Urban Firefighting: Fire Truck Design and Configuration Examples

Urban firefighting presents many unique challenges for first responders. From highrise and multi-occupancy buildings, historical firehouses, narrow streets, and alleys, to proximity to highway systems, industrial parks and airports, urban fire departments have a lot of varying responsibilities.

As fire departments consider the right apparatus for urban firefighting, what are some design and configuration considerations? Below, we outline some key factors fire department representatives may want to consider.

Common Urban Fire Truck Design Features

Urban fire departments typically have very high call volume and feature some common design features:

  • A comfortable and safe cab. With a high volume of calls, firefighters spend a lot of time in the cab. As such, cabs are often designed to reduce stress on firefighters’ bodies as they travel in the vehicle.
  • Vehicle ergonomics. To optimize efficiency, fire trucks are designed for fast and easy entry in and out of the cab.
  • Improved suspension systems. When a fire truck is used daily, many fire departments choose to include a high-performance suspension system onboard to ensure firefighters arrive on the scene safely. This helps improve ride quality, apparatus longevity and truck maneuverability. Additionally, a high-quality suspension system protects firefighters and valuable equipment from continuous jostling and bumps.
  • A hand is holding a cell phone that shows fire truck collision avoidance technology on the screen with a fire engine in the background. Collision Avoidance. Modern fire trucks are designed with collision avoidance technology, like HAAS Alert, to help ensure these critical vehicles stay in service.
  • Design based on geography and community needs. Every fire truck should be designed based on the needs of the community it serves. Knowing which configuration works best to support the people, buildings and businesses in the service area improves a department’s ability to respond effectively to all types of emergencies.
  • Smart design and configuration. Based on the community’s needs, fire trucks should be configured to optimize timely and efficient response. The types of calls can help dictate how to configure the truck and store critical equipment in easy to access compartments.
  • Outfitted to manage emergency medical services (EMS). Urban area fire trucks are almost always prepared to manage EMS calls.
  • An interior image of a fire truck cab shows the driver side, highlighting the easy-to-clean interior surfaces. Include an easy-to-clean interior. Spending a lot of time in the cab means seats, floors and accessories may get dirty quickly. As a result, urban fire trucks are often constructed with easy-to-clean interior surfaces.
  • Low and easy access to critical equipment. Urban fire trucks are often equipped with critical equipment in low and readily accessible areas. Hosebeds and crosslays are often low, so firefighters don’t have to climb for access. Ladder access is optimized and rear outlets are often low and pre-connected for easy hook-ups.

While there are some similarities in truck design across urban fire departments, depending on where a department is located, the additional features of the truck may vary significantly.In a large urban center, for example, fire stations positioned near an interstate may run more accident calls with a larger, more heavily equipped squad fire truck, while stations in the heart of the city may run more EMS from a smaller, more maneuverable fire engine. The mission of the truck drives the type of truck required and the tools and equipment on board.

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