Instruction Fire Apparatus Drivers Should Receive
Necessity for Capable Instructors—Officers Should Understand Apparatus—Fully Equipped Shop—Inspect Apparatus Ili-Monthlv
TOO much importance cannot be laid upon the proper instruction of drivers and other members of the fire department who handle or care for the apparatus. In the following paper much practical information is given as to the proper instruction of these men :
The first requirement for the successful operation of motor fire apparatus is the proper selection of drivers; careless drivers will ruin the best apparatus in a very short time. A good driver should have a cool head and be able to think and act quickly. Driving a heavy apparatus through the streets with the traffic conditions of today is a man’s job, for the operator must not only watch out for his own apparatus and the men riding on it, but must also guard against the careless drivers rushing out of side streets and those having no regard for any one but themselves.
Drivers should make a careful inspection of their apparatus after each run. They should see that all bolts and nuts are tightened, pay particular attention to brakes and steering gear, inspect springs for broken leaves, proper amount of oil in motor, water in radiator, etc. They should also make a thorough inspection no matter how short the run is, and report immediately any defects found. Many serious accidents have been prevented by a careful inspection.
Three Drivers for Each Company
Each company should have three good drivers one to act as first who should be held responsible for the condition of the car and the other two as assistants. The assistant drivers should alternate driving back from fires and occasionally drive to fires. One man doing all the driving is bad practice, for when the assistants are called upon to drive they forget all they have been instructed in.
Drivers of pumping engines should be thoroughly instructed in operating pumps, the working of churn and relief valves and should know just how much water will be discharged at different pressures. Preference in operating pumpers should be given to the ste.am engineers.
Has Little Opportunity to Gain Experience
The fire department driver has very little opportunity for gaining experience, when you consider the mileage made by fire apparatus. A company that averages One run per day will not average four hundred miles per year, which under the two platoon system divided among six men gives them very little driving experience. A good plan which could be followed in the larger cities would be to have the men after being instructed in the fire department sent to some of the other city departments to drive the heavy trucks. Two weeks of this would give them more experience than they would get in two years in the fire department. Ninety per cent, of the mechanical troubles and accidents are due to the lack of experience.
Men owning their own cars do not always make the best drivers. On their off time they do considerable driving and get so accustomed to handling light cars that when they are called to drive the heavy apparatus they are liable to forget.
“The More Haste the Less Speed”
Speed is most essential to the fire department but the old proverb “The more the haste the less speed” should always be kept in mind. The fact that the fire department has the right of way and is equipped with loud bells and horns is no excuse for rushing through the streets at top speed. A speed limit of twenty-five miles per hour is fast enough for any heavy apparatus which will then always be under the control of the driver. Slow down to ten miles per hour when turning corners, go slow on wet pavements. When trying to stop a heavy truck on wet pavements all the driver can do is to apply the brakes which will stop the wheels from revolving but this will not stop the truck. The only safe way is to drive slow. Drive up slowly to a hydrant; precious minutes are lost getting water on a fire on account of rushing up to a hydrant and then jockeying back and forth trying to make connections. Drivers should practice making hydrant connections and should know just how far to keep away so that a quick hookup can he made.
“Drivers should be instructed by a good capable instructor; a careless instructor will make careless drivers. The proper qualifications are a thorough knowledge of all the department apparatus, to be a good driver, and to have the ability to impart the knowledge to others. The instructor should rank as an officer and have the authority to accept or reject any pupil.”
Drive carefully. It is far better to arrive at a fire a few minutes late than to have an accident when only half way there. The latter means loss of time in sending in a special call and waiting for apparatus to come a greater distance to cover up the disabled company.
Capable Instructor for Drivers
Drivers should be instructed by a good capable instructor; a careless instructor will make careless drivers. The proper qualifications are a thorough knowledge of all the department apparatus, to he a good driver, and to have the ability to impart this knowledge to others. The instructor should rank as an officer and have the authority to accept or reject any pupil. He should attend all large fires and watch the operation of the pumpers. At a fire it will he found that the drivers have forgotten some of the most important points.
The instructor should make frequent visits to the different stations and examine the drivers. He should take the apparatus out to a hydrant and let each one operate the pump under various conditions and with different lengths and number of lines, show the proper setting of reliev valve; make suction connections from river or pond, showing the importance of having all connections with good gaskets to make tight joints, have suction deep enough so as not to draw whirlpools and not have basket lying on bottom which will draw sand into pump. He should also pay particular attention to the lubrication of the motor, running of motor at proper temperature, draining pump and connections after pumping in cold w eather and having spark lever fully advanced.
