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The purpose of the Fire Mechanics Section is to promote standardization of fire apparatus and equipment preventative maintenance, improve safety standards and practices, promote workshops, conferences, and seminars related to the purposes of this Section, and to promote cost savings through standardization of building and equipment purchasing and maintenance.

RECENT FIRE MECHANIC NEWS

Posted: Jun 4, 2013

Fleet Replacement Challenges Equal Opportunities

Brian Brown

A sound vehicle and maintenance replacement program is important to all government agencies of all sizes. Be it a volunteer, a combination, or a career department, reliable vehicles and equipment in appropriate working order are essential to providing all public services to communities in a professional and timely manner. Fire, EMS, wildland, aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF), and hazmat apparatus and equipment that break down frequently because of age or excessive use will lead to an interruption in service from the agency to the community.

Although a sound preventive maintenance program is a key component to managing a fleet, my last article covered the challenges we all deal with on a daily basis of keeping our fleet operations in the black or, as most of us say, "keeping our heads above water." Some of the key elements included shrinking budgets, economic downturns, and performing regularly scheduled preventive maintenance while doing more with less. In addition, I briefly covered the topic of managing aging fleets.

Now it's time to dig deeper and to be prepared to answer some tough questions when evaluating your fleet's overall replacement performance. Remember to know your fleet and run it like a business. The more you put into your fleet, the more your business responds to cost savings information, reduced downtime, operating cost, and overtime.

The goal of this article is not only to identify things that your department already does well, is already in the process of improving, or already recognizes needs to be improved, but to review the current and past practices of your department and make suitable recommendations for improvement going forward.

Validation

If your agency already has a fleet replacement plan in place or is willing to adopt/create one, it needs to be validated. Without a viable and comprehensive replacement program, managers will be unable to recognize apparatus and equipment replacement in a timely manner. The lack of basic replacement guidelines will cause them to overlook the optimum time at which apparatus needs to be replaced. What I have discovered is that the majority of the time this is an area that has been neglected by many departments and cities for many years. The support from upper management is vital to implementing a fleet replacement plan. Certainly, good working equipment contributes to positive employee morale. All of these factors combine to make a first class fleet operation and replacement program that fits well in the manager's tool kit.

Granted, the challenges we all face include shrinking revenues; budget cuts in the fleet and support areas; increased demand for service; increased state mandates; National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1911, Standard for the Inspection, Maintenance, Testing, and Retirement of In-Service Automotive Fire Apparatus, (2007 Ed.), mandating more annual testing; and an aging fleet requiring possible readjustments. Readjustments to the fleet throws in a nice twist as the units that were initially planned for replacement are now kept and reallocated in another division/bureau that "feels" it truly needs it. These units now experience increased maintenance costs, reduced resale value, and increased downtime.

Starting Point

To begin, at what age do you like to replace vehicles in your fleet? The fact that a vehicle has reached its replacement age or threshold doesn't mean it automatically gets replaced. Some wear out quicker than others, which may be a sign of the assignment, the intensity of use, and how the end users take care of the vehicle. However, some vehicles may need to be replaced sooner because of the extreme wear and tear-hence, the reason a comprehensive replacement program is instrumental in the budget planning process to determine specifically which units should be replaced. Such a process sets a guide

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Posted: Jun 4, 2013

In the Eye of the Beholder

Todd Rishling

Every year, rescue professionals are tasked with rescue and recovery efforts in aquatic environments. If the victim presents on the surface, a large part of the rescue/recovery effort is directed through visual sight. When the victim submerges, the rescue/recovery effort uses an entirely different approach. Most rescuers who work in the aquatic environment are well aware that visibility underwater is often limited. The diver must be methodical in the search effort. One step forward on the line tender's part or one bent arm from the diver during the sweep can lead to a "miss" of the object. Those simple alterations in a search pattern will miss the target, which then will give false confirmation to the area being searched. The question at the end of a dive should be, "Can we be 100 percent confident that the area we searched is clear of the object?" All too often, we can't be 100 percent confident in saying that we are 100 percent confident, simply because we really are not as divers. This article will talk about how to incorporate sonar operations during water rescue and recovery incidents. We will also discuss a few of the more common types of sonar units in my area.

a recovery operation conducted in Northern Illinois by MABAS Division 4/5 Sonar Team
(1) This is an image of a recovery operation conducted in Northern
Illinois by MABAS Division 4/5 Sonar Team. A "marker cage" has
been placed next to the body for reference as the Marine Sonics side-
scan sonar unit is towed in a parallel pattern, later to be cross
referenced by a perpendicular pattern. The image's detailed definition
allows for easier object identification.
(Photos by author.)

