WFC News

Posted: Jun 3, 2015

Another Myth Shattered

Robert Tutterow   Robert Tutterow

"It is not possible to build to those dimensions in the current configurations commonly used, especially in the officer's seating area." Say what? The story around this statement was discussed in a three-part "Keeping It Safe" series that ran in November 2014, December 2014, and January 2015.

This column reveals a new layer to this issue. But first, a quick background: The quote is from a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Apparatus Technical Committee meeting about a year ago when discussing the width of seats in fire apparatus. The committee had received a proposal, based on a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study, to increase the minimum seating width from 22 to 28 inches. The genesis of the proposal is that many firefighters do not buckle their seat belts because of the cramped conditions inside cabs-especially custom cabs. The problem is worsened by the bulk of turnout gear. The NIOSH study is titled, "Safe Seating and Seat Belts in Fire Apparatus: Anthropometric Aspect." Anthropometry is the study of human body measurement. The study indicated that a minimum width of 28 inches is required to accommodate 95 percent of firefighters wearing personal protective equipment. The current 22-inch minimum accommodates just less than 50 percent of firefighters. The proposal was not accepted because of the opening quote above.

One Solution

Since that time, and with input from a firefighter advisory group, at least one manufacturer has made major design changes that will allow the seat width to easily exceed the requested 28-inch minimum. E-ONE recently introduced its new HS series cab and chassis configuration. It is a rear-engine design. Okay, most everyone immediately thinks this is a "dust-off" of the rear-engine E-ONE Hush units that were manufactured and popular in several departments in the 1990s. More than 300 of the Hush units were placed in service over a 10-year period. However, on closer examination, it is a complete design change.

For example, the Hush units had an axle weight ratio of 70:30 (front to rear). There is not as much overhang behind the rear axle as before. For improved handling, the new HS series has a more suitable ratio of 60:40. Access to the engine is gained via rear-slide modules on both sides. The rear-sliding modules do not have to be emptied before they are slid to the rear for engine access. Fluid level checks are easily accessible from the ground. And, the hosebed height has been reduced.

When I had an opportunity for a preintroduction to view and drive the HS series this past March, the openness of the cab led me to think, "Why weren't cabs referred to as 'engine cabs' rather than "crew cabs"? The open space clearly illustrated how much real estate the engine consumes in a conventional custom cab. The HS series design approach is to build the truck around the firefighters. The conventional approach has been to design the truck around the engine and shoehorn the firefighters in with the limited remaining space. The firefighter has historically been an "afterthought," as evidenced by the term and application of the "tailboard firefighter." By placing the engine outside the cab, the interior of the cab becomes a blank canvas for artists-i.e., fire departments-to design the cab to meet their needs without all the previous restrictions.

Debunking the Myth

The HS series totally shatters the conventional myth of the opening quote: "It is

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Posted: Jun 3, 2015

More to Apparatus Floor Finishes than on the Surface

There are many options available to fire departments for apparatus room floor coverings, as well as different levels of protection for those floors.

Toughness, long life, abrasion resistance, appearance, and cost are some of the factors a department considers when laying down a new floor as well as when resurfacing an apparatus room floor in an older station.

Polyaspartic Coating

John Adorjan, owner of Rhino Pro Flooring, says the concrete that makes up the floors of fire station apparatus bays is a rigid sponge, although most people don't think of it as such because concrete is so hard. "Achieving a mechanical bond of the coating you are applying to the substrate, the concrete, is the key to success," Adorjan says. "A fire truck weighs 12 times more per square inch than a car does, so we need to achieve that mechanical bond because if the substance applied isn't bonded to the floor, you will have a delamination problem."

Rhino Pro Flooring put a three-coat polyaspartic finish on this drive-through station for the West Area Fire Department, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Rhino Pro Flooring.)
Rhino Pro Flooring put a three-coat polyaspartic finish on this drive-through station for the West Area Fire Department, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Rhino Pro Flooring.)

Adorjan says Rhino Pro Flooring uses a three-headed diamond bonding machine to open up the capillaries in concrete. So when he puts down the first layers of his polyaspartic coating, it wicks down into the concrete. "We put down three coats of 100 percent polyaspartic," he says, "a prime coat, a mid coat, and a top coat. Each coat is done within a couple of hours of the others. After the prime coat, we put down the mid coat, which is where we put in the color, nonslip, or decorative additives, and then the top coat to finish it off."

Polyaspartic coatings were invented by Bayer Technologies in Germany, Adorjan says, and the original patent expired last year, making the substance more widely available. "The advantages of a polyaspartic coating are that it is four times more flexible than a two-part epoxy coating; has twice the abrasion resistance; is ultraviolet-light-stable, unlike epoxy; and won't yellow with age," Adorjan points out. "It also is resistant to hot tire peel, where epoxy is temperature-sensitive and can delaminate after reacting to a hot tire."

