The Apparatus Architect: Part 2 - Working With Fire Department Resources

Tom Shand and Michael Wilbur discuss the makeup of an apparatus purchasing committee and how it can work to acquire apparatus meeting its department's requirements.


In our August article we presented concepts regarding the process of designing and writing specifications for a new piece of apparatus. This installment will discuss the makeup of an apparatus purchasing committee and how it can work to acquire apparatus meeting its department's requirements. An...


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In our August article we presented concepts regarding the process of designing and writing specifications for a new piece of apparatus. This installment will discuss the makeup of an apparatus purchasing committee and how it can work to acquire apparatus meeting its department's requirements.

An apparatus purchasing committee must have adequate time to define the fire department's specific needs, research individual components and develop a list of specific design criteria. While there are no standards or guidelines for timetables, it is reasonable to expect that it will take the committee six to 12 months to conduct this research and develop preliminary specifications for the apparatus.

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Photo by Tom Shand
This 2,000-gpm, 50-foot TeleSqurt-equipped pumper from Syracuse, NY, is the result of input from the fire department's apparatus committee, department shops and the training division. Well-designed emergency apparatus doesn't just happen, it has to be planned.

This is the time that an apparatus architect could be a tremendous resource and help save valuable time in the preparation of apparatus specifications. The quality of the final product will in large part depend on how much time is devoted to the planning and research portion of the specifications and this could be favorably impacted by the apparatus architect.

The number of personnel and the make-up of the apparatus committee is critical to the overall success of the process. The ideal number of people comprising the apparatus committee is five to seven. A larger group may be difficult to manage because of the varying personalities within the committee, and frequent disagreements can disrupt the continuity and forward progress of the group. On the other hand, a committee of fewer than five people may result in a restricted flow of ideas and innovations, and could provide a forum in which one or two people dominate the group.

It is important to have several levels within the department represented on the committee. Company officers, drivers or engineers as well as firefighters can provide valuable input from their perspectives regarding the overall design of the apparatus. Department personnel responsible for health and safety as well as the department mechanic can provide invaluable input to assist in the design process. The New York City Fire Department, for example, recognized this many years ago and has an apparatus committee in place with equal representation among officers, firefighters and driver/operators. Along with these individuals are representatives from the safety and fleet maintenance divisions.

Maintenance records can be reviewed to evaluate components or assemblies that have failed or required frequent maintenance. Just about everyone has a favorite component that he or she would like to have installed on the new apparatus, but this can lead to a rig with mismatched components where everyone can point to something and say, "They bought that because of me."

10_00_apparatus2.jpg
Photo by Tom Shand
It's the little things that count. Note how space was allocated for two water extinguishers, a trash hook and a pair of irons, all in this one area. The proper position of hand tools makes the job on the fireground safer and reduces the risk of serious injury, as may be the case if these tools were stored inside the cab when an accident occurred.

Once a group facilitator is appointed, this person may wish to break down the task by assigning each individual to research major components such as the power train, fire pump and plumbing, compartment layout and equipment requirements, emergency lighting and generator requirements, and so forth. Each person can research the various options within each component group and more clearly define the fire department's needs and how the manufacturer's offerings can be integrated into the final specifications.

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