Sonar Usage

Using sonar technology in water rescue and recovery is not a new idea. In fact, for many years, some type of sonar device has been instrumental in high-profile drowning cases. Many of us have seen wrecks, underwater formations, and other objects on sonar images. Many of us have improvised and used a "fish finder," a drop single-beam sonar type of unit that has been around for years, as a recovery tool.

Some may ask, what is sonar? Sonar stands for sound navigation and ranging. There are two types of sonar technology-passive and active. Passive sonar is essentially listening for the sound made by vessels. Active sonar is emitting pulses of sounds and listening for echoes. Sonar is not new; it has been around since the 1490s, when Leonardo da Vinci placed a tube in water and could detect the sound of a passing vessel. From then on, the use of underwater detecting devices sprung forth, leading to the technology we have today. Worldwide use of sonar technology takes place in everyday activities such as oil drilling, environmental exploration, archeological detailing, and public safety.

For the purpose of this article, I will cover three devices used in my area and their implementation across the state of Illinois in the mutual aid box alarm system (MABAS) allocation and distribution system. I will highlight some of the success stories, evaluate the challenges, and look toward the future.

Kongsberg Sector Scan Sonar unit
(2) This image is from the Kongsberg Sector Scan Sonar unit. The search
was for a missing ice fisherman who fell through on a large lake the night
before. On the day the sonar team responded, it set up in an airboat and
traveled out to the last seen point. On the second drop of the sonar head
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Posted: Jun 4, 2013

Apparatus Purchasing: Grading Engine 41

Bill Adams

The 2013 trade show season is underway, and apparatus pundits are rushing to print the latest and greatest innovations in the fire truck world. Recent articles heap praise on those manufacturers who can cram ten pounds of fire truck into a five-pound space. Equal admiration is bestowed on fire departments that spec multifunction apparatus to the next highest, longest, widest, heaviest, and most expensive level. It happens every year. You seldom see an article complimenting a simple straightforward single-purpose apparatus design. You never see a follow-up commentary on a rig that's been in service for a couple of years: "Hey, Chief, how's that design working for you? Would you change anything? Buy one like it again?"

Apparatus commentators are seldom explicit in expressing personal likes or dislikes. And, they never disagree, challenge, or take issue with a rig's design, accoutrements, or intended function. This article will.

Readers, please take note: This is not a criticism of the manufacturer, the fire department, or how either operates. It's irrelevant who wrote the specs, who built it, who bought it, and what it's made out of. It's an outsider's personal analysis of some features of a pumper from operational and spec-writing perspectives. Maybe it'll help the next department when writing specifications for a new rig.

Engine 41 was designed as a primary attack pumper whose sole function is to establish a water supply and put wet stuff on the red stuff. It was not designed to serve double duty as a rescue, tanker, squad, service, salvage, or ladder company. You can't get much more basic than that. Its response area can be characterized as an older congested northeastern municipality with narrow streets, narrower alleys, and approximately 13,000 residents packed into fewer than two square miles.

Basic Design

The truck replaced an older pumper of similar size with open jump seats. The new rig, less than 29 feet long, has a short 168-inch wheelbase-only six inches longer than its predecessor. It has a six-person custom cab, 500-gallon tank, 2,000-gallon-per-minute (gpm) rated pump, preconnected truck-mounted monitor, and traditional body style with high left-side and low right-side compartments. At first glance, it looks like a ho-hum "plain Jane" vehicle. A closer look shows it's a compact, hard-hitting, versatile, and functional piece of apparatus well suited to fulfill its intended mission.

Main Hosebed

When delivered, the main hosebed was loaded with 1,000 feet of five-inch large-diameter hose (LDH) and 1,200 feet of three-inch double-jacketed rubber-lined (DJRL) hose. A 600-foot dead load of 2½-inch DJRL was carried beneath a 2½-inch preconnect. There's more than 150 cubic feet of space in the bed-five times the minimum required by National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus-for 2½-inch or larger fire hose. It easily accommodates the aforementioned hose plus four rear preconnects. And, it's not full yet.

There is no issue with the quantity and size of supply line carried. That's the department's business. I favor large hosebed capacities. However, it could have been configured to allow a walkway to facilitate loading. A walkway in the main bed makes the troops' lives easy. Easy is good.

