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The Domino Effect
by Mark van der Feyst

Handicap firefighting: Positioning the apparatus

Improper apparatus positioning can compromise fireground activities

By Mark van der Feyst

When arriving on scene, where the apparatus is positioned can handicap the efforts of the arriving crews. Most fire emergency response will involve engines and ladder trucks. Each fire department's standard operating guidelines and procedures will determine how positioning apparatus fits into the overall coordinated effort.

With an engine company response, position the engine past the building so that the first-arriving officer and crew can see three sides of the structure. This viewing helps in performing a size up of the structure leaving just the back portion of the building to be observed.

A common reason for positioning the engine at the front of the building is prevent the hose stretch from being short. If the hose stretch is going to be a little short, extra lengths of hose can be added.

Pulling past the building also provides a parking area at the front of the building for the arriving ladder trucks so that they will have full access to the building for aerial operations. This area in the front provides three sides for access.

Aerial positioning
The type of aerial apparatus determines which way it should be positioned to achieve maximum clearance. In the accompanying video, improper apparatus positioning has created a handicap.

A mid-mount aerial apparatus should be positioned with the turntable just past the corner of the building. This will ensure that the aerial ladder will be able to reach two sides without any interference from the cab.

When positioning a mid-mount aerial apparatus with the cab facing the building, the cab becomes the obstruction and a handicap is created for the aerial crew. In the video, the mid-mount aerial is parked with the cab facing the building. Another way around this is to position the apparatus with the rear facing the building; this provides an unobstructed approach to the building. 

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Rear-mounted aerials
Rear mount aerial apparatus should be positioned at the corners of the buildings as well. The corners provide better access to the building's two sides and is a good position for defensive operations should the need arise. They also can provide secondary means of egress without any of the fire conditions from the building's front imposing on the ladder.

The rear mount also can be positioned either parallel with the building or perpendicular — backed in with the turntable facing the building. This will give maximum reach for the ladder.

To position an aerial apparatus it is important to know key measurements such as outrigger lengths, ladder length when it is bedded and apparatus width. Positioning the apparatus based on these key measurements will ensure that out riggers will have full span to set up and the bedded ladder will have room to swing by the front of the building for any low horizontal operations.

This area is commonly referred to as the scrub area. If other apparatus are parked in the front of the building, then the scrub area will be obstructed and prevent any aerial access.

Proper positioning of an apparatus takes training and practice, which will remove the dominos leading to a handicap.

About the author

Mark van der Feyst is a 13-year veteran of the fire service. He currently works for the City of Woodstock Fire Department in Canada. Mark is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States and India. He also a Local Level Suppression Instructor for the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy, and an Instructor for the Justice Institute of BC. You can contact Mark with feedback at Mark.vanderfeyst@firerescue1.com.


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