The Apparatus Architect: Part 11

Tom Shand and Michael Wilbur continue their series on preparing specifications for apparatus by reviewing considerations when designing body compartments and storage areas on a pumper.


In the last installment of the Apparatus Architect (July 2002) we discussed the importance of proper pump panel design and layout. This area, set aside for the plumbing and instrumentation of the apparatus, has a large impact on the ability of the engine company chauffeur to insure a continuous and reliable supply of water on the fireground. Careful consideration of the pump panel layout during the design process will improve the overall operation and performance for the engine company crew, as well as enhance safety for all personnel.

With this article we will review some of the considerations when designing the body compartments and storage areas on the pumper. If you were to evaluate the relative cost of the enclosed compartments on a pumper, it would become apparent that this area is some of the most expensive real estate that you can purchase. A fairly standard Class A pumper produced on a custom chassis can easily cost $350,000 to $375,000.

For the past several years, the fire apparatus industry has experienced cost increases that follow the normal pace of inflation. With these thoughts in mind, it is important that we engineer and plan out what tool and equipment space will be required for the compartments, as well as laying out the proper space for our attack and supply lines on the apparatus.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901 standard requires a minimum of 40 cubic feet of enclosed compartment space and 30 cubic feet of storage space for supply line on a pumper. In addition, the apparatus must have sufficient axle and carrying capacity for 2,000 pounds of equipment plus the required hose load specified by the fire department.

Let's suppose that your fire department is designing a rescue engine that is going to replace an older pumper and small rescue truck. Your apparatus committee must carefully evaluate your anticipated equipment storage requirements for the new apparatus. This should include the development of the proposed equipment inventory, which will detail the equipment size and weight. Gathering this information will assist the committee in guiding them through the design of the body compartments.

Due to the high cost, per square foot, of compartment space and the limited amount of compartment space, the days of unloading equipment off the old apparatus, then backing in the new apparatus and trying to figure which tools and equipment will fit where are gone forever. The apparatus committee should have a good idea of which tools are going to go into which compartments before construction of the vehicle begins.

Just about every apparatus builder produces some type of program pumper that is designed to meet the needs of some fire departments. Believe it or not, not all of these units meet the NFPA standards and some of these pumpers may not meet your department's needs as well. A famous East Coast clothing outfitter developed the company slogan, "An educated consumer is our best customer." Nothing could be more true in this case.

The apparatus that appears to be a bargain with a low purchase price with some of the features that your apparatus committee was considering may not be a bargain at all if it does not meet all of the needs of your department and the community you serve. Furthermore, the bargain you get today could be a maintenance nightmare tomorrow. For example, if your equipment inventory suggests that you will require a 4,000-pound payload on your new apparatus, then specify the appropriate components to carry this intended load. Overloaded fire apparatus is more common than you may think and can often be the cause of poorly performing or accident-prone units, as well as being just plain unsafe.

Can fire apparatus be NFPA compliant and still be unsafe? The answer is yes. Fire apparatus are built every day in this country that are unsafe, don't work very well, are user unfriendly and still NFPA compliant. NFPA 1901 is a minimum standard and apparatus committees should look to enhance those requirements whenever possible.

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