ASK ERNIE


"The Apparatus Maintenance Expert"

CarolinaFireJournal - By Anthony D. (Tony) Bulygo
By Anthony D. (Tony) Bulygo
04/24/2015 -

What is the purpose of getting weight tickets signed annually?

Too many apparatus are overloaded as stipulated by the physical components of the apparatus or by local, state, or Federal weight laws. The NFPA mandate is that all apparatus above 10,000 pound GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) be weighed annually and documented. The annual stipulation insures that equipment added over the years does not overload the vehicle. If the apparatus is overloaded, it is stipulated that it must go on a diet to bring the apparatus into compliance with all applicable laws, regulations and standards. If, and when an accident occurs, the weight of the apparatus will come into question. If the standard is adhered to, any arguments that the apparatus was overloaded will be nullified.

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What causes the rear tandem tires on my aerial to wear out so quickly and what can I do to prevent this?

Actually, there is little that you can do to prevent this from occurring. In your case, if you check the actual weights carried on each rear tandem axle — as indicated during the annual weight test — you will most likely determine that the forward axle is carrying more load than the rear tandem and therefore the apparatus will pivot on the forward axle in turns. The result is that the rear axle tires will drag/scrub, which results in the rear tires wearing out before the forward axle. Visa/versa, the opposite can occur when the greater weight is on the rear tandem axle, whereby the front drive tandem tires wear first. Due to the high cost of tires these days, Uncle Ernie suggests that you swap tires from one axle to the other when the most worn tires are at half wear, extending the total life of the tandem tires. Another cost savings is to recap your tires with a high durometer-rated cap from a high quality recap facility — Bandag or Michelin. Cap only your known good casing and cap it only once. The recap will go more miles than the original tire tread and cost about 60 percent that of a new tire. Make sure the recap agencies X-ray the casings for damage.

Is there any specific paint color recommended for apparatus to be the most visible?

Back in the mid-to-late 1970s a leading optometrist wrote a lengthy paper on what color emergency vehicles should be to be better seen and result in fewer accidents. The light spectrum and the conspicuity of the vehicles, especially at night, was determined (by him) that lime green was best, followed by white. White had less favor because of the possibility of the white apparatus blending in where snow was present. Many apparatus spec writers and manufacturers recommended going to the lime color. That time has come and gone. Some argued that accident rates increased. Today we know that it makes little difference what color the vehicle. Code 3 (response) lighting and the usage of full four-side conspicuity taping has diminished accidents. Rear Chevron patterns are now required to cover at least 50 percent of the rear flat panel of the apparatus and a percentage of the sides and front bumper. NFPA spells it out chapter and verse. There is now a question as to whether the Chevron material is helpful in warning oncoming traffic or acting as a target for the inept or impaired driver.

What are the pros and cons of an on-board foam system?

Pros: It is well known that both Class A and Class B foams are extremely helpful in suppressing fires of the class for which they are intended. Foam systems are very beneficial.

Cons: They are also costly. They are also complicated to the degree of which type of foam system is installed and requires constant monitoring to assure that the systems are doing the job intended. Some foam has a life expectancy. Some congeal under the agitation of the product and the heat of the engine surrounding the foam reservoir and therefore must be utilized prior to becoming congealed. The congealing of the product in the foam system can be expensive to rectify. The end product of the congealing process is something likened to a long chain polymer growth.

What is the proper preventative maintenance for apparatus roll up doors?

Each roll-up door manufacturer has different instructions on how to clean and maintain their apparatus roll-up doors. Primarily, washing with soap and water works for most all roll-up doors. Keeping salts (especially mag chloride) washed out of the door slats is especially important. The door tracks must be kept clean. I like to use “Break Free CLP” as a lubricant in the tracks. Only a very light sheen of the lube is needed. Two suggestions for maintaining a good-looking door and keeping moisture and dirt out of the compartment:

  1. When the door is opened, the door rolls up into the header of the compartment. Any dirt or water on the slats gets brought into the compartment with the roll. I recommend that you specify that a roll catch pan be installed below the roll so that it catches the dirt and water in the pan and drains through a drain tube to the atmosphere.
  2. The installation of the pan will prevent equipment stored below the pan from contacting the slats of the roll, resulting in damage to the outer face of the door slats.

What is a good life span for the batteries on my apparatus?

