ASK ERNIE - The Apparatus Maintenance Expert

CarolinaFireJournal - By Anthony D. (Tony) Bulygo
By Anthony D. (Tony) Bulygo
01/23/2014 -

Before we start this edition of “Ask Ernie” please allow me to expand on an earlier question regarding changing apparatus from incandescent or strobe to LED lighting. A caution: If you operate in very cold climates, LED lighting does not generate much heat. As such, snow can build up on the LED lamp, limiting its output. Know your environmental requirements when specifying LED lighting.

Now, to your questions:

Explain the purpose of NFPA 1911.

NFPA wisely chose to bring all testing documents together into one single all-inclusive testing document in 2007. Formerly, NFPA 1911 was the annual “Standard for Service Tests of Fire Pump Systems on Fire Apparatus.” The 2007 edition of 1911 combined the former pump testing with the former NFPA 1914, the “Standard for Testing Fire Department Aerial Devices” and NFPA 1915, the “Standard for Fire Apparatus Preventative Maintenance Program” along with a chapter for the “Retirement of Fire Apparatus” and a re-evaluated “Out-of-Service Criteria” from the NFPA 1915. The term “Service Testing” was changed to “Performance Testing.” NFPA 1914 (historical first edition in 1954) and 1915 (historical first edition in 1991 due to investigations by NTSB regarding repairs performed by untrained personnel) were eliminated after being combined into the new “NFPA 1911; Standard for the Inspection, Maintenance, Testing and Retirement of In-Service Automotive Fire Apparatus, 2012 Edition.”


What exactly does rollover protection on my apparatus entail?

Rollover protection integrates the Stability Control system with that of personnel protection items like seat belt pre-tensioning, frontal air bags, side air bags, knee air bags, etc. Activation of the rollover protection system is initiated when a rollover is anticipated by the “Stability Control” system. The Stability Control system utilizes at least, sensors for steering wheel position, vehicle yaw, lateral accelerometer and individual wheel brake controls. NFPA does not regulate the equipping of fire apparatus with stability control or rollover protection at the current 1901, 2009 edition. Look for inclusion in the new 2004 edition.

What is the speed requirement for new apparatus?

Per NFPA 1901, 2009 edition: 4.15.2: The maximum top speed of fire apparatus with a GVWR over 26,000 pounds shall not exceed either 68 mph or the manufacturer’s maximum fire service speed rating for the (any and all) tires installed on the apparatus, whichever is lower. AND 4.15.3 If the combined water tank and foam tank capacities on the fire apparatus exceed 1250 gallons, or the GVWR of the vehicle exceeds 50,000 pounds, the top speed of the apparatus shall not exceed 60 m.p.h. or the manufacturer’s maximum fire service speed rating for the (any and all) tires installed on the apparatus, whichever is lower.

How can I begin a good maintenance program?

A good basic start is to go to the back of the previously mentioned NFPA 1911 and look for “Quarterly/Annual Mobile Fire Apparatus Inspection Report,” page 79-85. J. J. Keller and Associates has been providing the trucking industry the best and most comprehensive documents since 1953. For the best and most comprehensive manual on vehicle maintenance and a PM program, go online to: Once in possession of this document, the one-year update service is not needed.

What is a good rule of thumb when estimating a budget for vehicle maintenance and repair?

Start with the past three years of vehicle maintenance repair costs. Look at the annual cost increases as an indicator of annual inflations costs. This is only a small part of a full evaluation and projections for need for replacements and/or upgrades to apparatus.

What are the pros for stainless steel pumps?

Both bronze and stainless steel high volume/pressure fire pumps are not common in our industry. Both are available from major pump manufacturers, usually for specialized pumping operations like through-the-pump foam systems and specialized commodity pumping. I foresee more stainless steel pump bodies in the future due to the fact that the cast iron or aluminum pumps are the final component in the pumping system affected by galvanic action/electrolysis. Tanks, plumbing, and valves are now made of materials that are much less susceptible to galvanic action, leaving the cast iron pump vulnerable to galvanic destruction. A sacrificial anode in existing pumps is essential today. A stainless steel pump would greatly increase the life of a fire pump.

You did not ask for the cons for the stainless steel pumps. The biggest “con” is the excessively high cost of these specialized pumps.

Is it good or bad to operate my aerial daily for maintenance?

Did you actually mean to question the daily operation of the aerial device to confirm its functionality? NFPA 1911 indicates that the daily aerial operations test is to include:

  • Operation of the aerial hydraulics
  • Check the aerial stabilizer operation
  • Check the aerial operation
  • Check the aerial hydraulic fluid level
  • Visually inspect the aerial structure

Uncle Ernie believes this is essential for staffed fire stations. If it is an unstaffed/volunteer station, it is mandatory to perform the same operations weekly.

If Santa could bring you any new fire truck what would it be?

By manufacturer, any recognized major fire apparatus manufacturer that can meet the needs of the fire department. Secondly, it would be an apparatus of the type most critically needed in the department and one that is of the heavy duty 20 year lifespan type (Class 8).

Why are so many apparatus going to all electrical when it has been proven that water and electricity do not mix as well as fireman can break an anvil with a rubber hammer?

Ha-ha, OUCH! Electrical components rule our world today. However, unlike the space station or aircraft, we do not have redundant systems on our apparatus. Without electronics our motors could not meet EPA rules and regulations, nor could they operate without these same electronic components and controls. Everything on the apparatus basically falls within the control and integrations of the motor electronic controls and sensors. Regardless of the sub-components for our fire service use, most tie their operations directly or indirectly to the electronically controlled motor. There is NO chance of stepping backward to yesteryear where all things were analog and manual. Think about this — once the motor has been started, the motor and all electronic components are supplied by the alternator — not the battery. Without a quality and fully functional alternator, nothing functions properly.

Honestly what manufacturer is giving you the best bang for your buck?

The fire apparatus manufacturer giving me the best bang for the buck is one that can provide me with the apparatus that was specified with no issues at delivery. The next item that works best for me is the manufacturer’s local service center that completes warranty repairs and repairs after warranty that are performed successfully and professionally with zero returns for same repairs. Next important is the proximity to my facilities and/or fire department location. I know of no irresponsible major (top 10) manufacturers of fire apparatus in the U.S. today (I’ll let you name the top 10). If you hear rumors about any particular company, locate the source of the rumor and get the details and then contact the manufacturer and confront them with the rumor and source. Get the facts. Usually, when you hear the negative acronyms of manufacturer’s names, it comes from an issue of unresolved manufacturer issues, actual failure of the manufacturer and/or their product to perform, or simply displeasure that the agency purchased a product not liked by an individual or group resulting in unfounded rumors. Uncle Ernie does not allow rumors to rule.

“Ask Ernie”
The Expert

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Call: 866.761.1292
Ext. 106

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— Ernie questions answered by Anthony D. (Tony) Bulygo.
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