No Specified Time for Completing Instructions
No specified time should be set for completing the instruction. If, after one or two lessons, the pupil shows ability and interest to learn he should he given all the opportunity possible; there is considerable information given to him in a short time and he should he given the chance to try out each point. Not only instruct him but give a practical demonstration. Often times drivers are sent to a company and it may be a month before he has a chance to operate the pump at a fire. After two or three months he should be called back to the school for a review.
Thorough instructions in lubricating the apparatus must he given, and the work of the pupil should also be watched from time to time to make sure that no part is overlooked. It is an easy matter for a novice to forget.
In learning to drive all pupils have a tendency to keep their foot on the clutch pedal or “riding the clutch” as it is called. This will cause the clutch to slip and will eventually burn out the clutch facings. They should he taught to be careful in descending a long hill. The safe way is to drop back to second speed, leave clutch engaged and close the throttle. The motor will then act as a brake and will hold the car back so that the operator can easily stop on any part of a hill.
Drivers should be shown how important it is to admit when they are at fault or have made a mistake. Instruction of Fire Apparatus Driver
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The tendency is to make a flimsy excuse and oftttimes the officer of the company will try to uphold the driver. If the repair department knows the true cause, it will save a lot of trouble and provision can be made to prevent future troubles. Don’t allow drivers to make carburetor adjustments or repairs to the ignition system, this is a mechanic’s job.
Officers Should Understand Apparatus
Officers of companies should thoroughly understand their apparatus. If pumping engines, they should know just how much water the pump will discharge. It is by their orders that the number of lines and the working pressure is given. They should keep in mind that a pumper will discharge its full capacity at 120 lbs.; one half capacity at 200 lbs., and one third capacity at 250 lbs. Increasing pressure over 120 lbs. decreases capacity. If a pump has three discharge outlets it does not follow that, it will supply three lines under all conditions.
Officers of H. & L. companies should make a personal inspection of ladders after each time they are used to see that they are kept tight, and should take no chances on defects. If in doubt they should notify the repair department and let it pass on the defect. Care should be used in raising and lowering aerial ladders. Suddenly checking the raising of the ladder will cause it to whip and will probably cause the beams to brake or pull the lag screws out of the truss rod brackets. They should see that ladders are not dropped or that too many men are not standing upon them.
Fully Equipped Repair Shop Necessary
To keep the equipment of a fire department in good condition requires the services of first class mechanics and a fully equipped repair shop.
Motor fire apparatus requires the services of the best mechanics. The gasoline motor will deliver its greatest power at a certain crank shaft speed. To get this speed the carburetor must be properly adjusted and the ignition properly timed. A motor may be in first class mechanical condition but have a poor carburetor or ignition adjustment. This will cut down the power of the motor, which means slow speed getting to a fire and if a pumping engine a big reduction in pumping capacity.
Motor adjustments should all be made by mechanics who thoroughly understand their business. This applies not only to the auto mechanics but all the mechanics in the shop; fire department equipment is too important to be repaired by other than the best of mechanics.
Mechanics Should Attend All Large Fires
Some of the mechanics attend all large fires. That is the time they can be of great assistance in supervising the operation of the mechanical equipment.
The repair shop should be large and situated so that the longest trucks can he taken in or out with ease. It should he equipped with the best modern machinery and tools and a large assortment of repair parts should be kept on hand. There should he a heavy truck with windlass and derrick strong enough to lift either end of the heaviest apparatus in the department.
Plenty of Good Spare Apparatus
The extra or spare apparatus should be of the best and plenty of it. As a rule the spares are old and obsolete; all old apparatus especially pumpers, built when motor apparatus was in an experimental stage or built by manufacturers who have gone out of existence, should be discarded and he replaced with modern apparatus.
All the pumpers should be tested at least once a year, preferably from draft. These tests should be made by the mechanics, under the personal supervision of the master mechanic, who should keep a record of all tests. It is a good plan to have the drivers present.
Bi-Monthly Inspection of Apparatus by Mechanics
Careful inspection of apparatus by one of the mechanics at least every two months will be the means of lengthening the life of a machine and save many a failure or accident.
Officers should remember that they are placing a costly and very important apparatus in the hands of men who probably have had no mechanical training and no matter how studious or anxious they are to become good drivers they are very apt to make serious mistakes, not through carelessness or lack of attention, but all for the want of experience.
Clinton, Mass., Will Motorize Department—Plans have been completed for the complete motorization of the Clinton, Mass., fire department and new apparatus will be purchased in the near future.