Apparatus Makers Recommend Routine Maintenance for Safety

Editor's Note: Fire apparatus that won't start, breaks down enroute to a call or, worst of all, fails at the scene of a fire can have catastrophic consequences. That's why having an apparatus maintenance program is vital to fire department operations.

Belts and hoses need to be checked and replaced as necessary. "Any time you tilt the cab for any reason, you should give everything a once over," he said.

When it comes to apparatus, their mechanisms need to work properly every time, largely because of the way they are driven, Miles said.

"It's a pedal to the metal response with lots of hard braking," he said, adding that's hard on vehicles.

Firefighters who drive apparatus should report funny, or unusual noises, or handling problems immediately as they could be the foreshadowing of serious mechanical problems to come.

"If it's leaking, sounds amiss, looks out of place or doesn't feel right, collect as much information as possible and report it," Miles said. "Don't be complacent when it comes to problems."

Apparatus that is used carefully and built well, can however, be relatively low maintenance says Harold Boer, president of Rosenbauer America, Central States Division in Lyons, S.D.

"Keeping a truck in good repair and well maintained really isn't that difficult," says Boer who is chief of the Lyons Fire Department and a builder of fire apparatus since the mid 1970s. He says his department has a checklist that includes checking the fluid levels routinely, checking batteries and connections and exercising the equipment by kicking the pump in and out of gear, opening and closing valves, checking the primer motors and generally making sure everything is moving and working as expected.

Tire pressure is also important and should be checked occasionally, especially if a problem is suspected, Boer says.

And like everybody in the fire service, Boer stresses the importance of good working brakes properly adjusted and performing 100 percent.

Boer also believes that a good working pump is just as essential. He's a believer in the need for annual pump tests and the importance of keeping track of the pump's performance over the life of the apparatus to trend the pump's condition.

"You want to make sure you don't have any leaking valves, or vacuum leaks," Boer says. "You might find you need a few more RPMs to get the same performance out of a pump than you did a year ago. Some of that should be expected with older apparatus, but if it's a lot, it could be a problem."