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Speccing a new pumper: Where to begin – Part 2

Guidance for an apparatus committee charged with developing specifications for a new pumper


Addressing these areas of the specifications can greatly influence the desired outcome: a vehicle that can meet all the tactical operations and work that will be expected from a new piece of fire apparatus.

Photo/Michael Dempsey via TSN

Welcome back for Part 2 of this series on where to begin with speccing a new pumper. In Speccing a new pumper: Where to begin – Part 1, we discussed the “heart and soul” of a pumper – its pump and hose.

In this second part of our two-part series, we continue to look at the application of NFPA 1901: Standard on Automotive Fire Apparatus requirements, but from a somewhat different perspective – that of a pumper committee that’s been charged with developing the specifications for a new pumper. We’ll also review what’s necessary for a committee to finish its work – outfitting the pumper for all the tactical operations and work that will be expected from this new piece of fire apparatus.

Initial considerations: Standards and needs

NFPA 1901 addresses the type of equipment that is required on pumping fire apparatus. Most fire apparatus manufacturers can provide specs for required equipment (e.g., generators, SCBA fill stations, and fixed lighting systems). Be sure to review those specifications when planning for your new pumper.

It is vital to choose the right product that meets your needs because every fire department has a unique and diverse response area. While NFPA 1901 lists the required minimums for a typical fire department, what are your department’s needs for daily and routine response? For example, a department that responds to high-rise buildings on a regular basis is going to have additional hose, hose appliances, and equipment packaged and stored and ready for rapid deployment.

Storage: Time to think “outside the box”

Fire apparatus continue to grow larger in size. Many fire departments struggle to specify a new pumper that has a quality crew compartment, larger booster tanks, larger hosebeds, and other fixed equipment while still having enough compartment space – and all while keeping everything on a chassis with an acceptable wheelbase and staying under the GVWR.

If your committee were to specify a 300-gallon water tank (instead of a 1,000-gallon tank) and CAFS apparatus, think of the available space that could be freed up on the chassis for additional equipment storage capacity.

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. Consider that this equipment should be kept in a compartment on the passenger’s side for safety on highways. Make sure your compartment is large enough to accommodate the tool size.

Will you be taking equipment from the outgoing rig and placing it on your new rig, or will you be purchasing all new equipment? Your answer to that question is important, especially when it comes to compatibility with equipment on other fire apparatus in your department, for the following:

  • Hose fittings and appliances
  • Apparatus intake and discharge sizes
  • Electrical plugs and outlets
  • Flashlight chargers
  • Extrication tools/connections
  • Saws/blades/fuel mixtures
  • Rechargeable equipment

Potential cost-savings on equipment

One best practice when developing a pumper specification is to list your loose equipment (e.g., forcible entry tools, hose appliances and nozzles, power saws) separately from the pumper chassis and fixed equipment (e.g., generator, SCBA refill station). Then make a special consideration that allows truck bidders to bid on the truck (and the loose equipment listing if they wish) and fire equipment companies to bid on the loose equipment separately. Doing so can make your equipment bid more competitive and may save you money.

Also investigate kits (e.g., battery-operated equipment that all use the same battery system) versus buying individual items. Kits are generally less expensive and are more than adequate to suit the need.

One of my former fire chiefs always told me and my fellow officers in the department when we asked for specific equipment or features on fire apparatus, “Do you want it or need it? There’s no money in the budget for wants, but there will always be money for needs, especially if it makes it safer for our people.”

Specify training

I spoke with fire apparatus consultant, Jim Lyons, during my research for another article about specifying fire apparatus and asked him what’s one thing that fire departments might not think about in the specifications writing process.

Lyons told me that a common area often overlooked when fire departments write their own specs is in-service training. He said that too often it’s assumed when a fire department orders and receives a new truck that training is automatically included after delivery. But unless it’s clearly written in the specification and the vendor acknowledges it in their proposal, training may not be included. Far too often, he said, fire departments feel they don’t need an in-service training class on the new truck, that is until the members operate the vehicle and see a new style electronic governor or maybe a new type of foam system.

Lyons also noted that the new apparatus specifications should also state how many days the training should be held for is equally important, especially for career fire departments. With different shifts and overtime issues, having one day of training may not be enough. He recommended that a fire department specify the number of training session if feels will be necessary to meet the needs of its members.

Lyons also addressed the unique training needs for volunteer-staffed departments. He said that if training needs to be conducted over a weekend, a statement such as “training will occur over an agreed upon weekend” will provide training at the time when most volunteers are available and put the vendor on notice that it will not be during the week.

Lastly, Lyons told me that training is not just about a review of items; it should include driving, pumping and operating all the systems on the apparatus, including maintenance review items. Remember, if it’s not in writing, it’s not guaranteed.

Don’t forget equipment maintenance

Be aware of potential maintenance requirements for new equipment. Most equipment does require some sort of maintenance.

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, maybe it’s no, but either way you can save money by maintaining an awareness of potential equipment duplication.

The proper mounting of equipment in compartments prevents damage and keeps compartments neat and orderly. For all equipment that you purchase, be sure that you have planned for mounting in accordance with NFPA 1901. Any equipment you choose to mount inside the crew compartment must be mounted with fixtures that are compliant with NFPA 1901.

Follow equipment trends

For the article Will current apparatus trends continue into 2020?, I again consulted with Lyons for his thoughts on fire apparatus trends heading into the next decade, the 2020s.

Every firefighter knows that space for installed equipment and storage compartments is premium “real estate” on any fire apparatus.

“I have seen a dramatic shift away from on-board generators in 2019 and related components (e.g., hydraulic reels, electric cord reels, traditional hard-wired tripod lights) in favor of battery-powered products,” Lyons said. “Battery-powered tools will continue to become a popular item, and I believe we will continue to see fire departments specifying fewer on-board generator systems for new fire apparatus.”

He continued: “The mobility of battery-powered rescue tools with unrestricted movement and distance from the response vehicle – as opposed to being tethered to a hydraulic line and powerplant – provides increased operational capability.”

Lyons said that battery-powered tools can provide a big cost savings for fire departments when creating specifications for new fire apparatus. As an example, he said a basic 10-kW hydraulic generator, wiring, circuit box, digital readout gauge, and a single hydraulic tool reel could ultimately cost as much as $30,000 – and takes up a lot of valuable space on fire apparatus.

Meet your needs

In this article, we’ve looked at some of the necessary work for a pumper committee to finish its task of creating new pumper specifications. Addressing these areas of the specifications can greatly influence the desired outcome: a vehicle that can meet all the tactical operations and work that will be expected from a new piece of fire apparatus.

Editor’s note: What tips do you have for the apparatus committee? Share in the comments below.

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an instructor for fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Beyond his writing for and, Avsec authors the blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS and has published his first book, “Successful Transformational Change in a Fire and EMS Department: How a Focused Team Created a Revenue Recovery Program in Six Months – From Scratch.” Connect with Avsec on LinkedIn or via email.