The Apparatus Architect

After many months of effort, the fire department’s apparatus committee was given the go-ahead to prepare specifications to replace Engine 3, a 1985-vintage, 1,250-gpm pumper that had provided many years of reliable service. The Village Board, after...


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Stating specific dimensions such as compartment widths and clear door openings can often lead to challenges from manufacturers that can meet the overall length requirements, but with slightly different compartment dimensions. Unless there is a critical piece of equipment such as a positive-pressure ventilation (PPV) fan or hydraulic rescue tool that must be carried in a specific location, noting the minimum-cubic-foot storage capacity of each body compartment and requiring the bidder to supply all of the principal compartment dimensions, including the clear door opening, will provide an adequate basis for comparison for the apparatus committee to review.

 

Engine scans

Another area where performance criteria should be included in the bid proposal is requiring engine scans to validate the acceleration, grade ability and road performance of the apparatus. Given the cost of high-horsepower engine and transmission components, it may not be necessary to specify a 515-hp diesel engine for a pumper in a community with largely flat terrain and short response distances. Engine scans can provide valuable information to accurately determine the anticipated road performance for different engine and rear axle combinations. Remember, if you asked for a specific engine size and horsepower and you get it wrong, you own it. If the manufacturer puts the engine in and gets it wrong, they own it.

Over the years, departments have historically upgraded the capacity of the fire pump with each successive new apparatus. While 1,000-gpm pumps were the standard for many years, fire pump manufacturers have developed single-stage pumps with common ratings up to 2,250 gpm. As centrifugal pumps are rated at draft, when fed from hydrant systems with positive intake pressure, it is possible to have a 1,250-gpm pumper produce in excess of 2,600 gpm when fed by multiple intake lines. For this reason, consideration should be given to providing sufficient large-diameter intakes on different sides of the apparatus with appropriately sized short sections of five-inch supply hose to provide heavy fire streams when required.

Rarely do pumpers maximize their rated capacity or are limited by horsepower to provide adequate fire flows at major incidents. When required to provide large-caliber streams, engine apparatus is much more dependent on the available residual pressure and flow from the water system than being limited by the rating of the fire pump, whether single- or two-stage design.

Listing components

At some point in the specifications, it will be necessary to list the various major components on the apparatus, including frame, engine, transmission, fire pump, water tank, cab and body, piping, paint and aerial device on ladder trucks to identify the various warranties along with the requested time period for each component. This is an area that is often overlooked as manufacturers will supply their standard warranty terms that are included with the apparatus purchase. Each of the requested component areas should be accompanied with specific statement of warranty from each bidder which should clearly identify any limitations or exclusions regarding repair or replacement of the part.

Body and paint warranties in particular will have stipulations regarding the extent of warranty coverage and the time frame provided when repairs would be completed at no cost to the department. For example, it is not uncommon to read through a 10-year paint warranty to find that issues with respect to corrosion and paint adhesion are fully covered only for the first three years and are pro-rated after that point.

 

Conclusion

Writing apparatus specifications can be a long and painstaking process. The details that are incorporated in the final bid documents, however, can go a long way to provide the department’s apparatus committee with the necessary legal and technical submissions to review and analyze during bid evaluations.

The slogan of a well-known clothing store said it best: “An educated consumer is our best customer.”