by Frank Myers
Originally published in MultiBriefs
The changes on apparatuses have revolved around safety, technology and improvements. As with all changes that occur over time, a trend usually appears across all departments.
One change is the transition to electronics over mechanical — for example, relief valves. Below is an example.
If your department purchases new apparatuses regularly, then your spare fleet would pretty much have the same type of relief valves. If you have an older spare fleet, then training will have to occur for those that do not know how to operate the mechanical type. They are more complicated and tedious to set. They also need to be "exercised" regularly to maintain good functionality.
Another critical change for safety reasons is going from open cabs to enclosed cabs for the officer, driver and crew. Below is an example of the same model truck.
The first picture is a 1980s truck, the second is 2015. It was discouraged for the hydrant and hose person to stand in the "jumpseats," for obvious safety reasons. Another advantage is the reduction of noise exposure.
With advancing safety and technology, the introduction of air bags has also improved the safety within the cabs. Below is an example of the same model apparatus.
One of the most important safety improvements was discouraging and/or discontinuing having firefighters ride on the tailboard. Since this practice has stopped, the size of the tailboards on the apparatus has been drastically reduced.
The positioning of the back alarms for persons at the rear to assist the driver when backing have been physically moved so that the persons cannot stand on the tailboard anymore.
Instead, either wireless remotes or corded remotes allow for audio and/or visual alerts in the cab to assist the driver. Backup cameras have also been introduced; however, they do not replace the eyes and ears of an actual person to assist when backing, or moving forward in tight spaces.
Safety/reflective striping has also been added to rear of the apparatus for obvious safety and visual reasons. NFPA 1901 requirements dictate that not only does the rear need to be clearly striped, a certain percentage of the vehicle must also have reflective decals/striping on all sides. Also note the dramatic reduction of the size of the tailboard to discourage standing while the vehicle is in motion.
Since electronics have taken a quantum leap, the various gauges on the pump panels have gone from analog to digital.
The fluid checks have even been incorporated into the digital readout/display. This should not replace actually "visualizing" the fluid/lubricants themselves. This is because a lot can be told by "feeling" for any particulate or metal shavings, changes in color, water infiltration, and in some cases, "odor."
One of the old-school ways that I find invaluable is checking the level in your water tank. We still need to visualize the water by going to the top of the tank and opening the hatch.
The newer electronic bulb/displays indicating water tank level are not as dependable as the old-school water-level indicators as displayed to the right.
Hose beds and the hoses loaded on them have become better secured. There have been instances where hose has come off the truck and/or out of the hose bed, become lodged or wedged under an item such as a parked car tire or stretched to the point where the hose "snapped" and became a dangerous projectile or whip, causing injury to property and unfortunate individuals. Because of these occurrences, the need to assure securing the hose in the hose beds has become a priority — hence the use of webbing/nets/hose bed covers.
These are only a few changes that have occurred over the years — all for good reason and through the diligence of volunteers on the NFPA committees. It makes it safer not only for firefighters, but also the public.
These improvements will continue; however, in some cases, they should not replace some of the old ways or common sense.