In the last installment of the Apparatus Architect series (January 2002), we discussed concepts regarding the design development of engine company apparatus and how two fire departments addressed their needs with their new units. With this article we will begin to detail some of the critical aspects of engine company apparatus and how these factors can help you and your apparatus committee in the specification development process.
One of the most important missions of the engine company is to stretch and operate hoselines at structural fires. The purpose of this first line is to protect the primary means of egress for occupants of the building and to insure that fire department personnel can safely operate within the structure.
In order to perform this mission, the engine company must be able to secure a water supply to insure that the hoselines will have a continuous and reliable water supply for the duration of the incident. For those of us who operate with fire hydrants, this water supply may be readily available. In rural areas, this water supply may be from tankers, fixed water sources or a combination of both. We must constantly reinforce that in the design of the pumper, we cannot lose sight of this most basic, yet important mission of the engine company.
Starting At The Front
We will begin our discussion of engine company apparatus at the front bumper. This is one area where many pump intake and discharge connections can be provided, along with other tools and pieces of equipment. Back in the 1970s and '80s, it was fairly common to have the front end accommodate a front intake, mechanical and electronic siren, and maybe a warning light. Today's pumpers routinely are equipped with a gated front intake, front discharge or trash line each with hose wells, air horns, sirens and multiple warning devices. It is not uncommon to have $8,000 to $10,000 worth of components located in the front bumper area. There is not a problem with providing all of this; however, you have to ask yourself, "What is protecting the front of my apparatus?"
Most apparatus are built with a 10- or 12-inch-high stainless steel bumper that can be extended 18 to 26 inches ahead of the cab. Quite often, there is very little protecting all of this real estate other than the bumper itself and some aluminum treadplate. One only has to look at the front end of a unit damaged in an intersection accident to see that this area can sustain heavy damage that can place the apparatus out of service with expensive repairs. Intersection accidents may not represent the largest percentage of apparatus accidents in a given year, but they represent the most dollars lost every year.
Insurance companies pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in apparatus repairs and certainly the construction of the front of the apparatus has a major impact on these payouts. Consideration should be given to specifying full steel channel reinforcement for the front bumper. This will aid in the prevention of intersection accident damage. This reinforcement is placed behind the bumper across the front and ties the sides back into the chassis.
The Boston Fire Department used this style of bumper reinforcement on the front end of the pumpers and also used a tubular steel design to protect the bumper area. Units operated by the Washington, D.C. Fire Department and the FDNY employ a painted steel bumper, fabricated of 80,000 psi material that is three-eighths of an inch thick. The number of holes cut into the bumper is minimized to maintain the integrity of the entire assembly.