Who’s working on your fire apparatus?

I received the following response from a fire service colleague on LinkedIn after he read Sarah Calams’ article, “Why Driving Apparatus into the Junkyard Isn’t Cost-Effective,” in Fire Chief digital’s summer 2016 edition. Jeff Haak, the owner of J. Haak Fleet Services, wrote:

“Every day fire departments across America perform training exercises on how to spray water on a fire or how to go into or get out of a building on fire, all very noble endeavors. Ask your local fire chief what training the individual repairing that $400,000 to $500,000 pumper receives and don’t be surprised by the song and dance you get.

Most fire apparatus won’t top 100,000 miles. But if you don’t maintain it, it will have no choice other than the junkyard.”
Haak’s point is well taken; he has 29 years of experience as a mechanic and holds three Emergency Vehicle Technician Master certifications and four ASE Master certifications.

Most fire departments don’t give a second thought about the need for their firefighters to be trained and certified for the jobs that they do. Training that complies with accepted standards, such as NFPA standards, for firefighters and fire officers is a significant benchmark pursued by many departments.

Firefighting and fire chief expos across this country will spend days teaching classes and presenting seminars on a wide range of fire service topics. But where are the training classes with information on repairing a $500,000 pumper?

According to Haak, “The Florida Fire Chiefs Association puts on the best training week that I have been to, and I know there are a couple others. Beyond that, no one touches it [training for those who repair fire apparatus].”

Four factors
Haak says proper training for those who work on fire apparatus should be important for four key reasons.

First, there has been a concerted effort to make the trucks smarter and greener, which has added a vast amount of technology to fire apparatus. From on-board computer systems that monitor the critical systems of the apparatus to the diesel emissions-reduction systems, there are more items on fire apparatus that can now malfunction.

Second, for the same reason most people cannot repair their own vehicles anymore — the automotive technology has come so far and so fast — untrained firefighters should not be attempting to fix a very expensive and technologically advanced piece of taxpayer-provided equipment.

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