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Cab “Stuff”

March 23rd, 2009

by Robert Tutterow

A considerable amount has been spoken and written about seat belt usage and the lack thereof. However, loose bodies inside the cab of a fire apparatus in the midst of a collision or rollover are only part of the problem. All the other “stuff” inside the cab will become projectiles unless they are securely fastened.

Maybe you have seen the graphic footage from a video camera mounted inside a cab during a rollover at one of the crash test facilities. The good folks at CAPE (Center for Advanced Product Evaluation), a brand of IMMI (Indiana Mills and Manufacturing, Inc.), just outside of Indianapolis have made such videos for fire apparatus cabs. One of the most “wow” moments if viewing their videos is to watch the unbelted firefighter slam against the belted firefighter. It’s the body blow blitzing linebackers can only dream about.

If you have seen these videos or get an opportunity to see them, remember these cabs are being rolled over from a static position with the windshield and other window glass removed. Imagine the chaos if these cabs were moving at 35 mph, 45 mph, 55 mph, 65 mph or faster! As well know personal injury trial lawyer, Jim Juneau says,

…if you are seated and belted and the firefighter next to you is not, then your buddy beside you becomes your worst enemy.

Let’s take that loose “stuff” a bit further. Again, using your imagination, think what damage can be inflicted upon your body if that other “stuff” is a set of irons? It adds a new dimension to the term “axe murderer”. Where is the wisdom in allowing such loose equipment in cab? How many extra seconds does it take to open a compartment door and get a set of irons? My educated guess is about three seconds. Now ask yourself this question — When was the last time your heard firefighters say that if they had only gotten to someone three seconds sooner, they could have saved their life? Let’s consider the scenario of coming out of the cab with a set of irons in your hand. On a good day, this is not wise. Look how many times firefighters trip when they exit a cab, either by missing a step, hitting a slippery surface, stepping on the side of a curb, stepping on a storm drain, etc. Falling down with a set of irons in your hand is not only dangerous; it’s simply not too cool! In fact, there is a good bit of logic in taking a few seconds to gather needed tools while simultaneously assessing the situation and communicating the action plan with fellow crew members.

Of course irons are not the only concern with the “stuff” inside a cab. It appears many departments are now giving serious consideration to this issue. Going on the accurate premise that only items needed during the response shall be carried in the cab, we are seeing improved cab designs. Departments are now working with manufacturers to provide mounting space for communications equipment, especially laptop computers. Because of the space available for equipment storage inside custom cabs, many departments are now putting compartments inside the cab. Though technically equipment is being stored inside the cab, the compartment within the cab meets the same equipment stowage purpose of compartments in the body of the apparatus. The key point with cab compartments is that the doors remain closed during travel. Cab compartments can also be designed so they also have exterior doors, a feature most beneficial to eliminate climbing back into the cab after incident operations are underway.

NFPA has been addressing the issue of cab equipment for several years.

However, end user compliance has been woefully lacking. For many years, there has been an NFPA requirement that states, “All equipment not required to be used during an emergency response, with the exception of SCBA units, shall not be mounted in a driving or crew area unless it is contained in a fully enclosed and latched compartment capable of containing the contents when a 9G force is applied in the longitudinal axis of the vehicle or a 3 G force is applied in any other direction, or the equipment is mounted in a bracket(s) that can contain the equipment when the equipment is subjected to those same forces.” The clear-cut, easy way to comply with this requirement is too simply put everything in a compartment.

For SCBA, there has been considerable discussion in the industry about requiring that SCBA no longer be carried in the cab. However, it must be understood that no one has yet to submit a proposal to the NFPA Technical Committee on Apparatus to make this a requirement. The SCBA bracket manufacturers have acknowledged the problem. There are currently at least three manufacturers that offer SCBA brackets that do not use the restraining straps that never got fastened. In addition, the spring clips are now a thing of the past for new apparatus. Most of the three new bracket designs use a mechanical lever to activate and release a clamping device to secure the SCBA. Pierce Manufacturing now offers a bracket that is based on inertia.

To further illustrate the emphasis on “stuff” in the cab, the next revision of NFPA 1901, which becomes effective for all new apparatus in January, 2009, will have requirements for helmet storage that are identical to any other mounted equipment. The revision states: “The following statement shall be included in the operator’s manual: ‘Fire helmets shall not be worn by persons riding in enclosed driving and crew areas. Fire helmets are not designed for crash protection and they will interfere with the protection provided by head rests.’ A location for helmet storage shall be provided. A label stating ‘DO NOT WEAR HELMET WHILE SEATED’ shall be visible from each seating location.”

The NFPA estimates there are almost 20,000 apparatus collisions a year! With loose “stuff” in the cab, that’s almost 20,000 opportunities to purposefully walk directly into enemy fire without any defense. How dumb is that?

Take ownership of your safety and the safety of your fellow firefighters. If not for you, then, at least, for your family and friends.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 23rd, 2009 at 1:40 pm and is filed under commentary articles. There are No Responses to “Cab “Stuff”” :

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