1. #1
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    Jun 2005

    Question Platform vs Stick

    Beat me if necessary, but I serached and searched but couldn't find this exact topic discussed. It is hit here and there in various threads but not alone and I know that it is a hot topic. Maybe I just am no good at searching. I'll just simplify this debate into one thread. Anyway, here is what I am looking for:

    My department is going to be replacing an aerial in the next few years. It currently doesn't get used much as it is old, slow, and not user friendly. I know that the guys will want a platform as that is what the departments around us have. The truck we are replacing is an 1960's Pirsch 85' midmount stick with a pump. I also know that we will want a pump on this truck. What are the advantages vs. disadvantages of a platform vs a stick? What factors determine the need for a platform over a stick? A platform seems almost too much for us. I'm sure we would want at least 100'. We are a small POC department that covers a population of 10,000 people and run about 350 calls per year. Any informative input would be great.

  2. #2
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    The North East


    My opinion is this:
    Given the choice for one truck Co. I would take the platform.

    Platform: It provides a better aerial master stream, and easier rescues. Given todays overuse of lightweight construction materials we are graduating away from standing on roofs that need to be vented. Standing on a towers bucket lip (not on a Peirce Dumpster bucket) allows for better cut with less chance of falling through (especially when tethered to the rail). There are disadvantages that cannot be overlooked: towers are generally larger taller for rearmounts longer for mids. Their heavier than sticks and cannot be used to "punch out" windows. (although you are safer venting from the bucket than from the stick). Their size makes driving them more difficult and leads to more mishaps. Oh yeah- More $$$!

    Sticks: Usually faster to set up and swing into position. Lighter over the road (apples to apples). The tip can be used to break out windows if need be (not recommended or allowed by the manufacturers) but a valid tactic if properly done. Cheaper. Downsides: you have to be exposed to direct the master stream from the nozzle point (best to hit objective). Venting from the stick is a pain in the azz. Multiple rescues require at least one firefighter per victim and is very slow comparitively.

    You say there are other towers around? How about other sticks? What the distance or time required to get the second due truck and what type is it? Our decision to change was easy because we had a stick on eithe side of us and no tower for 2 hours.

  3. #3
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    The closest tower would be a Bronto about 15 mins and about 10 miles away from our downtown area and thats drive time, not including time to put the truck into service. We are on the westside of the metro area and are the farthest department west with any kind of aerial. The only other one would be about 15 miles out and that is a 100' pierce platform. We can get them there but it would take time.

  4. #4
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    We run an older bucket/platform and I think RFD has hit it just about on the nose. Due the age of our older modle Sutphen it does get up and go .......but it is not nearly as "big" sizewise and any newer platform.
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  5. #5
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    Southeast PA


    I also have to say RFD pretty much nailed it. We cover a township of ~20,000 and run ~600 calls per year. The way we run our truck the stick works better for us. The truck runs first due out of our station on everything but small fires (cars, dumpsters, brush), so having the lighter truck (68,000lbs) makes it a little easier on tires, brakes and drivers among other things. We also have 3 100' towers and one 75' stick in our bordering districts so we're pretty well covered. A tower is a definate plus if you get into a defensive situation and need master streams. I would much rather stand in a bucket that hang on the stick for that, but its really not that bad. I have vented roofs from the tip of the stick and had no problems, however I've never vented from a tower bucket so I really can't make a comparison there. I will say I would rather run the stick than a tower, but if we were purchasing a 2nd aerial and it was up to me... 95' Aerialscope on a Pierce or Seagrave.

  6. #6
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    Personally I'd go with the aerial, TL's are a good defensive tool but due to size and set set up time the aerial is the way to go if you're going to run it as a truck. The time needed to set up and place the bucket of a TL with all of todays "compliance" items is absurd, if you are planning on using this for rescue of an occupant at a window. If you plan on (or your manpower and operations dictate) defensive operations then a TL is ok. As for the previous post about the guy at the tip to control the stream, electric monitor does the trick.
    As for being the only ladder for xx miles, don't buy a truck for someone elses district, let them worry about that, buy what suits your departments needs.
    There is a definite cost factor involved too, the difference between a 100' TL and a 100' rear mount aerial can be as much as $300-400K that's another engine where i come from. I would advise you to hire a consultant that specializes in this type of discussion, they'll come in with an unbiased determination based on your area, and what you expect the rig to do. The cost of their services is minimal when you consider that this rig will cost in the range of $500K to $1 Million and will have to last a long time.

