The Apparatus Architect - IV

So far in the Apparatus Architect series we have reviewed various concepts of how to evaluate your departments apparatus needs, how to initiate the apparatus committee and several methods for gathering technical information. In this article we will discuss how to conduct meetings with apparatus vendors and how to make your time spent in these meetings valuable and productive for everyone.

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Photo Courtesy Mike Wilbur & Tom Shand
Pierce rear mount aerial ladder from Cherry Hill, New Jersey incorporated many unique features into the design process including a small booster pump and tank on the apparatus. Careful wording in the specifications together with plant inspections will unsure that the apparatus is built to be in compliance with your written specifications. Do not accept the statement: "We have always built them that way." Make sure that the manufacturer is adhering to the specification in all areas.

Before embarking on a series of meetings with prospective manufacturer's sales personnel, it may be wise to develop a time line for the committee to review and outline just where they are in the overall process. This will assist the committee in determining the progress that they have made to this point and determine the major benchmarks for future meetings.

As the apparatus committee has gathered information from various outside sources, you now a fair amount of data that will need to be reviewed by the committee before formally inviting some of the representatives from the apparatus manufacturers to meet with your department. Hopefully, you have kept detailed notes and photographs on some of the ideas and components that you want to design into your new apparatus. This information should be categorized by function such as: engine and drive train, fire pump, water tank, body and compartment layouts. This will help the committee organize their thoughts without missing any major component on the apparatus.

The actions taken prior to this meeting as far as the committee's ability to organize and come to some consensus on the design of the apparatus will be are some of the most important steps in the whole process. Having dealt with both types of committee's it becomes easy to make that comment. I have sat through these first representatives meeting with the committee unsure of weather they want a pumper , a pumper tanker, a pumper ladder or a rescue pumper. On the other hand some committees, at this point were well on their way to developing a set of specifications. We want you to be organized by don't fall into the trap of dictating specific sizes of engines and axles to the manufacturers representative. This usually comes back to haunt the committee for years to come. How many of you are driving in apparatus that are either over powered or under powered? Probably many of you. Why? Because your committee did not have the expertise in providing the proper engine size for the proper application. The apparatus architect can be extremely helpful with this. Also the manufactures have computers that can match topography, pump size, weight of the vehicle to the proper engine size.

Following the outline specification in the NFPA 1901 Standard beginning on page 114 will insure that all critical areas are addressed. The committee should attempt to arrive at a consensus on these major components prior to meeting with apparatus sales representatives. Consideration should be given to providing this outline information to the manufacturers representatives prior to the meeting. In this manner the salesperson can prepare some technical information and specifications to present to the committee prior to the meeting. This will allow the committee to maximize their time spent in meetings interviewing prospective manufacturers, rather than having multiple sessions with vendors to introduce them to the department's basic requirements.

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Photo Courtesy Mike Wilbur & Tom Shand
The pump panel on this late model KME pumper from Pearl River, New York incorporates suction and discharge controls, three crosslays, deck gun, booster reel and a telescopic light tower. In order for all of these controls to the laid out in a logical manner care must be taken during the preconstruction conference to insure that components will be properly located. No matter how well you write your specifications, this level of detail still must be reviewed with factory personnel.

Another concept would be for the committee to develop and produce an outline, bullet style specification covering all of the important areas on the apparatus. In areas where there are points of discussion or questions, these can be written into the outline at the appropriate points. The more information and technical questions that can be documented ahead of time, prior to the meeting, this will promote the flow of information and make the sessions much more productive for everyone.

On apparatus with complex requirements or unique designs it may be beneficial to invite the salesperson to visit the station prior to the meeting to review the fire departments existing apparatus and equipment designs. With this in mind it will be helpful for the department to prepare a detailed apparatus inventory, including sizes and weights of equipment in order to properly prepare for the overall design process. Once again, this information should be shared with the apparatus salesperson prior to the formal meeting to allow more productive use of the meeting time.

Weather the meeting is scheduled for day or evening hours the committee should develop an agenda of the topics that they want to cover during the meeting. Nothing can be more frustrating than sitting through a seemingly endless session that does not have defined objectives with no starting or stopping points. Here, the Apparatus Architect can provide valuable input to allow the committee to achieve significant progress when meeting with each of the apparatus sales personnel. Wherever possible, copies of information and technical data should be available to all committee members and this should be communicated ahead of time to the salesperson to enable them to come properly prepared to the meeting.

Each committee member should be encouraged to maintain a three ring binder with sectional dividers for each portion of the apparatus and one for each of the specific manufacturer's data. As the various components are discussed the written documentation and product data sheets can be logically maintained in this format. One member should be responsible for maintaining a photo diary of all of the apparatus that has been reviewed by the committee with written descriptions of any of the important features of the apparatus. This information can be valuable in future meetings to expand upon specific aspects and details that may be difficult to recall in later meetings.

After the initial meeting with each sales representative is concluded there should be a list of assignments developed for both the committee and the manufacturer to follow up on before another session is scheduled. The progress made during the initial meeting will dictate the schedule and agenda for any follow up sessions. As mentioned in earlier parts of the Apparatus Architect series, minutes of each meeting should be posted for other department members to review.

Once the committee has met with the apparatus sales personnel for one or two meetings, it will then be possible to request that the sales person develop a set of detailed specifications for the department based upon their requested design. This can provide some additional written technical data for the committee to review and consider in the design process. In the next part of the Apparatus Architect we will discuss the various types of apparatus specifications and how they may be utilized to the your benefit.

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