Sensible Upgrades For New Apparatus

R. J. “Bob” Barraclough discusses upgrades and the specification-writing process that begins with obtaining a copy of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901 Standard, 2003 edition.


Do you have a new apparatus looming on the horizon? Are you familiar with the specification-writing process? Photo By R.J. “Bob” Barraclough Your first step should be to obtain a copy of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901 Standard, 2003 edition (call the...


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Do you have a new apparatus looming on the horizon? Are you familiar with the specification-writing process?

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Photo By R.J. “Bob” Barraclough

Your first step should be to obtain a copy of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901 Standard, 2003 edition (call the NFPA at 800-344- 3555). Next, familiarize yourself with the contents in Chapters 1 through 26, then turn to page 140 of Annex B.

Among other things, Annex B contains a 21-page questionnaire that mirrors the chapters in the main body of 1901. It’s filled with both basic and thought-provoking questions on what you and/or your apparatus committee would like to see (or expect) in the next “rig.” As an example, it asks if you want fender liners and does the apparatus need to be designed for off-road operation?

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Photo By R.J. “Bob” Barraclough

Be honest and answer using the combined knowledge and experience of your full committee. Believe me, if you spend the time here, your discussions with the representatives of the apparatus builders will go much smoother. Hint: you will save much time if you send a copy of the completed questionnaire to the reps before they come in to present their “dog and pony shows.”

Next, it would be a good time to determine whether you want a specific builder to construct this apparatus or are you required to write a general spec to attract multiple bidders? If you want a Seagrave, a Pierce, a Rosenbauer or whatever, AND you have the luxury of not having to go out to bid, do not spend the time and effort researching and writing a specification. Call in the manufacturer’s rep and negotiate a price for the apparatus and equipment you want. This will save everybody much time, money and aggravation.

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Photo By R.J. “Bob” Barraclough

However, if you are like the majority of fire departments, you are required to go out to bid for major purchases such as apparatus. This means researching and developing a spec that hopefully describes the vehicle that will meet your needs for now and for some time in the future.

All fire apparatus manufacturers have detailed specifications that describe specific apparatus in their lines. Generally, most departments take a builder’s spec and modify it to reflect local needs and desires. That’s a good start, as long as the basic spec includes all of the 1901 requirements for that type of rig.

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Photo By R.J. “Bob” Barraclough

Now, the “plot thickens.” NFPA 1901 is a basic spec; that is, it’s a place to start. From the 1901 basics, how you customize the spec will ultimately determine how well the unit satisfies the needs of your firefighters and your community. So, let’s take a look at some of the options or upgrades from 1901 that you may want to consider. We’ll start at the front bumper and move to the rear step. This list is not meant to be all inclusive. It’s just some suggestions I have from studying thousands of rigs over the past 40 years.

Front bumpers are now workstations on most rigs. I’ve seen front bumpers on rescue pumpers with two sets of rescue tools, including reels. At the very least, one or two pre-connects should be provided in this area supplied by two-inch or 21¼2-inch piping with storage for at least 100 feet of 11¼2-or 13¼4-inch hose for each discharge. Some departments substitute 100 or 200 feet of one-inch lightweight, single-jacket forestry line for one of the 13¼4-inch discharges.

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Photo By R.J. “Bob” Barraclough

Front suctions are popular in some areas, but if you want one, you need to investigate how to keep the elbows to a minimum when “snaking” the four- to five-inch piping to the front. A right side, low intake, in or on top of the gravel pan seems to offer the best water flow capabilities.

Warning lights on the front of the cab are the next area to consider. NFPA 1901 has some very specific requirements to ensure minimum lighting when both clearing or blocking the right of way. The best advice is to require the NFPA minimum lighting be from a single lighting manufacturer and then customize the rest according to your local desires.

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