Positioning Aerial Apparatus On The Fire Scene: Part 1

Michael A. Wieder discusses the placement of aerial apparatus on the fireground. Safety considerations and common hazards are addressed for the apparatus operator.


For several years now, my good friend Michael Wilbur has done an outstanding job of educating the readers of this magazine on the topic of emergency vehicle driving. Obviously, one of the most basic tenets of effective fireground operations is to actually make it to the scene … in one piece...


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For several years now, my good friend Michael Wilbur has done an outstanding job of educating the readers of this magazine on the topic of emergency vehicle driving. Obviously, one of the most basic tenets of effective fireground operations is to actually make it to the scene … in one piece.

11_00_aerial1.jpg
Photo by Michael A. Wieder
When possible, operate the aerial device in line with the longitudinal axis of the apparatus.

However, safe driving is only the first step in the overall operation of fire department aerial apparatus. Assuming that you have followed Lieutenant Wilbur's words of wisdom and have arrived safely at the scene, the next step in the equation is to find the best possible position on the scene to park and operate the aerial device.

There are three primary considerations associated with positioning the aerial apparatus on the fire scene:

  1. Departmental standard operating procedures (SOPs).
  2. Incident scene conditions and considerations.
  3. The tactical needs of the incident.

Most departments have their own SOPs for positioning of aerial and other types of apparatus on the emergency scene. These procedures will vary from department to department depending on typical construction types, road conditions, the type of aerial apparatus used and numerous other considerations. Driver/operators must be extremely well versed in the SOPs that affect their particular operation of the aerial apparatus.

However, there are general considerations for aerial apparatus positioning that must be realized by all driver/operators, regardless of the jurisdiction that they serve in. This article highlights some of the incident scene conditions that aerial apparatus driver/operators must consider when determining the final parking spot for the apparatus. Part 2 will focus on the tactical considerations associated with positioning the apparatus on the scene.

The following are some of the factors that must be considered when determining a final parking spot for the aerial apparatus on the fire scene:

  • Surface conditions (soft pavement or soil).
  • Weather and wind conditions.
  • Electrical hazards and ground or overhead obstructions.
  • Angle and location of aerial device operation.
  • Fire building conditions.

Surface Conditions

The surface condition of the spotting area must be considered when using an aerial device. Apparatus should be parked on soft surfaces only as a last alternative. If working on soft surfaces, operators must watch for settling.

The stabilizer pads supplied with the apparatus are to be used whenever the stabilizer system is deployed. However, placement on soft surfaces may require additional cribbing or support materials may need to be placed under the stabilizer pads to further distribute the weight of the apparatus. When cribbing is used to supplement stabilizer stability, the material must be of adequate size and strength to withstand loading imposed by the aerial device. Ensure proper placement of cribbing to preclude slipping from underneath the stabilizer pads or stabilizer shoes.

The driver/operator must also be alert for surfaces that are stable when the incident begins but which may become unstable as the incident progresses. Frozen soil may be a stable surface as long as it stays frozen. However, apparatus exhaust and warm water from firefighting operations may cause the ground to thaw and become unstable. Even during warm weather operations, dry, solid ground can become unstable from fireground runoff. Be alert for these conditions.

Thin-skinned paved surfaces may be as problematic as soft soil. These are especially common in parking lots. Most parking lots are not constructed with the same techniques and materials as public roadways. In some cases, a parking lot may consist of merely a thin layer of asphalt applied over dirt or a minimal gravel base. The thin surface may not provide a stable enough base for the apparatus stabilizers. If stabilizer pads or cribbing are not placed beneath the stabilizer shoes, the stabilizers may puncture the parking surface, and the truck may tip over when the aerial device is operated off the side of the vehicle. Parking lots that may be problematic for aerial apparatus operations should be identified in pre-incident plans.

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