  7. #7
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    Chesapeake Bay


    Look at the streets in your response district and see how many places you 'll have to make multiple attempts at getting in the block. Some towers are monsters but so are some rear mounts.

    If in the justification of a tower the subject comes up of having the capability to perform a "flying standpipe" comes up, it is a flawed, dangerous tactic. You may be the only aerial device for miles, you've tied up the stick to run an attack line and there may be people appearing in windows needing rescued. Some of them might be Brothers. That umbilical cord can be cut or uncoupled but it takes time and is a poor tactic.

  8. #8
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    Without repeating what has already been stated, allow me to add the following:

    1) Don't buy a type of rig just because the neighboring town(s) have one. Keeping up with the Jones' gets expensive and is impossible long term to maintain. And you don't always get what you need that way too boot.

    2) DO A NEEDS A ASSESSMENT OF YOUR TERRITORY to determine what YOUR DEPARTMENTS NEEDS. Nothing more simply than that. The guys want a platform, but is the extra expense and other matters warranted? I can tell you that your a fool if you don't buy a TL/LT. But what do I know about your territory? Answer: Nothing. Look at the limitations and factors you have: Average setback from the street for structures, building construction types, types of occupancies, bridge and tunnel restrictions, street construction and their average widths, target hazard types, GPM requirements, etc. Use THIS information to determine what length of aerial you need. Then use the remaining information to determine the type. Just because you determine you need a TL/LT, it may not need to be a 100' but rather a 75', not what the neighboring town has. You may find you need nothing more than a 50' tele-squrt or you may find that a 135' Bronto or 85' Snorkel is the best fit.

    3) Think about complimenting rig types versus repetition of the same type. As already mentioned, the versatility offered by one may not be capable by the other type.

    4) Do you need a tank and pump on your rig? Only you can answer that. Do your average staffing levels allow you to pull a pumper and truck, or just 1 piece? Do you need a "Do it all" rig or can you turn out 2 and 1 on every box alarm? No matter which way you go, you can only get so much on a rig that can only be so big by DOT. TL/LT/Straight Stick apparatus are all limited in one way or another. Determine what you need the rig to do. Not just look pretty and get polished every 3rd Monday, but what the rig needs to do at 02:00hrs on a Wednesday morning and conversely at 14:00hrs on a Saturday. Determine the amount of water you need (If any), the hosebed setup (If any), compartment space needs to carry what you need this year and 5 years down the road (Remember this atleast a 15 year rig), the ground ladder package that is needed based upon your occupancy types, etc. You may find that your equipment/tool needs outway your need for a tank/pump/hosebed due to your available personnel or even for a platform for the rare occurance of the "Big One". Build your rig to do the everyday job, not the one in 5 year one. This is not to say that you shouldn't be able to handle that one either, it is just a matter of balance.

    5) Don't pick a rig maker before you determine what type of rig you need and what you need it to do. Some makers are limited in regards due their construction methods, materials and engineering. You may want a Pierce, but you find that the Seagrave works better for you. Or hell, even an E-One.

    6) Now some considerations when determining platform vs. stick:

    A) When dealing with ambulatory people, you can move more people over a stick than you can a LT and alot more than with a TL. Although, it is easier to talk a civilian into a platform than onto a stick. LOL.

    B) The ability to put the water where you want it will be safer for your personnel with the platform.

    C) The ability to remove an incapacitated person is safer and better with a platform.

    D) Generally speaking, a LT/TL will be able to flow more water from the platform monitors than a stick.

    E) Most TL/LT rigs have a bigger footprint on the fireground than sticks. Depending on the maker.

    F) The ability to do exterior work is safer and more efficient when working from a platform than when on a stick.

    G) Technical rescue applications are greater with a platform than with a stick.

    H) Generally, a stick is less expensive than a platform if speced equally in every other way.

    So endith my rant. Just some feelings on the matter.
    Last edited by STATION2; 03-24-2006 at 02:51 PM.
    Stay low and move it in.

    Be safe.


  9. #9
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    We are looking to replace our Ladder 1 in the near future with a tower ladder. I did a little project for my Chief so he can show the powers that be that we need to replace the rig. This is justification section, written so the politicos can understand it.

    The core section of the city is the downtown area, with apartments and/or office space over commercial occupancies. Marlborough’s housing mix ranges from small single and two family homes in the core area to large single family homes to the east and west. Marlborough has 21 apartment complexes, 72 condominium complexes (both the townhouse and garden apartment style) and four mobile home parks.

