Tanker Shuttles: Not Just for Rural Operations

I have been a firefighter for over 30 years and have been fortunate to work with two very progressive fire departments. While both of the departments differ greatly in their scope and service delivery areas, they both have something in common: the need...

Drafting Pits
In order to remove the nurse tanker from the operation many departments use drafting pits. These are carried on the apparatus and are dropped at a designated area where the tankers can come in and drop off their water supply for the incident. The drafting pit needs to be set up and it needs to be maintained by a crew in an area as close to the incident scene as possible. When the drafting pits are dropped and set up as the dump site, we have determined that an engine company will be assigned to that site to support the operation. Most tankers carry either one or two drafting pits and those are usually sufficient to hold the water of one tanker. Having at least two of sufficient quantity at the dumpsite is important. Two or more drafting pits will go a long way towards enhancing the overall effectiveness of the operation.

Dumpsite Set Up
The crew at the dumpsite needs to be very cognizant of scene safety when they are setting up and running operations. As the tankers move in to the dumpsite area they need to get close enough to the drafting pits to dump their water. Firefighters in the area need to be aware of this fact and they need to be very careful. Someone needs to have a good overview of the dumpsite area and they need to actively watch and monitor the working both for efficiency and for safety.

The dumpsite has been designated as part of the incident command system (ICS) structure in operations involving tanker shuttles for my department. Remember since this is a functional unit it can be a group within the ICS system, and it should be designated as such. The use of designated positions within the ICS system is important especially when it allows us to safely and efficiently handle an operation.


AL MULLINS, a battalion chief with the Fairfax County, VA, Fire Department, has been in the fire service for over 30 years. Chief Mullins has worked in operations and at the fire academy with the recruit and field training sections. He has completed several associate degrees in fire science and is finishing his bachelors degree at the University of Maryland University College. Chief Mullins was a panelist on the Engine Company Operations in Today's Buildings podcast on Radio@Firehouse.com. You can reach Al by e-mail at bonzo_mullins@msn.com.