After the final layer of polyaspartic is laid down, the surface is ready for foot traffic after about three hours, Adorjan says. And after 48 hours, the apparatus can be returned to the bays. "We can put any color or design into the floor, including logos," he points out. "As for maintenance, keep the grit off of the floor as best you can. Gasoline, oil, diesel fuel, and hydraulic fluid will simply stay on top of the surface until you remove it, and they will not penetrate into the concrete. If the surface needs to be washed, you don't need any chemicals other than a couple of capfuls of ammonia in water."

Adorjan notes there is no limit to the size of the floor to be coated. "We have done up to 10,000 square feet at one time," he says. "For a 7,000-square-foot job, it takes a little over a week from start to finish. The life of the floor is dependent on how well it's maintained, but perhaps 10 years down the road a department might need a new top coat."

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Posted: Jun 3, 2015

Technology, Apparatus Components, and Reliability

Richard Marinucci   Richard Marinucci

Next to personnel, fire apparatus are the most costly expense for a fire department. There is the initial investment, which can exceed $1,000,000 for a ladder truck; the cost of maintenance; and the expense of daily use.

Like most everything else in society, apparatus manufacturers have used emerging technology to improve apparatus operation and reliability. This applies to all components as well as the cab and chassis. This, along with changes in government and safety standards, has added to the cost of vehicles. Although some may dispute the fact that today's apparatus have more capabilities and are easier to operate, new vehicles offer much more to fire departments.

Simple yet Complex

Apparatus today are easier to operate for the engineers, but they are by no means simpler. Anyone who can operate an automobile can learn the basics of getting the truck down the road. There is power steering, an automatic transmission, and improved braking. Someone can literally get in the cab, push a few buttons, and get the vehicle headed toward the emergency. Once on the scene, after connecting hose, the operator can push another button or two and get water flowing. Because of this, it is tempting to take shortcuts when preparing operators to learn their responsibilities. But, those serving as fire engine operators or chauffeurs of any other apparatus must understand how the vehicles and their components work so they can be prepared when "Murphy's Law" strikes.

When a new vehicle arrives, all personnel who may drive and operate it must be trained. This must go beyond simple driving and pumping. The operators must learn about all the vehicle's critical components and train on their use. They must also learn how to troubleshoot in case something goes wrong. There is an expectation that the vehicles will be reliable and will function as intended. Although today's vehicles are arguably more reliable, the possibility that something could go wrong always exists. Proper preparation for this scenario will minimize the negative consequences when there is a problem.


Just because operating them is easier does not diminish the importance of regular maintenance on all apparatus components and parts. This must be done in accordance with manufacturers' recommendations and in compliance with applicable standards. This requires reading manuals and possibly additional training. Someone needs to know what has to happen and how frequently. There must be good record keeping and appropriate maintenance scheduling. This applies to engines, transmissions, chassis components, pumps, electrical systems, and anything else that is part of critical service delivery.

The most appropriate person for the job should perform maintenance. Firefighters should be able to check the oil but probably won't be able to change the oil. When a vehicle is delivered, establish a schedule that clearly identifies the responsibilities regarding regular preventive measures. As with most mechanical issues, prevention is the best choice. There used to be a commercial on television on vehicle maintenance that had the tag line, "You can pay me now or pay me later." This is true for the various fire apparatus components. Establish your maintenance plan and stick to it.

Increasing technology use has made it much more difficult for departments to perform repairs in-house. One could argue that the improvements have minimized breakdowns so there is less need for in-house repairs

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Posted: Jun 3, 2015

Quints' Roles Vary Depending on Department

One of the many debates in the American fire service is the effectiveness of quint fire apparatus.

Some fire service leaders who work or have worked in respectable fire departments believe they cause tactical confusion on the fireground and have contributed to decreased staffing levels. Many others, however, see the quint as being more versatile, allowing a company to address tactical objectives by priorities rather than fulfilling them by their apparatus designator or function. Each perspective has its merits. Let's look at some of the issues surrounding this unique apparatus.

1 According to NFPA 1901, a quint shall carry at least a 50-foot aerial, 300-gallon tank, 800 feet of 2½-inch or larger fire hose (supply or working line), and 400 feet of 1½- or 1¾-inch attack line. A quint shall carry 85 feet total of ground ladders with an extension ladder, a straight ladder with hooks, and a folding ladder. (Photos by author.)
According to NFPA 1901, a quint shall carry at least a 50-foot aerial, 300-gallon tank, 800 feet of 2½-inch or larger fire hose (supply or working line), and 400 feet of 1½- or 1¾-inch attack line. A quint shall carry 85 feet total of ground ladders with an extension ladder, a straight ladder with hooks, and a folding ladder. (Photos by author.)

