Top 10 tips for purchasing fire apparatus equipment
By Donald M. Colarusso
All Hands Fire Equipment
The purchase of a new fire apparatus is a tremendous undertaking. Fire departments invest time and effort in planning, researching and coordinating with fire truck manufacturer representatives to create the proper and appropriate truck for their need.
However, with so much attention going into truck specifications, are you placing that same emphasis into the equipment that will go on the new rig?
Here are 10 tips for purchasing equipment for your fire apparatus.
1. Will you be compliant with NFPA standards?
NFPA 1901 addresses equipment that is required on fire apparatus. Most fire apparatus manufacturers provide specs for required equipment. Be sure to review specs when purchasing your new or used apparatus.
2. Is it the right product for you?
It is vital to choose the right product that meets your needs. Every fire department has a unique and diverse response area. In addition to equipment that is required by NFPA 1901, what are your needs for daily and routine response? For example, a department that responds to elevator emergencies needs to have a set of elevator keys on hand. Departments that respond to a large number of motor vehicle accidents may need to invest in extrication tools, absorbents, etc.
The increased demands on the fire service have made it essential to carry more specialized and diverse equipment. Items such as stokes baskets, extrication equipment, cribbing, hazardous materials equipment and water rescue equipment are just a few examples of the various types of equipment that might end up on your shopping list.
3. Will it fit on the rig?
Over the years we have seen fire apparatus grow larger and larger. However, compartment space is sometimes compromised due to larger booster tanks, larger hose beds, and other factors. Regardless, it is important to be sure that your new equipment will fit on or in the rig.
When selecting a compartment for extrication equipment, keep in mind that these types of tools should be stored in a low compartment for easy access. Additionally, this equipment should be kept in a compartment on the passenger’s side for safety on highways. As previously stated, make sure your compartment is large enough to accommodate the tool size.
4. Is it compatible with your preexisting equipment?
Whether you are taking equipment from the outgoing rig and placing it on your new rig, or if you are purchasing all new equipment, you need to ask yourself whether it is compatible. This is very important, especially when it comes to:
- Hose fittings and appliances
- Apparatus intake and discharge sizes
- Electrical plugs and outlets
- Flashlight chargers
- Extrication tools/connections
- Saws/blades/fuel mixtures
- Rechargeable equipment
5. Are you getting the most for your money?
When building a truck spec, it is a good practice to list your "loose equipment" separately. You may also want to make a special consideration allowing truck bidders to bid on the truck (and equipment if they wish) and fire equipment companies to bid on the loose equipment separately. This will allow the equipment bid to be more competitive and may save you money.
Also look into kits versus buying individual items. Kits are generally less expensive and are more than adequate to suit the need.
6. Is it a toy or a necessity?
There is nothing more dangerous than finding yourself without the proper tool for a job. It is wise to make sure your apparatus is stocked with the basic necessities for safety before you start shopping for anything else. If your department has limited funding, choose your list wisely so that when you need it, you have it.
7. Will it require training? How often?
Be sure you are aware of and address your training needs when purchasing new equipment. When you receive a new rig, all of your firefighters need to be trained on how to use it. Training is just as essential for equipment items such as thermal imagers, carbon monoxide meters, and the irons. In order to make the most of the latest and greatest gadgets, you are going to have to invest in making sure it is used safely and effectively. When purchasing a new rig and plan on purchasing new equipment, be sure you are aware of training needs.
8. What are the maintenance requirements?
Be aware of potential maintenance requirements for new equipment. Most equipment does require some sort of maintenance. Whether it is keeping your axes clean, your carbon monoxide meter battery charged and calibrated, or your saw full of fuel, you will have to call upon your training and invest the time to be sure your equipment is in working order. Equipment such as self-contained breathing apparatus and extrication equipment require a great deal of maintenance, whereas lifesaving rope and harnesses require a bit less.
9. Will I be duplicating equipment?
Be cautious of purchasing tools made by different manufacturers that all do the same thing. Do you want your engine company carrying the same tools as your truck company? Maybe the answer is yes, but either way you can save money by maintaining an awareness of potential equipment duplication.
10. Don't forget appropriate mounting equipment.
For all equipment that you purchase, be sure that you have made arrangements for mounting in accordance with NFPA 1901.
The proper mounting of equipment in compartments prevents damage and keeps compartments neat and orderly. If you choose to mount equipment inside the cab, be aware that the mounting fixtures must also be compliant with NFPA 1901.
As the fire service continues to evolve and become more diverse, so should our cache of equipment. When purchasing equipment and when responding to emergencies, remember: Be equipped, Be prepared, Be smart.
Donald Colarusso is the president of All Hands® Fire Equipment, a New Jersey-based equipment company that offers fire and rescue products nationally. He is a decorated veteran of the fire service, serving since 1987. He has held every line office position in Wall ,N.J., Fire District #2 including chief of department, and now currently serves as captain and training coordinator with Neptune, N.J., Fire District #1. Donald is also an instructor with Staten Island, N.Y., based First Due Training, a company that provides training to firefighters throughout the United States. For more details, go to All Hands Fire Equipment.