Improving the Health & Safety of all Emergency Responders

Thirty Years of Safety in Fire Apparatus

11/09/2017
FROM THE FDSOA Richard Marinucci

The Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA) will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its Annual Apparatus Maintenance & Specification Symposium January 15-17, 2018, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

What prompted the first Apparatus Symposium? Influences included a major legal settlement, the introduction of electronics on apparatus, and a determination to educate fire chiefs on the importance of investing in education and training for fire truck mechanics.

In 1985, a Boston jury found a Wisconsin fire truck manufacturer liable for the injuries sustained by a permanently disabled Massachusetts firefighter because it was too common for firefighters to be hurt from the open-cab design of fire trucks. The impact of that decision was revolutionary in the industry, and within a year fire trucks would be radically redesigned.

The legal liability forced the fire apparatus industry to design safer apparatus while evolving technology was also being integrated into the vehicles. The introduction of Detroit Diesel Electronic Control (DDEC) systems, load management, multiplex systems, and antiskid brakes would result in more sophisticated preventive and routine maintenance on fire apparatus.

Bob Barraclough, a vice president with E-ONE in the 1980s, questioned how fire department mechanics would keep up with the rapid changes to new apparatus. Barraclough, a member of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA) and NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, standard committee brought the question to Fort Worth (TX) Fire Department Chief Larry McMillen, chair of the NFPA 1901 committee. In 1987, working with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) staff, Barraclough and McMillen held a meeting at the Worthington Hotel in Fort Worth with representatives from several state mechanics’ associations and several FAMA members. Jim Bland, of the Houston (TX) Fire Department; Gene Carlson, of the International Fire Service Training Association; and Boyd Cole, Underwriters Laboratories, were among those involved in discussions concerning apparatus maintenance, liability, and training maintenance personnel.

In 1988, the IAFC sponsored the founding of the Fire Apparatus Mechanics Certification Program, governed by the IAFC’s Apparatus Maintenance Section. In 1991, the program was incorporated into the EVT Certification Commission (EVTCC). Providing testing and certification to emergency vehicle technicians, the EVTCC raised the professionalism of mechanics throughout the industry.

As a result of the Fort Worth meeting, Barraclough approached Mary McCormack, administrator, International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI), about hosting a small, focused symposium for fire chiefs and mechanics. In 1988, the first Apparatus Specification & Maintenance Symposium was held at a small hotel on Sand Lake Road in Orlando, Florida. Eventually, the program moved to the Rosen Plaza Hotel on International Drive as the conference expanded.

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