WFC News

Posted: Apr 1, 2013

Effects of Corrosion, the Silent Enemy

By Christian P. Koop

Most of us in the emergency response vehicle (ERV) service and repair industry generally do not give much thought to the effects of corrosion (rust, oxidation)-at least not to the degree I think we should. I believe it is one of those things that is not really at the forefront of a maintenance organization's hit list. Usually when you find it is a problem it is kind of late, and the cost to correct the damage can be great. I am not just talking about cosmetic items such as body rust and corrosion. There are a number of important areas that, when left unchecked, can lead to serious safety issues or cause your ERV to break down.

If you have been around this field a long time, you have probably learned that breakdowns usually occur at the most inopportune times, such as when your pumper is on a third-alarm fire and the engine shuts down or your rescue/ambulance breaks down during a patient transport. This is classic Murphy's Law at work. I like to refer to corrosion as the silent enemy-kind of like the termites of aluminum, steel, and electrical systems. This article explains what corrosion really is, the serious damage it can cause, and what you can do to find it and prevent it from continuing along its costly and sometimes deadly path of destruction.

Affects More than Metal

Corrosion is a process that can affect most metals but can also affect other materials, such as ceramics or polymers. It is a gradual process that will totally destroy these materials because of a chemical reaction with the elements that surround it. When the material is metal, what occurs is electrochemical oxidation reacting to oxygen. This process is more commonly referred to as oxidation.

Most people are familiar with the term "rusting" and the reddish brown colors that become more and more visible as the process accelerates. This is the most common form of corrosion in metals that contain iron and in various alloys that are derived from it such as steel. Rust, or rusting, is the formation of iron oxides and is an example of electrochemical corrosion. Essentially what is occurring is an electrochemical transfer of electrons from the iron to oxygen. This electrochemical reaction is relatively slow. However, when salt and water are introduced, the process speeds up and can weaken and destroy substantially large steel structures faster than you would think possible. Think about structural components, such as the ERV's chassis. If equipped with an aerial device, the structural integrity of the chassis plays a critical role in the stability of the entire aerial device. Train your technicians to watch for any signs of rust or rust stains. If it is not an item on your preventive maintenance (PM) inspection sheet, consider adding it. You know the old adage: out of sight, out of mind.

The other phenomenon similar to corrosion that can wreak havoc on critical areas of your ERV is known as galvanic corrosion. This occurs when two different metals are in physical or electrical contact with each other and are exposed to air, moisture or water or even totally immersed in water. The water, when exposed to air and its natural components, will essentially become an electrolyte, which will serve as an electrical bridge to accelerate removal of material from the less noble of the metals. When salt, air, or road salt is introduced in the mix, it accelerates this electrochemical reaction. This process is very similar to electrolysis, and sometimes galvanic corrosion is referred to as electrolysis.

Protecting Components

There are ways to protect components from this phenomenon. Sacrificial anodes can be used, and various alloys are used in the construction of anodes, with zinc being a very common one. These are very common in the marine industry, and normally they are referred to as zincs. They have a very important job-protecting costly key components su

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Posted: Apr 1, 2013

Auxiliary Power Units Making Inroads on Fire Apparatus

Alan M. Petrillo

Auxiliary power units (APUs)-small diesel engine and generator combinations that have been used for years on airliners, locomotives, and over-the-road trucks to handle electrical, heating, and air-conditioning while the vehicle is stationary-are making more frequent appearances in fire apparatus.

Manufacturers using APUs on fire vehicles say they are responding to requests from fire departments for ways to cut down on main engine idling time, saving fuel and reducing regeneration time.

Green Edge

Scott Oyen, vice president of sales for Rosenbauer, says his company introduced its Green Star idle reduction technology nearly three years ago, which can be incorporated into any vehicle Rosenbauer makes.

"The basis of the Green Star is in the electronics, where we take a diesel-driven generator and add the intelligence of electronics to turn the unit into a fuel saver," Oyen says. "Our diesel APU is designed to provide heating, air-conditioning, and 12- and 120-volt electrical while the vehicle's main chassis engine is shut off."

Donley Frederickson, Rosenbauer's national sales manager, points out, "Today's fire service is a constantly changing community organization where we've seen the role of fire departments take on more responsibilities for medical calls, rescues, and hazmat incidents, for example. Eighty percent of calls fire departments respond to result in fire apparatus needlessly idling for between 10 and 40 minutes per call."

auxiliary power unit (APU) on its apparatus, controlled by its Green Star electronic technology and powered by a Kubota diesel engine
(1) Rosenbauer offers an auxiliary power unit (APU) on its apparatus, controlled by its Green Star electronic technology and powered by a Kubota diesel engine. (Photo courtesy of Rosenbauer.)

Frederickson notes that engine manufacturers say a big block diesel engine uses a minimum of one gallon of fuel per hour of idling. An eight-kW diesel generator APU, he says, uses approximately one quart of fuel per hour while operating under a full load. He adds that an idling main engine puts more unspent diesel soot that occurs while the engine operates at cooler temperatures into the vehicle's diesel particulate filter (DPF). "While the APU doesn't alter the chemical makeup of diesel emissions," he says, "it does reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides (NOx) that are released overall."