    In addition to the housing mix, Marlborough also has a major shopping mall and stand alone retail occupancies on the border with the town of Berlin, numerous strip malls along US Route 20 containing both commercial and retail occupancies, and two industrial park and 10 commercial condominium complexes.. Among our target hazards in the industrial areas are a propane gas distribution facility, a manufacturer of chemicals for the electronics industry, an industrial gas facility, two wastewater treatment plants and a large water treatment plant operated by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority that serves not only Marlborough but the metropolitan Boston area.

    Outside of Boston, Marlborough has the largest number of hotels rooms in the state with nine major hotels, one of them with a trade show auditorium, two nursing homes, a large assisted living facility, a 160 bed hospital, five private and public elementary schools, 1 charter school, an intermediate/middle school and two high schools.

    Marlborough also has a recreational lake, numerous reservoirs and ponds, a small privately owned airport and two ice skating facilities with a total of 6 rinks that operate just about 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    Between residential, commercial/retrial and industrial occupancies, there are over 14,000 structures in the city protected by the Marlborough Fire Department.

    Ladder 1 is the oldest truck in the Marlborough Fire Department’s fleet. Ladder 1 is a 1982 Emergency One 110’ aerial built on a PemFab cab/chassis. To extend Ladder 1’s service life, it has already been refurbished twice. The body work was done in the mid 1990’s, and the aerial was refurbished in the late 1990’s. Pemberton Fabricators, the manufacturer of the chassis, stopped building fire apparatus chassis in 1998, and finding parts for body work and routine maintenance of the vehicle is difficult.

    While Ladder 1 has passed it annual aerial ladder testing, it no longer meets the safety standards as put forth in NFPA standard 1500, Fire Department Occupational Health and Safety nor NFPA standard 1901 for motorized fire apparatus, as Ladder 1 does not have a fully enclosed cab. Two firefighters must ride in the jumpseat area, protected by only “mansaver” bars and seatbelts. Due to the truck’s age and difficulty in finding parts, it has become no longer cost effective to keep refurbishing a truck that will not meet the safety standards of NFPA 1500 and 1901.

    The City needs to have two Ladder trucks in service. Three of the apartment and condominium complexes have buildings that can be categorized as high rises, and there are large setback areas in some of the apartment and condominium complexes. The size and number of the buildings in these complexes necessitates having both Ladder companies respond for working and multiple alarm fires for occupant rescue and firefighting operations. In addition to the apartment and condominium complexes, there are large office buildings anywhere from 5 to 6 stories high with the same setback problems due to the layout of the lots and the requirements for green space.

    Out of Marlborough’s nine hotels, four of them can be classified as high rise buildings with an average height of 5 to 6 stories, again with the setback requirements for green space that can make access for fire department vehicles difficult at times. The hotels are usually fully booked between the high tech companies, the shows at the trade center and the tournaments/shows at the ice rinks. This high occupant load has the potential to be challenging in fire situations. The mall, with over 1 million square feet of retail space is a “horizontal high rise” with its own set of potential fire problems.
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  10. #10
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    Oct 2002
    The North East


    I hope I didn't mislead anyone here. I would never advocate the use of a tower or any other aerial as a "flying standpipe". Just a huge waste expensive equipment. Also, when considering what your neighbors have, I meant do they complimant your needs? Not really looking to provide something they need. When we decided to buy a tower we were confident that given the need for a stick we can get one from next door fairly quickly, as opposed to wishing for a tower that was two hours away. I will respectfully disagree with our Brother from NY on the electronic nozzle being as good as the tower gun. Nothing puts the wet stuff on the red stuff more accurately than a firefighter aiming down the barrel. Certainly deciding he fit of your community for a stick or tower is important. We have few residential buildings over three stories. If we need to perform an immediate rescue on arrival, ground ladders will generally still be the fastest. If we had many 4 or more story buildings I'd want a first due stick for rescue. You need to evaluate the community you serve. We did hire a nationally recognized consultant and he too concluded that the tower was the right fit for our department. I can assure you this man will not shine you on, he also chastised us for other poor choices made in the past and helped us develop better specs, apparatus replacement plans and long range planning.

    A few more questions to ask:
    1. What types of buildings make up your community? Mostly 3 story or less? Many four or more story? Tons of mini-malls and strip malls?

    2. How are your streets? Wide and well laid out? Narrow with double parked cars? How about railroad bridge clearances? Any bridges with low weight restrcitions? Many dirt drives?

