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There are lessons to be learned from this experience. First, pump operators must be properly training and certified, then re-certified every year. Couple that with the mandatory use of the NFPA-compliant wheel chocks every time a vehicle comes to a stop outside the apparatus bay, whether it is being put into pump or not.
A big-city rescue company was responding to a call in a rescue truck that was less than a year old. The truck is state of art, with an electromagnetic auxiliary brake retarder and an NFPA electric load shedder/electrical management system. During the response, the load shedder shed the electromagnetic retarder. Now, the only way to stop the 72,400-pound rescue truck was via the service brakes. The service brakes did bring the truck to a stop, narrowly missing a civilian vehicle.
A telephone call was placed to the manufacturer, which in turn contacted the vendors that had supplied some of the components. Their consensus was that it was impossible for the load shedder to shed the retarder. But it did. After several weeks, with the rescue out of service, it was determined that an electronic signal jumped from one wire into another wire that was adjacent in a tightly packed loom, sending the false message for the load shedder to shed the auxiliary brake.
The lesson we learned is that while individual vehicle components may be excellent, in combination there may be unintended results.
Michael Wilbur, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is an FDNY lieutenant in Ladder Company 27 in the Bronx and a firefighter in the Howells, NY, Fire Department. He is an adjunct instructor at the New York State Academy of Fire Science and the Orange County Fire Training Center. Wilbur has developed and presented emergency vehicle operator courses throughout the country and has consulted on a variety of fire apparatus issues.