How are you treating your fire apparatus?


CarolinaFireJournal - Willie Wimmer
Willie Wimmer
10/14/2011 -
How well do you know your apparatus? I would be willing to bet that all of you do not know it as well as you think you do. You all go out to do your morning, nightly or weekly checks. You circulate a little water, check all the lights, check the fluids, and make sure it is stocked. Well, that does not stop the department from paying numerous unnecessary bills due to improper maintenance and equipment exercising.

How often have you actually looked up the manufacturer’s recommended daily, weekly, and monthly maintenance and performed those as suggested. I am willing to go double or nothing on that bet and say negative ghost rider with a big 10 no.
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As firefighters we need to be more in depth with our maintenance on equipment. You’re going to say, “well, someone comes in annually and does the 1915 and 1911 annual testing and maintenance.” Now ask yourself, what can happen in a year to my apparatus — that piece of apparatus that we depend on to save another fellow man’s life or even our own brothers and sisters if necessary.

Let me explain a little about what I am trying to get across. How often do you exercise your relief valve — do you do at a low medium and high pressure? If you do not you aren’t really doing it correctly. Do you exercise every valve on the apparatus daily or weekly — open and close every valve on the apparatus. How many times do you pull the primer and for how long? How often do you actually remove the piston intake or cap and inspect the ZINC strainer —which helps to prevent corrosion inside the pump?

How often have you drained the water out of the air tanks? When was the last time you dumped the water in the tank and back flushed your pump? When was the last time you flowed the foam out of the tank and refilled with fresh or at least tested it?

I am sure by now I am getting a lot of raised eyebrows and huhs. All of the above questions are actually in the manufactures recommended maintenance procedures for your apparatus. The time to perform these is not at the fire scene when you have an equipment failure. The time it is due is every day or every week. Let me break it down a little further for you.

A two and one-half inch ball valve kit costs around $90 depending on what style valves you are using and takes about an hour to three hours depending on the location of where it is mounted to remove and rebuild it. Now with just one valve with an average labor rate of $90 per hour has cost about $300 worth of repairs and that is $300 out of your budget that could have been on your paycheck in the form of a raise. A raise you have been waiting on for a year or so. You say only $300, well let’s get a little more in depth.

You decide not to back flush your pump on a regular basis. Here is the X factor. A new shaft and impeller will cost an average of $5,000 and around 24 to 40 hours of labor for the repair depending on which genius engineer put 10 pounds of poop in a five pound hole. So, that repair will run you close to $10,000 when all you had to do was take an extra 30 minutes a month to back flush the pump.

It’s not only about the money, but I am not willing to take that chance with my crew. Ask yourself this question, “do you want to play Russian roulette with your fire apparatus or not?”

I know this may seem a little extreme, but it is simply put just the way it is. I would even be willing to bet that some people think a pump is supposed to leak water while setting in the station. That is another big 10 no. It is only supposed to leak while pumping to keep the shaft cool while in pump operation. Why does this matter? Look at what is directly under the pump — a drive shaft which when thrown will cost ungodly amount to repair — along with probably having to buy a new driver’s seat from the pucker factor that occurred when it happen. Also the primer, which is nothing more than a starter motor, gets water in the windings and shorts it out. These are all minor items that can be easily avoided if proper maintenance is performed.

In closing, I am not trying to scare or frighten anyone, who am I kidding, I actually am. You have to take the fire department maintenance seriously. All the items I have briefly hit on are items that are fire department personnel responsibility for maintaining and to exercise properly. The cost of apparatus has not gone down at all and apparatus have to last municipalities longer due to the present economy. There is no reason an engine should not last 15 years without a few minor repairs. A pump should last the lifetime of the apparatus if operated and maintained correctly.

I have said it once and I will say it again, if you want to play Russian roulette with your crew’s life, then you go ahead. But I refuse to and you should have the same outlook!

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