Firefighter Training: Preplanning Your Preconnects


Next to emergency medical services equipment, preconnected hoselines are probably the most used equipment on the engine. Yet, when designing and specifying new apparatus, we put preconnects and (especially) crosslays usually where they will fit or where we always put them-on top of the pump module. Unfortunately, because our engines have become larger, requiring more and more storage and featuring larger water tanks, the crosslays and hosebeds are placed higher and higher in the engines, which presents concerns and safety issues for firefighters who must now reach higher or even step up onto the apparatus when deploying these lines.

(1) Double-wide and single-stack hose trays for 1¾- and 2½-inch hose loads. (Photos by author.)

Over the years, the Coeur d’Alene (ID) Fire Department has tried several types of crosslay configurations, some good and some not so good. We have had the traditional double-wide flat loads, single stacks, minuteman loads, and speedlays with removable trays and bumper lines. One benefit of having had different configurations is that our firefighters have a pretty good idea of what they like and what they don’t like and what works and what doesn’t work. Everyone has an opinion, and they are generally willing to share it.

As our fleet got closer to being replaced, I set up an apparatus committee to look at researching and testing different preconnect configurations. Our main focus was to improve our crosslay design for greater safety and efficiency. However, we decided to look at all lines that could benefit our operations by adding three preconnected lines. So, along with the traditional crosslays, we looked at our five-inch soft sleeve intake lines, our booster reels, and our front bumper lines. We also looked into the possibility using a preconnected rapid attack monitor, something not featured on our current engines.

(2) A 11⁄2-inch stream shaper and a 1½- × 2½-inch increaser for discharge connections.

The committee’s first step was to gather information. Fortunately, personal opinions would prove beneficial to this project. We needed to ask several questions of the firefighters, the engineers, and the officers, so we used©, one of several free online polling sites (which also includes SurveyMonkey® and Pollcode©). We determined the information we wanted, we set up the surveys with multiple-choice answers, and we sent out the surveys departmentwide. One example survey question follows:

(3) This setup simulates an overhead discharge connection. Note the alternate connection on the bottom of the tray.
(3) This setup simulates an overhead discharge connection. Note the alternate connection on the bottom of the tray.

Regarding the 1¾-inch × 100-foot preconnect, would you prefer:

  1. A bumper-mounted preconnect.
  2. Located with the 200-foot crosslays.
  3. Delete the 1¾-inch × 100-foot line in future apparatus.

Some other questions posed in the surveys regarded preferences relative to preconnected five-inch intake lines, types of loads (i.e., single- or double-stack, minuteman, or flat loads); whether to continue using one-inch booster lines; and the preferred side of the apparatus for line deployment. The surveys were created and then sent out using department e-mail. We sent information related to officers and engineers to those groups specifically. The response was excellent; more than 90 percent of members replied, and we were surprised with some of their responses.

(4) A connection point for the bottom center of the hose load.

With the information gathered from the surveys, we took our next step: We built a mock-up stand and hose trays we could use to simulate hose loads on an apparatus. The stand and trays were built of construction lumber and plywood. The trays were built in single- and double-wide configurations for use with 1¾- and 2½-inch hose. We designed discharge connection points for the locations that could be configured on an apparatus with discharges in the middle and above the hosebed as well as on the exterior of the apparatus just beneath the hose load. The best connection devices were old 1½-inch stream shapers we had in storage. For 2½-inch hose, we used a 1½- × 2½-inch increaser attached directly to the stream shaper. We designed the height of the stand to be adjustable from three to six inches by using a one-inch electrical conduit cut to length, drilling holes into the stand at various heights, and securing the conduit on the ends with clevis pins. We then secured the hose trays so they didn’t pull out of the stand when the hose loads were deployed by placing screw eyes at the rear of the tray and placing the one-inch conduit through the eyes. With the conduit wider than the stand, the trays were locked in place.

(5) The adjustable tray height using a one-inch electrical conduit.

Next, the committee members set up and pulled various hose loads using single- and double-wide stacks at the different discharge connection points and deploying the loads from different heights. We took notes on what worked and what didn’t work. We then had the crews do the same thing.

When all of the surveys and testing were complete, we discovered the following:

  • Crews voted to keep the one-inch hose reels (to the committee’s surprise).
  • Engineers voted for preconnected five-inch soft sleeves mounted in the running boards and preconnected to the intake.
  • Crews decided to keep the 1¾-inch × 100-foot trash lines in the front bumper.
  • The ideal height for crosslays should be 60 to 66 inches.
  • Preferred deployment was from the right side of the apparatus.
  • The single stack in minuteman configuration was preferred overall.
  • A rapid attack monitor should be placed on the rear of the apparatus and preconnected to the supply hose but not to the discharge; this would allow the proper length of hose to be deployed and later connected to a discharge by the engineer.
    (6) Screw eyes and conduit are used to hold the tray in place while deploying the hose load.
    (6) Screw eyes and conduit are used to hold the tray in place while deploying the hose load.

Most of the committee’s findings will be easy to implement; we have already used some of these ideas on current and previous apparatus. The toughest determination we needed to make was how to place the crosslays at the preferred 60 inches. However, after many hours of looking at different apparatus photos online and in magazines, we decided to place two 1¾- and 2½-inch removable trays side by side and just above the fire pump at approximately 60 inches, with the discharges on the outside located just below each hose tray.

(7) The load is ready for testing.
(7) The load is ready for testing.

We will now forward our findings to the apparatus committee to be included in the apparatus specifications. All in all, it was an enjoyable project. We weren’t rushed for time, and we used much of it as training. The best parts of the experience were that we had good participation and a lot of fun doing it.

BOB SHOVALD is a 20-year fire service veteran and an engine captain with the Coeur d’ Alene (ID) Fire Department, assigned to E323 Station 3. He is a state instructor for driver/operator training.

Improving Preconnect Function and Operation

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