This is a question that has no defined answer. The battery life span is predicated by the type of battery utilized, the frequency of use, the type of use, the number of deep cycles incurred — how many times they have been run very low or dead — the condition of the charging system, and the age of the batteries. Batteries are only required to start the vehicle and supply added power if and when the charging system has been overtaxed. Understanding that once the vehicle is started and the alternator has recharged the batteries, the batteries are along for the ride and the properly specked alternator(s) provides 100 percent of the electrical power to operate the vehicle during all operations, even at idle. Batteries require a clean top, clean enclosure and clean cables. When there is a white or green growth of debris anywhere on the cables, or at the posts, the cables require professional attention. The old baking soda solution or cable cleaning solution to clean the top of the battery and cables will not suffice on the newer fully electronically operated apparatus.

If the growth on the battery or cables is evident, get it to your EVT (emergency vehicle technician) for proper repairs. Many times just replacing a cable will rectify the issue. The question of where the generation of growth came from will need to be addressed and will usually be from electrolyte leakage from the battery post area. If so, the battery will need to be replaced or the identical issue will arise with new cable on the old battery. So, what kind of life can you expect from your battery(s)? Two to six years is common. You may get more or less depending on the quality of the battery and the care that it receives.

How often should an aerial inspection and service be performed?

The inspection and maintenance procedures are threefold.

  1. Manufacturers maintenance/service procedure mandates
  2. NFPA Standards for Annual Inspection
  3. NFPA Standards for five year NDT (Non Destructive Testing)

The manufacturer’s operations/service/maintenance stipulations are the minimum required mandates. There are things like a 10 hour; 40 hour, 100 hour, etc. Each has a set of inspection/maintenance items and differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. The 40 hour includes items in addition to the 10 hour and the 100 hour includes items on the 10 hour plus the 40 hour. Ernie recommends that after the first five year NDT of a new aerial, that all future NDT tests be performed as an annual and shall include the annual visual, timing, weight and visual inspections. The argument is that as aerials age, they become more susceptible to indications of wear and damage through use. Where panels are in place that have aerial items that should be inspected, remove those panels prior to the inspector arriving. When operating the aerial, require an employee or the owner of the aerial to operate the aerial.

Why do we no longer really see any two-stage pumps?

While you may no longer see any two-stage pumps, they do exist and are used for the specialized purpose for which they are intended. If you take into consideration that a two-stage pump is more complicated and requires properly trained personnel to properly operate that pump style, it deters some agencies from specifying and purchasing the costlier and more complicated pump. Budgeting personnel may strike a two-stage pump from the specifications and require a single stage pump on cost alone. Many inner city agencies will require a two-stage pump to pump a high-rise standpipe in pressure mode to move water to higher levels. Some agencies will effectively create a two-stage pump by putting two single stage pumpers in series to get the same job accomplished — call it relay pumping if you wish. Uncle Ernie’s fire department is 99 percent two-stage and has a couple of pumpers with single stage pumps through mergers. There are as many varied opinions for each style as there are fire service agencies. And, if you are not aware, there are three-, four-, and six-stage pumps in service, some with extreme high pressure and low gallon use.

What does my in vehicle recorder actually record?

Per NFPA 4.11 Vehicle Data Recorder (VDR): “All apparatus manufactured after January 01, 2009 shall be equipped with a VDR. The VDR shall be capable of recording each item at least once per second and shall record on a 48-hour loop. The items included shall be a minimum of:

  1. Vehicle Speed in MPH
  2. Acceleration in MPH/sec
  3. Deceleration in MPH/sec.
  4. Engine speed in RPM
  5. Engine throttle position in percent of full throttle
  6. Anti-lock braking system event in ON/OFF notation
  7. Seat Occupied status (occupied: Yes/No) ( Buckled: Yes/No/by position)
  8. Master optical warning device in ON/OFF notation
  9. Time in 24-hour mode
  10. Date in Year/month/day format.”

Section 4:11 includes additional mandates for the VDR. The above is the initial items required.

What are pros and cons of an air primer?

Pros: There is no detrimental shock load to the electrical system caused by the electrical primer — a high amperage draw starter motor to run the electric primer.

Cons: The air primer consumes copious amounts of pressurized air to run the primer. The air primer works well for pumps up to 1500 GPM. Some large cavity 1250 GPM or larger pumps will have difficulty priming the pump on a single charge of air. The primer system must be pressure protected at 80 PSI from the brake system to keep from depleting the air from the brake system. It is advisable to install a dedicated large volume air reservoir to properly supply the needed air to the air primer. Many times the air primer cannot meet prime time parameters set forth by NFPA.

(Disclaimer: Uncle Ernie does not sell any product and is simply the purveyor of available information.)

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

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Issue 33.4 | Spring 2019

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