Oyen notes that an APU can run off of many different fuels, but Rosenbauer chose diesel so its Green Star APU would run off the vehicle's chassis fuel tank. Besides the diesel-driven APU, Rosenbauer also makes two battery versions, called Smart Batteries-one sized to provide 12-volt power on a scene for warning and compartment lighting through lithium-ion batteries and another using Smart Technology lithium-polymer batteries that can power all lighting, including scene lighting, and some 120-volt usage on a vehicle.

"An APU can replace a vehicle's generator," Oyen says. "For instance, the Tacoma (WA) Fire Department doesn't put generators on its apparatus but rather uses Smart Batteries to run all their lighting needs," he says.

Green Star features fully integrated automatic engine controls, Oyen says, where an apparatus operator can have a hands-free system activation that automatically starts the APU and shuts down the main engine. If needed, he notes, the controls will restart the main chassis engine to prevent a low-voltage situation. Green Star can be operated in either automatic or manual modes.

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Posted: Apr 1, 2013

The Impact of NFPA 1917

By Chad Brown
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Braun Industries

The talk of the industry for the past year and a half has been the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1917, Standard for Automotive Ambulance, specifications. Additionally, talk has revolved around what impact those specifications will have on the industry as a whole, the impact on the manufacturers, and ultimately the impact on the individual departments and agencies. I will touch on all three impacts as I have seen and experienced during the past year and a half.

EMS Industry

Regarding the impact on the emergency medical service (EMS) industry as a whole, we need to take a step back and ask what is or was the driver behind these new industry specifications. I believe the intent of the NFPA 1917 committee members, then and now, is to create a safer ambulance for patients and crew members. Having had numerous discussions with past and current members of the committee regarding some of the changes to the KKK-1822-Revision F specifications (the current specification that ambulance manufacturers build to), all the conversation and decisions revolved around safety. In the end, I believe we are all striving to make a safer ambulance for all.

One distinct difference in the EMS community is that there is legislation at the state level on what defines an ambulance. What I mean by this is that the definition of an ambulance in Ohio vs. any other state can be completely different. There are state EMS directors and agencies that inspect the ambulances as they come into the respective states, and every state has some varying degree of differences, whereas on the fire side of the business, fire engines and aerials are not regulated at the state level. As manufacturers, we build to a set of generalized standards using the General Services Administration (GSA) specification KKK-1822-Rev. F as a starting point and go from there with each state's different regulations and definitions.

Specifically regarding NFPA 1917, there are many new items within that standard with which we must comply. Some of the more prevalent items include tire pressure monitoring, seat belt monitoring, cabinet testing (10-G pull test in all four directions of the cabinet), outside oxygen storage only compartment, cabinet weight capacity labeling, approach angle, brake over angle, and departure angle of 10 degrees.

Identifying Payload

However, I think the biggest change is that the department or agency will have to identify the overall payload needed for the vehicle. With the KKK-1822-Rev. F specifications, the manufacturer would tell the department or agency the overall remaining payload and have guidelines based on the chassis the department selected. With NFPA 1917, the department or agency will work with the sales representative to define the specific equipment it is putting into the vehicle. There are predetermined weights for equipment and personnel that will help you determine your remaining payload listed in NFPA 1917.

For a manufacturer that calculates front axle remaining payload, rear axle remaining payload, and overall remaining payload today, this is a rather big change in responsibility from the manufacturer communicating the remaining payload to end users. The department or agency is now responsible for communicating the desired payload to the manufacturer. I highly recommend that your committee fully investigate the weights of the equipment you choose to put into the ambulance and work with your sales representative to properly pick the right chassis with the appropriate gross vehicle weight rating for your department or agency.

Primary Care Position

Another significant change you will see or hear about from your sale representative will be a question your sales representative will ask: "What is your primary care position?" From an end

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Posted: Apr 1, 2013

Apparatus Purchasing: Bolted Bodies

Bill Adams

The majority of metallic fire apparatus bodies feature welded construction; however, a handful of manufacturers bolt their bodies together. Some use bolted construction exclusively, while others offer it as an alternative to the welding process. Some use a combination of both. This article does not endorse, prefer, or recommend any method of construction, body material, or manufacturer, nor will it compare one to another. The intent is to inform the reader of the procedure and process of bolting apparatus bodies together and why some manufacturers market that method. Whether one is better than the other is a matter left to manufacturers' marketing people and individual purchasers.

Manufacturers offering bolted construction were contacted for input. Some replied and are quoted herein. Some did not reply. Several expressed hesitation in participating for fear of getting into a "heated debate" over why one is better than the other. One manufacturer said it would be hard to objectively opine on one method of construction without it resulting in a "tit for tat" comparison with other methods. I will try not to. Another inferred it would become "proprietary." My interpretation of proprietary is something that is exclusive, copyrighted, trademarked, or brand named. Bolting and welding are methods of construction available to all manufacturers.


