Reprint of article on www.fdnntv.com
Fire truck maintenance is an essential part of every fire department’s routine and budget. However, with the nation facing an economic downturn, fire department officials are looking for ways to save money. FDNNTV.com’s Barbara Brooks and veteran fire department Maintenance Officer Sammy Dominick, Sr. bring you tips on daily fire truck maintenance practices that can help your department save money and keep your vehicles in optimum working condition.
Fire Truck Maintenance That Can Be Performed By Firefighters
Unless a fire department has its own full-service maintenance shop, most fire apparatus repairs must be outsourced to a third-party fire mechanic. However, there are several things that firefighters can do on a daily and weekly basis in the station to catch problems early and to prevent the need for costly repairs. These measures will also ensure the safety of the apparatus and its crew.
Apparatus Inspection Forms
Most fire departments have an Apparatus Inspection Form that operators must fill out prior to, and in some cases after, each shift. Sammy Dominick, Sr., a retired Rancho Cucamonga Fire District Maintenance Officer with thirty years of experience, explains, "On that form the individual is signing that he has checked all of the emergency lighting, he’s checked the brakes, he’s checked the steering, he checked the tires, wheels and all of the particulars, all of the equipment that is essential to the firefighting component. They’ve got to check that off daily." Inspecting all of a fire department’s apparatus on a daily basis will insure early detection of potential problems, preventing a possible accident or malfunction. Identifying these issues right away will also prevent additional, related problems, thereby saving the fire department money.
Fire Pump Maintenance
Fire pumps should be maintained on a weekly basis. Dominick advises that pump operators should always backflush the pump to clear out rocks and debris that might have entered the pump during the use of a fire hydrant. He explains, "Every time a contractor breaks into the main pipe, all of that concrete, those pieces and rocks, follow through the mains, come up the hydrants, and stay at the head of the hydrant." He suggests that firefighters make a habit of flowing the hydrant before they hook up to it with their fire apparatus to flush that debris out of the hydrant and keep it from entering the pump. He also recommends that firefighters operate the relief valve or governor on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
"Over and Under" Checks
Keeping a fire apparatus’ moving components properly lubricated is another preventative maintenance measure that firefighters can take. Using a creeper, personnel can access the undercarriage of the fire truck and lubricate all of its fittings. Sammy Dominick explains that this can also be used as an opportunity to check a myriad of other components, saying, "Going under with a creeper and doing what we call an "over and under’ – over is everything on top and under is getting on the creeper, check the drive shaft, the U-Joints, look for leaks in the pump, the differential, the engine, the transmission, maybe a major water leak."
Besides looking for damage and leaks, operators should check that all hoses are securely mounted and are not chaffing against the drive shaft or wheels.
It is also important to make sure that the drive shaft is not cracked or bent. Apparatus operators need to be sure that the drive shaft’s couplings are securely mounted and free of foreign objects.
Brake Slack Adjustor
Inspecting a vehicle’s front brake slack adjustor is also very important. There should not be any broken, loose or missing parts. With the brakes released, the push rod should not travel more than one inch.
Similarly, steering linkage should not have any worn or cracked connecting links, arms or rods. Operators should also check to make sure all of these parts are securely mounted.
Importance of Doing Daily and Weekly Fire Truck Inspections
Dominick stresses the importance of firefighters doing daily and weekly maintenance checks on the fire apparatus in their stations, saying, "Anyone that has a license to drive an apparatus should be able to maintain it to the best level they can. Like the "Out of Service Criteria". Is it a tire problem? Is it a brake problem? Is it a major leak problem? Is it a steering problem? Those kinds of things, you are out of service, no question. You take that on a public road and you get into an accident with it and you haven’t checked it, it’s on you. The liability is on the driver."