Testing Pumps And Aerials Keeps Everybody Safe

UL's Jim Johannessen gave a presentation in a new Firehouse Expo program called Mechanics' Clinic on the importance of pump and aerial testing.


BALTIMORE – A new feature at Firehouse Expo this year is a mechanics’ clinic located just off the showroom floor. Representatives from apparatus and fire equipment manufacturers have presented a number of educational classes on products and equipment used by firefighters on a daily basis.

One of the presenters was Jim Johannessen, a lead engineering associate with Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) in its Fire Equipment Services Group.

Johannessen spoke about the importance of compliance with, and changes to, National Fire Protection Association’s chapters regarding apparatus pumps and aerials testing. “One of the most important things you need to do is keep every maintenance record and every test results of every apparatus,” Johannessen said.

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“And, that record should go with the truck if it is sold or traded. …Documentation is very important.”

Johannessen said much of the testing of pumps and aerials is done by people who have passed down information from one to another over the past 50 years, but it might not necessarily be the best.

“You might not be getting quite 100 percent of each and every test you should be,” said Johannessen, who acknowledged UL does extensive testing of apparatus as it is built and annually by clients that contract with UL.

When an aerial is tested, everything needs to be tested – each of the sometimes thousands of welds it takes to put together a ladder, to the torque bolts on the turntable and everything in between, Johannessen said.

“You can’t just pick and choose what you want to test, you have to do everything,” Johannessen said, noting it can take up to 10 hours to thoroughly and completely test an aerial. “There’s no way you can do it in three hours and do it right.”

Testing is done for safety of the users and the public the fire departments protect, Johannessen said, noting that a good test for an aerial might cost $1,000, but the aerial cost $1 million. And, there’s no price to place on safety.

Johannessen recommended that departments check the credentials of those who do testing on aerials and pumps. A certified technician, qualified to do non-destructive testing of ladders must complete 160 hours of training before they can even test their first ladder, Johannessen said.

“Most technicians are so proud of that certification, they display it right in their vans,” he said of the American Society for Nondestructive Testing program.

When it comes to pumps, many of the same words of advice apply, Johannessen said.

NFPA has also made it possible for fire departments to do their own pump tests with forms available on line as well as keep track of all its preventative maintenance, Johannessen said.

“There’s really no excuse not to keep track of preventative maintenance and testing,” Johannessen said. “It’s very important to document all that information.

Johannessen also offered UL as a resource for mechanics and fire departments, saying that most, if not all the apparatus in service today may have been tested at the factory by UL representatives.

“If you’re missing a plate on a pump, or don’t know what the original RPMs were for testing, contact us,” Johannessen said. “We keep all that information and we just might have what you need. …Information is valuable.”

The mechanics’ clinic has been presented every day of the Firehouse Expo conference and has also covered battery charging and air pumps, charging system maintenance, pump maintenance, charging systems and foam systems.

One more clinic is scheduled for Saturday, July 27 with Donn Gutshall, fleet superintendent with Hampden Township, Pa.

Starting at 10:15 a.m., Gutshall will give a presentation called; Develop a Preventive Maintenance Program. The class will be at the end of the Aisle 2700.