    3. How close is the second due truck? Can you get it automatically on target buildings?

    4. Does your dept. allow firefighters to operate on the stick during defensive ops? Will they? Should they? (we stopped this about 8 years ago)

    5. What do you expect from the truck? You need to buy what fits your bill.

  11. #11
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    All of the comments you've received are helpful, however, your own community and run history should be guiding your decision process. Also, it is rare that a community or department has the resources to address both what can happen (the what if scenarios) and what does happen (the actual fire experience for your community). Personally, I believe your resources should be say 70-80% based on what does happen. Case in point, as a community of 10,000, how many civilians do you rescue with your aerial apparatus in a year? on average, probably none and if it probably wouldn't be uncommon for a community your size to have a aerial that over its entire life never is involved in a civilian fire rescue scenario. We are a volly department covering almost 30,000 people with two ladders and both are in the 15-17 yr old range and neither has ever been involved with a civilian rescue off the aerial.

    We run a 105 ft. RMA no pump/tank and 75 RMA quint. The 75 footer essentially runs a truck, the pump/tank are pretty much useless based on the number of engines we run and our response SOGs. But that's another discussion. Our 105' is the bread and butter aerial for us, we use the 75' aerial in very rare cases where the 105' won't fit and we want to use the aerial. Our use of either truck is probably 95% for roof access, both commerical and residential and our preference is the straight stick vs. a platform. In fact, it were up to me, I'd spec the next one without a pre-piped water way. We use it very rarely and when you are trying to access shorter commerical buildings particularly in tight qtrs, the water way is a problem.

    We also run no pump/tank which I believe is a far better way to go for us. With our basic 2 and 1 response and a 3rd engine and possibly a 4th is not too far back, there is no real need for a pump/tank. When we do go with master stream ops, there's no shortage of engines to commit to that operation (we will have our 4 engines + a number of MA engines as well). We make much better use of the extra space for a solid ground ladder compliment and for other equipment.

    Sounds like your committed to the pump/tank. I just can't see how you can run a platform as a quint routinley. Some departments do it with a stick. Heck, one department I was with ran 100' RM platform quint and in some cases we couldn't even get close enough to the scene just for ground ladders becuase of tight access issues.

    Good luck.

  12. #12
    tny is offline
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    Here's a copy of post I made a year or two ago on this very same subject, hope it helps a bit. I'm sure others have already covered many of the same points on this thread. I just don't have the time to edit at the moment.

    Good Luck and Stay Safe

    We'll utilize an aerial with a 500 lb tip load in my comparison. I personally believe the super heavy-duty aerial models (750 to 1000 pound tip load ratings) to be a bit excessive and totally eliminate many of the advantages of the aerial (straight stick). The super-heavy-duty aerials require the same massive octopus like jacking systems that a platform requires minus the safety & large caliper stream maneuverability -- advantages of the bucket. Some MFG’s platform jacking systems are less obtrusive (2 extending or radial jacks instead of 4 H’s).

    The Tower Ladder/Ladder Tower will also meet minimum NFPA requirements for tip load both wet and dry.

    First you need to answer some district/response area questions.

    What type of structures do I have in my district or response area and where do the greatest % of my fires occur:
    · Singe occupancy or multiple occupancy residential (single family- ranches, cape cods, high ranches, split levels etc. -- 2-1/2 ‘s and 3’s -- Queen Ann’s, Victorians or multi family garden apartments? What’s the set back of these structures?
    · Multiple story/family residential --- apartment buildings 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 floors above ground level.
    · Multiple use occupancies first floor commercials (store-fronts with apartments above).
    · Multistory -- office buildings, light or heavy industrial buildings and/or storage mfg facilities.

    What type of setting is my response area? These are my personal definitions.

    · Urban – very densely populated, narrow congested streets with cars parked on both sides. Structures have short setbacks from the street and are built abutting each other or with narrow alleyways between. May or may not have low to moderate height tree’s and/or overhead utilities. Retail, commercial and industrial structures are found in close proximity to residential up to and including abutting or above each other. Made up of multiple story/occupancy buildings up to and including High-Rises.

    · Urban/Suburban – densely populated found mostly in the North East/MidAtlantic and Midwest (older suburbs built in close proximity to older cites). Roads are narrow laned congested (cars parked on both sides of streets) lined with trees and power poles. Structures have relatively short setbacks (15’-30’) from the street. Retail, commercial and industrial structures are found in close proximity to residential, usually not abutting each other. High quantity of strip stores (tax payers) many with apartments above especially in downtown areas. May have multiple story/occupancy buildings up to and including High-Rises. Many single-family structures now illegally converted to multiple occupancies without the required building-safety upgrades (cellar/basement apartments).