Everyone likes low hosebeds. An "L" shaped tank keeps the bed less than four feet from the tailboard. And, it's almost 40 inches deep. It looks good, but looks can be deceiving. Most firefighters have about a three-foot wing span. How easy (or hard) will it be for firefighters on top of the rig to lean or reach over the top of a couple of hosebed dividers and access the bottom of the bed? That could be problematic if you have a couple of short-armed firefighters trying to load single-stacked hose into a 40-inch-deep bed.

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Posted: Jun 3, 2013

Be in It to Win It

By Chris Mc Loone

I don't pretend to understand the reasoning behind every revision that comes down the pike from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). I don't always agree with them, but none has ever made me angry enough that I really get a chip on my shoulder about it. And, I realize that revisions are made in the name of safety.

There are some in the fire service who would have you believe the NFPA is our enemy when it comes to many things-that it makes all sorts of rules that we must follow when specing apparatus or purchasing equipment, adding all sorts of costs to the final price of an apparatus. The contrary is true, and a few recent events reinforce this for me.

Not the Enemy

First, the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board recently met and, during the meeting, talk turned to the NFPA. The conversation revolved around how there is good, solid equipment available to the fire service, but often it comes at a premium price if it is NFPA-compliant.

Bill Peters, a voting member of the NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Apparatus, committee stated that there are some who think the committees are in cahoots with the manufacturers, but he decried that premise. In the case of apparatus, he went on to say that no apparatus manufacturer wants to build extra costs into an apparatus and reminded the group that it's not always the NFPA adding costs. In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) caught most of the grief because of the costs involved with 2010 engines.

Second, I sat in at the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers' Association (FAMA) spring Technical Committee meeting. At the beginning of the meeting, FAMA President Harold Boer mentioned that NFPA 1901; 1906, Standard for Wildland Fire Apparatus; and 1917, Standard for Automotive Ambulances, are currently in the revision process. Based on 2012 numbers, which indicate the market has remained generally flat, he challenged committee members to "be careful when we propose these new standards not to add significant cost to the trucks and see our market go down further. If there's a problem, let's address it. If not, let's have a recommended guideline." See more about the Technical Committee meeting in this issue.

Third, at the Technical Committee meeting, Ryan Depew, the NFPA's staff liaison to the technical committee on fire apparatus, gave a presentation on the NFPA's new system for standards revision participation. In a nutshell, it has never been easier for us to participate in the standards revision process. The NFPA is transitioning from paper to electronic submissions. To that end, its Web site has been optimized to accept electronic comments on standards revisions. What many may not realize is that you don't have to be a member of a standard's committee to participate. Anyone can comment. And, the NFPA encourages it. What's more, we all should be doing it.

Participate

The NFPA process allows for a comment period. Anyone can comment on proposed revisions to a standard, whether you are a member of the committee or not. Committee members will review all comments and decide whether or not to incorporate them into the proposed revisions. It will also note why a comment makes it into the revision or doesn't. It goes without saying that comments like, "This is a dumb idea," are not going to make it very far into the process. Substantiate why you think a proposed revision needs to be adjusted.

The key is participation. The fire service solves more problems at the "kitchen table" but for some reason is not always ready to participate in the standards revision process, choosing instead to decry the revisions once they come out. The public input period for the first drafts of NFPA 1901, 1906, and 1917 closes on July 8, 2013. There's still plenty of time for you to be a p

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RSS Upcoming Events

Fire Mechanics Section Board

Chair

Posted: Oct 21, 2015

Chair

Elliot Courage
North Whatcom Fire & Rescue
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Vice Chair

Posted: Oct 21, 2015

Vice Chair

Mike Smith 
Pierce County Fire District #5
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Secretary

Posted: Oct 21, 2015

Secretary

Justin Claibourn
Central Pierce Fire & Rescue 
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Director #1

Posted: Oct 21, 2015

Director #1

Loren Angiono 
City of Lynnwood
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Director #2

Posted: Oct 21, 2015

Director #2

Paul Spencer 
Fire Fleet Maintenance LLC
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Director #3

Posted: Oct 21, 2015

Director #3

Larry Elliott
Olympia Fire Department
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Director #4

Posted: Oct 21, 2015

Director #4

Doug Jones
City of Redmond
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Director #6

Posted: Oct 21, 2015

Director #6

Brett Annear
Kitsap County Fire District 18
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Director #5

Posted: Oct 21, 2015

Director #5

Jay Jacks
Camano Island Fire & Rescue
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Legislative Representative

Posted: Oct 21, 2015

Legislative Representative

TBD
TBD
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Immediate Past Chair

Posted: Oct 20, 2015

Immediate Past Chair

Brian Fortner
Graham Fire & Rescue

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