Knowing which, when and how

Knowing which, when and how

Whether a manual hand pump, horse-drawn steam pumper, or a 400 HP engine, the apparatus sporting that iconic fire engine red paint – and in some cases white, yellow, or even lime – has been rushing down our streets and safeguarding human life and critical infrastructure since the second century B.C. Today, there are different apparatus for various uses, including technical rescue tenders for navigating the cityscape, and water tenders for transporting large amounts of water to the fire incident. As technological innovations are made each year, fire engines become more advanced. Talal Hashem Alnahari Alhashmi, Chief Executive Officer, Jaheziya explains how having the knowledge to determine which type of fire apparatus is appropriate within different emergency environments is crucial to fire and rescue services, which includes up-to-date training and familiarity with the latest fire emergency response technology.

A firefighting apparatus is any vehicle that has been customised for use during firefighting operations. These vehicles are highly bespoke, depending on their needs, duty and performance. The duties are primarily firefighting, but often encompass rescue operations and HAZMAT response preparedness. 

Fire engines are fitted with visual and audible warning devices for right of way on the roads, such as sirens and beacon lights, as well as mass communication equipment. Intra-team communications are managed through equipment like two-way radios, and new additions such as wireless communications and Wi-Fi hotspots are increasing in demand.

Modern fire engines are packed with firefighting and rescue equipment, including hoses, ladders, self-contained breathing apparatus, ventilating equipment, first aid kits, and hydraulic rescue tools. With all of their first aid and emergency equipment, fire engines are commonly used for non-fire emergency response purposes, including technical rescue.

An all-hazard fire truck will carry water and foam firefighting equipment, rope and technical rescue tools, HAZMAT equipment, and road traffic collision and stabilisation equipment. A typical fire truck may also carry ladders, ventilator fans, fuel, breathing apparatus, pumps and first aid kits. However, depending on the hazard covered, certain environments will require a specialised truck. 

The all-hazard fire truck is disadvantaged by often carrying only the minimum level of each category of equipment, while specialised vehicles carry more quantities and sizes of specialised equipment. These vehicles include the HAZMAT truck, fire tender, foam tender, rescue tender, and mobile control unit.

Being ready for any potential fire danger involves three areas of focus: equipping oneself with the right tools and techniques for all corresponding fire emergencies, committing to regular fire response training, and keeping all equipment and vehicles in peak condition. By maintaining each of these, emergency responders should be able to react appropriately in a fire emergency — no matter what class of fire they face.

Determining which type of vehicle to utilise in response to a fire emergency is done through a process called pre-fire planning. This occurs immediately after a fire service is established in an area, whether domestic or industrial. The pre-fire plan determines potential fire hazards and risks, what type of equipment is needed, which class or type of fire has had potential of occurrence, whether hazardous materials could be involved, a travel time assessment, and an estimated response time for gaining control of the situation.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, classifies vehicles by type and function. This is important because it created universal fire truck standards and terminology to help fire departments find an apparatus that will fit their needs.

According to the NFPA, fire engine types are specified from the largest to smallest size, ranging from Types 1 through 7. Types 1 and 2 are the largest, carrying large pumps and ladders for structure fires, while Types 5 through 7 are the smallest in order to navigate rough wildland terrain. Type 3 and 4 engines are mid-sized, built both for wildland mobility and large water capacity. Type 4 engines typically have much larger water tanks than Type 3 engines.

During an emergency response, the officer in charge is responsible for carrying out a dynamic risk assessment. This officer considers multiple factors regarding the type of fire and environment to make crucial decisions. These decisions must be made quickly, but also carefully, as to best ensure a positive outcome in a fire emergency. 

In most fire incidents, the equipment required is the same, but may differ in scale; for example, discharging capabilities can vary from incident to incident. There may be particular extinguishing agents, or different substances used to put out fires, required as well. For example, in some HAZMAT incidents, the use of water is not permitted for risk of worsening the situation. In that case, dry chemical powder or carbon dioxide firefighting systems may be used. 

Where HAZMAT materials are being manufactured, stored, transported or used requires special firefighting media. That information is provided in advance as a legal requirement, making possible pre-fire planning arrangements, including purchase of appropriate firefighting vehicles and equipment. In all HAZMAT incident scenarios, Special Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Respiratory Protection Equipment (RPE) and decontamination equipment are priority equipment to keep on the truck.

Within the UAE, multiple types of emergency vehicles are frequently used – specificity applies depending on the type of facility and operations being protected. These vehicles include fire engines, HAZMAT, rescue, aerial appliances, foam tenders, and airport crash tender vehicles. In each case, the encountered incident will determine the necessary vehicle. For example, an airport crash tender is required at an airport, an industrial fire truck is required at an oil and gas terminal, and a domestic fire truck is required to cover civilian areas.

On a typical fire apparatus, most trucks are designed for a seating capacity of six. This includes an Officer in Charge, a pump or fire truck operator, a crew leader, and first, second and third crew mates. The latter is also responsible for hydrant water supplies.

Vehicle manoeuverability will determine the specifications you will need for your desired fire truck, considering turning and sweeping cycles, the ground clearance required, as well as off-road capabilities, if needed. Teams will also consider how much apparatus power they need to successfully manage a fire. A large residential building fire is not synonymous to a major industrial fire, such as one in an aboveground oil tank. For industrial incidents, which often result in highly dangerous fires, the fire trucks are usually above 400HP.

Consistent training is especially important for the drivers and responders who are responsible for operating apparatus equipped with fire pumps. This specialised training will tackle the general principles of pump operations, as well as the application of those principles where feasible. It is also meant to guide drivers and operators in the proper maintenance and care for the apparatus. Through this type of training, firefighters should receive the basic information necessary to meet the job performance requirements of NFPA 1002, such as the Standards for Fire Apparatus Driver and Operator Professional Qualifications.

As firefighting equipment, apparatus and techniques continue to innovate and develop, it’s difficult to predict what the future holds for fire engines and their subsequent training programmes. However, fire engines and apparatus training will continue to be integral, lifesaving tools in firefighting efforts.