What Is a Quint?

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus (2009 ed.), outlines the minimum specifications for all fire apparatus. Chapter 9 contains the requirements for quints. Generally speaking, a quint carries fire hose and ground ladders and has a fire pump, a water tank, and an aerial device. Here's where it gets interesting: When compared with the NFPA requirement for an engine, a quint meets or exceeds the minimum requirements.

NFPA 1901 requires an engine-defined as a pumper fire apparatus-to be equipped with a 750-gallon-per-minute (gpm) rated pump. In Chapter 9, a quint is required to have a 1,000-gpm rated pump. The 1,000-gpm rating is required to meet the flow requirements of a preplumbed waterway. Both need to have a minimum of a 300-gallon water tank and the hose requirements are the same at 800 feet of 2½-inch or larger fire hose (supply or working line) and 400 feet of 1½- or 1¾-inch attack line. The engine is required by the NFPA to carry an extension ladder, straight ladder with hooks, and a folding ladder. The quint shall carry 85 feet total of ground ladders with an extension ladder, a straight ladder with hooks, and a folding ladder, according to the standard.

When comparing the quint with an aerial-traditional ladder truck-they both shall have an aerial device of 50 feet minimum. The ground ladder complement on an aerial increases to 115 feet. In all reality, the quint is as much of an engine as it is an aerial by the standards outlined in the standard.

Now, I'm not sure what's worse: an engine that meets the requirements of a ladder truck with firefighting capabilities or a truck with a pump that nearly meets the NFPA standards for a traditional ladder truck. What happened to engines carrying hose and water and ladder trucks carrying ground ladders and tools? Have we willingly drifted so far away we from functionality that it has created significant confusion on the fireground?

Develop operational guidelines that outline the expectations of
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Posted: Jun 3, 2015

Air-Conditioning Systems

Chris Mc Loone   Christian P. Koop

Those who have been around for a while probably remember when fire apparatus did not have air-conditioning (a/c).

That was when most fire trucks still had open cabs in the rear or jump seat area. The requirement to fully enclose cabs for safety reasons also created the need to air-condition the cabs, particularly for those in the warmer climates. In these areas, a/c service and repair for emergency vehicle technicians (EVTs) is pretty much a year-round requirement compared with those in the north, who may only need it in the summer months. Depending on the vehicle type and where and how the a/c evaporator and condenser are installed and mounted, access and service can be time-consuming and difficult. Those involved in developing specifications for new apparatus should keep in mind the importance of designing a/c systems from the onset to make it easier for EVTs to service and repair them. This will ultimately result in reduced downtime and save dollars over the long haul-a very important item with today's tighter budgets. In this article, I will briefly cover some of the history involving development of refrigerant and automotive a/c systems. I will also discuss several service and repair tips for technicians to identify common causes of a/c system failures.


Today there are many different types of refrigerants for different applications. The first person credited for developing a process to synthesize chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) is Frederic Swarts in the late 19th century. The refrigerants in use at this time were very dangerous as they were flammable, highly toxic, and deadly. To find a better refrigerant, Charles Kettering, from General Motors, formed a team that developed a more stable, nonflammable, moderately toxic refrigerant in the late 1920s using Swarts's process. Many may remember Freon 12 or R-12 (dichlorodifluoromethane). This is the refrigerant General Motors and DuPont jointly produced and patented that was used in a/c systems in automobiles, trucks, and various other refrigeration applications for more than 50 years in the United States and many parts of the world. This refrigerant was eventually determined to deplete the atmospheric ozone layer and was phased out in the mid 1990s under the Montreal Protocol. It may still be in production, although illegal, in some countries. It has a global warming potential (GWP) of 2,400.

Although GWP figures are known to be controversial, I think they are worth mentioning to provide a perspective on the environmental problem associated with these refrigerants. R-134A (tetrafluoroethane), which is also harmful to the ozone layer, has a GWP of 1300, and has a 10-year life span, replaced R-12. Because of its high GWP, there is a worldwide push to phase out any refrigerant that has a GWP higher than 150. There are various refrigerants that may replace R-134A. From what I understand, R-1234yf (GWP of 4) may end up being the refrigerant of choice because of its very low GWP and much shorter atmospheric life. In Europe, some manufacturers are already using R-1234yf. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will require the phase-out of R-134A over the next few years. Currently there are several replacement refrigerants being proposed to replace R-134A, and it is expected that by the 2021 model year, all vehicles in the United States will be sold with a replacement refrigerant.

Most EVTs won't have to worry about these major changes for some time but should keep in mind that there are other refrigerants sold as cheaper "alternatives" t

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