    · Suburban – moderately to lightly populated. Usually wider streets with larger/longer driveways that usually alleviates the issue of on-street parking. May have buried utility lines/cable or may be installed in rear yards. Structures have moderate to high set backs from the roadway 30’ +. Retail, commercial and industrial structures are usually isolated away from residential areas in shopping malls, office/industrial parks. Major roadways are dotted with strip stores usually without apartments above.

    · Rural -- out there in the sticks, lots of room. May have quite a bit of unpaved roads/driveways that limit access to residential structures. You usually have to drive to one of the settings listed above to go to work or shopping. There may be some very high hazard facilities both above and below-ground in the middle of farmland. Above and below-ground propane/petroleum/petrochemical, munitions, refining, Mfg or storage.

    Advantages - Tower Ladder/Ladder Tower:

    · Safety, Safety, Safety – stable platform area to work off when performing OV and exterior overhaul operations. Especially valuable when performing roof ventilation on structures with peaked roofs i.e. Queen Ann’s, Garden Apartments, Truss, Gables – etc.
    · Safety -- Its a lot easier (less fatiguing) to ride the saws, axes, roof hooks, haligans etc. up to the roof in the bucket as opposed to them being strapped on your shoulder and in your free hand and walked up the ladder. Especially when being done at low angles of elevation. BTW, if I had a choice between using an interior stairway of an adjoining structure or aerial (stick) to carry my tools to the roof, I’d choose the adjoining buildings interior stairway.
    · Safety – Occupant removal especially when incapacitated. Self-explanatory.
    · Safety – Ease of - and safe repositioning of device with FF’s still at tip and operating from bucket. (Should not be routinely done with aerials however, we all know there are times when you must make exceptions.)
    · Master-stream usually 1000gpm or above that can be positioned anywhere from ground level and up – left and right without interrupting the flow. Ability to operate master-stream appliance anywhere from the 8:00 to 10:00 O’clock positions with the platform elevation at or between the –10 to 70+ degree positions (depending upon mfg spec’s).

    Disadvantages - Tower Ladders/Ladder Towers:

    · Vehicle dimensions & footprint are usually much greater than that of an aerial (stick).
    · May not be able to access many of the streets in your district/response area due to overall vehicle size
    · Requires higher level of chauffer training ie. Larger overall vehicle size, operational and tactical differences (when to enter and not enter the fire block, positioning of device, etc.).
    · May not be able to pass the tower ladders elevating superstructure and bucket between obstructions due to increased width and height ie. between utility/cable/telephone -- lines/poles, trees, narrowly spaced buildings etc.
    · Increased number of extending jacks (usually two sets—4h’s) and greater jack spread even when shorted. May not be able to deploy jacks due to narrow roadways or parallel obstructions ie. Parked vehicles.
    · Higher purchase cost -- somewhere between 100,000 to 300,000 or more depending upon spec’s and mfg.
    · Higher maintenance costs due to greater complexity and size ie. larger/heavier duty superstructure & driveline (engine, transmission, axles & brakes).
    · Depending upon the Type/MFG (Tower Ladder/Ladder Tower. The elevating platform may not have a continuous means of ingress and egress other than an emergency escape ladder. Not a big deal if your dept has both aerials and elevating platforms. When a FF makes entry into a window or onto a roof via an aerial or tower ladder a continuous means of egress must be supplied. The unit that placed the FF in the window or onto the roof should not be moved to or utilized at another location unless it has been confirmed that the FF has another safe accessible means of egress (another tower ladder/ladder tower, aerial, adjoining roof, etc).

    I’m not going to separately list the +’s and –‘s of the Aerial (straight stick) since most can be surmised from the tower ladder/ladder tower evaluation. For the most part I’d just be repeating myself with a few exceptions.

    Once again these are just my observations and opinions. I’m sure others on this forum will supply you with some valuable insight. I would suggest that you do a search for articles written by the experts --- Chief Bill Peters (retired JCFD), Lt Mike Wilbur (FDNY), Chief Harry Carter (retired NFD) and Chief Vincent Dunn (retied FDNY).

    Mike Wilbur has written quite a few articles on Aerials and Tower Ladders in recent issues of Firehouse Magazine, some can also be found on this web page as well.
    Last edited by tjsnys; 03-27-2006 at 03:41 PM.

  13. #13
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