.com.