How important is maintenance and testing of apparatus and equipment?

CarolinaFireJournal - By Daniel J. Cimini
By Daniel J. Cimini
01/10/2013 -

This article will begin a series on the importance of testing apparatus and equipment to the various NFPA Standards. This article will cover some of NFPA 1911 and the ones to follow will discuss the minimum requirements for establishing an inspection, maintenance, and testing program for your apparatus and equipment and later the various inspection and tests needed to comply with:

  • NFPA 1915 Standard for Fire Apparatus Preventative Maintenance
  • NFPA 1914 Standard for testing of Fire Department Aerial Devices.
  • NFPA 1932Standards on use and Maintenance and service testing of In-Service Fire Department Ground Ladders
  • NFPA 1962 Standards for the Inspection, Care, and Use of Fire Hose, Couplings, and Nozzles and the Service Testing of Fire Hose.

NFPA 1911 Standard for the Inspection, Maintenance, Testing, and Retirement of In-Service Automotive Fire Apparatus identifies the systems and items on apparatus that should be inspected and maintained. It also identifies the frequency of the inspections and maintenance as well as the procedures and requirements for conducting the tests and when an apparatus should be removed from service.

Preventive maintenance is defined as the act of keeping something in proper working condition by performing necessary actions in a routine manner to prevent failure or breakdown.

An operational check and visual inspection of all fire and emergency apparatus should be completed on a daily bases for career departments and weekly for volunteer departments to ensure operational readiness of the unit or units.

The Authority Having Jurisdiction {AHJ} should develop an inspection form to be used by the individuals who are inspecting the apparatus to record the operational and visual checks.

The AHJ should develop a schedule for operational checks, inspections, diagnostic checks, and maintenance of apparatus and its systems and components in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and documentation as well as the NFPA Standards.

It should be noted that the person making the inspection and operational checks should meet the qualifications of NFPA 1002 Standard for Fire Apparatus Driver Operator Professional Qualifications, for the type of vehicle being checked.

Additional qualifications can be determined by schooling, training, experience, and recognized certification programs such as those administered by Automotive Service Excellance (ASE), Emergency Vehicle Technician Certification Commission, Inc. (EVT), or other equivalent certifying agencies.

Any requirements or suggestions a fire apparatus manufacturer or component manufacturer makes with regard to care and maintenance of their products should be followed.

For a department to keep a single apparatus or a fleet of apparatus in good operating condition, a sound plan is needed to ensure that the proper maintenance is performed. Fire departments vary in size therefore their preventative maintenance program will vary in how and when to perform annual maintenance. A small volunteer department may only have several pieces of apparatus where a city department may have many pieces of apparatus thus each preventative maintenance program will be different; however, the goals will be the same which is to ensure that the apparatus is safe and ready for service to respond to calls.

Maintenance programs should be scheduled based on time such as — three months, six months, annually, and/or hours of operation. It is critical that program record forms are easy to use and kept updated as maintenance is performed. There are two types of programs needed to have a good preventative maintenance approach. The first type is when maintenance is needed and the second when maintenance is performed and if necessary, how it was performed. Software programs are available to assist the tracking of maintenance schedules and repairs.

Operational checks that are performed at the beginning of a shift each day, or on a weekly basis should be documented with a check sheet to ensure that all items that need checking or maintenance are completed each time the apparatus is checked.

NFPA 1911 Annex C contains various forms that can be copied and used during the daily and weekly checks as well as Quarterly/Annual Reports.

Fire apparatus are complex machines that require regular preventative maintenance to keep them in top running order as well as being safe and reliable. Regular maintenance will also help maximize the life and value of the apparatus.

Part of any plan is the available resources that a fire department can draw on for testing and repairs or maintenance. Some departments may be able to use the city or town’s vehicle repair shop or public works department and others may have to rely on an outside shop. Even if a department has access to a city shop some work such as transmission overhauls, pump overhauls, aerial lift cylinder repairs or rebuilds and body work may have to use outside service companies.

In many areas there are companies that specialize in fire apparatus repairs and maintenance that employ qualified and certified mechanics. Many fire apparatus dealers and manufacturers have qualified personnel to perform many of the service tasks need to maintain your apparatus in tip-top shape.

Many of these companies have mobile service trucks so that work can be performed in your fire station. When selecting one of these companies make sure that the company is certified to work on the components of your particular apparatus by the apparatus or component manufacturer and that the mechanics they employ meet NFPA 1002.

The fire department should identify all resources that will do regular preventative maintenance and testing but also who can perform emergency out-of-service repairs on a 24/7 basis. Develop a working relationship with these companies and make sure to check out their references.

In our next article we will cover NFPA 1915 Standard for Fire Apparatus Preventive Maintenance Program.

Daniel Cimini is assistant chief (retired) of the Myrtle Beach Fire Department and member of the NFPA 1901 Technical Committee.
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