ASK ERNIE “The Apparatus Maintenance Expert”

CarolinaFireJournal - CFJ Staff
CFJ Staff
04/21/2013 -

Explain the new changes to NFPA 1962 for hose testing that will impact fire departments.

I will defer to John Carbo, FF/EMT for the Thorndale FD, PA. He has reviewed the NFPA 1962 and written an extensive report on updates at:


What is the requirement for chevron on the back of the apparatus?

A Type 1 (engineer grade) is the minimum acceptable type of reflective sheeting that can be used.  Other acceptable materials are a Type 3 High Intensity, a V92/V97 Prismatic Tape, a V82 Type 5 tape and a Crystal Grade Type 8 material.  The required colors are red and yellow for the back.  There is no color designation for the sides and front. The requirements for the different areas of the vehicle are as follows.

Reflective Requirements for Doors

14.1.6 Any door of the apparatus designed to allow persons to enter or exit the apparatus shall have at least 96 square inches (62,000 mm2) of retro-reflective material applied to the inside of the door. (This is too call attention to the door when it is opened.)

Reflective Requirements for the Side and Front of the Vehicle* Retro-reflective stripe or stripes shall be applied to at least 50 percent of the cab and body length on each side of the vehicle, excluding the pump panel areas, and at least 25 percent of the width of the front of the fire apparatus. The stripe or combination of stripes shall be a minimum of four inches (100 mm) in total width. (Two – 2 inch stripes, a 3 inch and a 1 inch, etc. would meet the criteria.) The 4 inch (100 mm) wide stripe or combination of stripes shall be allowed to be interrupted by objects (example- receptacles, cracks between slats in roll up doors) provided the full stripe is viewed as conspicuous when approaching the fire apparatus. A reflective graphic design shall be allowed to replace all or part of the required striping material if the design or combination thereof covers at least the same perimeter length(s) required by

Reflective Requirements for the Rear of the Vehicle At least 50 percent or half  of the rear-facing vertical surfaces, visible from the rear of the fire apparatus, “not including” any pump panel areas not covered by a door, shall be outfitted with retro-reflective striping in a chevron pattern sloping downward and away from the center-line of the vehicle at 45 degree angles. Each stripe used in the chevron design shall be a single color alternating between yellow and red. Each stripe shall be six inches (150 mm) wide. All of the retro-reflective materials required by sections and shall conform to the requirements of ASTM D 4956, Standard Specification for Retro-reflective Sheeting for Traffic Control, Section 6.1.1 for Type I Sheeting. (Engineer grade sheeting which is similar to what is on a car tag. The sheeting can be brighter, i.e., Type 3, 5, 8, v92, v82) All retro-reflective sheeting and materials used to satisfy the requirements of that are colors not listed in ASTM D 4956, Section 6.1.1, shall have a minimum coefficient of retro-reflection of 10 candelas with an observation angle of 0.2 degrees and entrance angle of minus four degrees. Any printed or processed retro-reflective film construction used to meet the requirements of and shall conform to the standards required of an integral colored film as specified in ASTM D 4956, Section 6.1.1.

Are there any changes to aerial apparatus with NFPA?


What is the difference between two stage versus single stage pumps?

The differences are many. Essentially, the single stage pump is a volume pump with limited high pressure capabilities and is intended as a less complicated pump for firefighters to operate. It has a single impellor, which flows from a single or dual path inlet “eye.” The two-stage pump is intended as both a volume AND pressure pump. It has twin impellors (or more if it is a multi-stage pump) that, in the volume/parallel mode, take water from both impellor eyes and discharges from both impellors to produce what can be described as “twice volume/half pressure” as compared to the pressure/series mode. The pressure/series mode, via a change of the “transfer valve” takes water from the first stage impellor eye and transfers the water to the second impellor eye (doubling the pressure) and expels the water to the discharge manifold. This can be considered “twice pressure/half volume” as compared to the volume/parallel mode.