In 1912, the E.G. Budd Company in Philadelphia spot welded the first automobile body. Around 1914, the Heil Company began acetylene and electric welding of bodies, claiming to have built the first "electrically welded compartment tank" for motor trucks. The first all-welded automotive body was fabricated in 1923. A historical record cannot be found for the evolution of fire apparatus bodies, although Mack Fire Apparatus's 1925 catalog notes, "The bodies used on all but the Hook-and-Ladder and Squad Car types of apparatus are constructed of only five sheets of gauge steel plate, 3⁄16 inches thick, electric welded to form the sides and front ...."

Lieutenant (Ret.) Mahlon Irish, of the Ithaca (NY) Fire Department and an antique American LaFrance (ALF) aficionado, owns more than a dozen antique rigs. He states ALF's 1920s-era bodies were riveted together with accoutrements such as fenders and steps bolted to the body. In the 1930s and 1940s, ALF's sheet metal was bolted to a welded framework. In the mid 1930s, Ward LaFrance riveted formed sheet metal around wood planks into a "sandwiched" type body. A 1932 Buffalo engine, in Mendon, New York, has a wooden hose body skinned with formed steel attached with wood screws and metal fenders riveted together. A 1938 Mack Type 75 pumper, in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, has sheet metal doors and a sheet metal cab screwed to a wood framework. The late 1940s ALF 700 Series introduced all-welded bodies. The late 1950s 800 Series featured bolted-on compartment modules. Most builders during that era used untreated steel compartments. They didn't last long, and the bolted-on compartment modules were easy to replace. In 1971, ALF's Century body featured all- welded bodies and compartments. The Century 2000 body went back to bolting compartments to a welded body. No date can be found for the introduction of all-bolted construction.

This bicycle, laser cut from a sheet of 14 gauge 304 stainless steel, is used by one manufacturer to demonstrate the exactness achievable with precision tooling
(1-2) Bolted construction typically requires the process of computer numerical control (CNC) high-precision manufacturing to achieve high levels of accuracy and exactness. This bicycle, laser cut from a sheet of 14 gauge 304 stainless steel, is used by one manuf Read more
Posted: Apr 1, 2013

The Importance of Grass Roots

By Chris Mc Loone

I had a chance to give a presentation recently to a group of apparatus operators (engineers) in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The group meets every other month on a Wednesday evening at different fire stations across the county. The leader of the group asked if I would come and speak about what I see happening with fire apparatus.

It was harder than I thought distilling what I see happening with fire apparatus into 45 minutes to an hour. I pulled it off, but it wasn't easy. That the group is pretty lively helped out, and it was nice seeing a few familiar faces from fire companies local to me. Still, it was a bit daunting, but I made it through relatively unscathed.

The importance of this small association is immeasurable to me though. Montgomery County is a pretty diverse county when it comes to occupancies. The southeast end of the county is very suburban-almost urban in some areas-while the northwest end is still very rural. At the northwest end, you'll still find farms and wide open spaces as well as wildland concerns. So, the group moving to different areas affords members the opportunity to see what other departments are doing with their apparatus and equipment based on their locale. Although the southeast end won't get to see many grain elevator fires or silo rescues, all areas of the county will see work in the form of structure fires in dwellings and commercial occupancies of various ages and construction, vehicle rescues on both highways and local roads, and various types of technical rescues ranging from industrial rescues to trench and confined space. So, representatives from each end of the county would be hard pressed to say that one department or another doesn't offer something to take back home in terms of innovation.

About Learning

This is what it's all about though-learning from one another. What has always impressed me about the fire service is how we all borrow from each other, and yes, sometimes claim we thought of something before another department, but it's always in the name of efficiency, innovation, safety, and the greater good of the fire service as a whole.

So, this group has asked me to continue coming, not to speak all the time but to be a part of the association. I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully as I see things at other fire companies, I'll be able to snap a picture and bring them back here. So many innovations are home-grown and very practical.

All of this of course begs the question, "What did you talk about?" I really did not deviate much from what I've written here, although it is hard to talk about what I see happening with fire apparatus without first touching on various outside influences, which have been the economy, in a big way; EPA regulations, which have been impacting us for the past few years and will continue to as the EPA works to reduce greenhouse emissions; and safety. All of these lead toward innovation-both at the department level in how it is designing its apparatus and at the manufacturer level as apparatus builders work on new offerings to address what some call the new norm in the fire industry.

Critical Groups

Grass roots organizations like the Montgomery County Engineers Association are critical to the fire service. Get a bunch of firefighters in one place, and you'll soon have impromptu kitchen table conversations about your most recent job, your newest rig, and a fair amount of Monday morning quarterbacking. But, what you're also going to find is a group of people working together to solve problems both at their own departments and countywide. These organizations are the ones that are closest to the men and women driving and operating these apparatus.

At the end of the night, we had some interesting conversations. One revolved around tankers (tenders) and whether or not it's a good idea to run them with lights and sirens and whe

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