Consider a single stage 1500 GPM pump. The single impellor will produce the full 1500 GPM and requires increased impellor speed to attain high pressures — higher pressures from this pump can create pump overheat issues. Consider the two-stage 1500 GPM pump. The twin impellors each have a volume of 750 GPM and when paired in the volume/parallel mode add up to 1500 GPM. When transferred to the pressure/series mode, the first impellor creates 750 GPM flow to the second impellor which doubles the pressure, thus creating higher pressures for elevated height required discharges like high rise building FDCs, etc. I can go on and on and on about the pluses and minuses of each type of pump, but the description is a start to the explanation of the two pump types. You can find diagrams of flow of the two types of pumps at the websites for Hale, Waterous and Darley — the three most common pump manufacturers in our vocation.

What are some good tips for maintenance of my fire pump?

Clean lubricant and lubricant level checks

Routine inspection and operational procedures

Annual performance testing to determine if there is a need for additional inspection

Routine testing and exercise of pump accessories — primer, relief valves, etc.

Why are some trucks yellow and not red? There has to be a reason.

Ahah! Trying to catch old Uncle Ernie on this one? First need to be answered: What color of the 1200 variations of yellow do you refer? There are a multitude of reasons: personal preference. If you are referring to what we call “slime green” or chartreuse, you are maybe referring to the “yellow” you might see on airport CFR/AARF units? That color is federally mandated. Other colors of yellow are most likely the desired preference of the individual fire departments. If you can imagine any color in the rainbow there is most likely a fire apparatus of that color somewhere in the fire service on this planet. Color of apparatus most commonly falls under three colors: one of the thousands of variations or red, one of the hundreds of variations of white (county apparatus across the nation), and the aforementioned airport yellow/green). If you specify it, they will paint it.

What do the time requirements for aerials and testing actually test?

The timing standard is intended to evaluate the entire aerial “system.” By testing the ability of the stabilizers to deploy in a timely manner, you are testing the hydraulic pump, flows and pressures necessary to meet timing standards. By testing the ability of the aerial device to elevate, rotate and fully extend in a timely manner, you are again testing the hydraulic pump, flows and pressures necessary to meet timing standards. If you can meet the timing standards, you have an assurance that the entire hydraulic and mechanical systems are fully functional and ready for use. This is but one of many conditions that are required to be met for any annual or NDT testing.

What is the lower relief circuit on my aerial?

Sorry, Ernie cannot answer this question as all manufactures have proprietary pressure setting answers for their own systems. The question is open ended and I am not sure what the question actually is.

What type of maintenance should be done to an independent suspension on fire apparatus annually?

Once again, Ernie cannot answer this question. Independent suspension? What brand?

ALL are available on fire apparatus today. All perform well. ALL have their own set of maintenance specifications.

Can I get a list of every testing and service that is supposed to be done annually for NFPA?

NFPA defines what has to be inspected in Pamphlet 1911, 2012 Edition and that maintenance must be performed at least once per year, regardless of mileage or more often if time/mileage conditions dictate. Each chassis manufacturer spells out what items require maintenance and how often. Individual component manufacturers dictate how often those items require maintenance and should be indicated as such in the apparatus service manual.

How many departments in America actually follow NFPA to the letter?

Ah, the great unknown. I do not have a crystal ball and know of no known research to define the question.

I have heard that commercial fire trucks may not be available in the near future due to crash test requirements. Any truth to those matters?

Old Uncle Ernie thinks that perhaps you have answered your own question as a statement whereby you said, “have heard.” The phrase “have heard” leads to the word “rumor.” Uncle Ernie does not pass on rumor without going to the source of who passed it on and then following the rumor to the source. Without actual and factual information on the subject, I await the facts. Probably more to follow as facts show themselves.

Have A Question About An Issue On Your Truck?

“Ask Ernie” The Expert - Call: 866.761.1292 ext. 106 or e-mail: [email protected]

Comments & Ratings

  5/20/2013 8:48:42 AM

Safety Officer 
Why must the Safety Officer be included in the Specification Committee?

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