Specifying and Purchasing Fire Apparatus

December 5th, 2008

by Bill Peters

Specifying and purchasing fire apparatus can be a very difficult process, especially for the fire chief or truck committee who is unfamiliar with the procedures involved. Due to the infrequency of this process, few chiefs have the opportunity to become thoroughly familiar with the intricacies of apparatus purchasing. The common method utilized by many purchasers, is to rely solely on the advice and guidance of an apparatus sales person. This can add to the anxiety and apprehension of the chief who is concerned with obtaining suitable apparatus, at a reasonable price, for his community.

Preparing specifications and purchasing fire apparatus are major responsibilities that represent a sizable, long term investment of community funds.

If there is only one thing that I learned over the many years that I have been involved in purchasing fire apparatus for my department, as well as for private consulting clients is “Organization is the key to success.” Whether you are planning a vacation, establishing a training program or purchasing a piece of fire apparatus, get organized!

After you determine exactly what functions you expect of the apparatus, the next step is to obtain a current copy of NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus. The 2009 edition is, or will be available shortly. As an important note, there were many changes in the new edition that you may not be aware of. Get the book and do your homework!

The minimum requirements of each type of apparatus are outlined in the standard, and it can be used as a solid foundation to build upon, specifying an apparatus that is safe, efficient and exactly matching your needs. Remember, NFPA 1901 is a minimum standard. It is up to the purchaser to expand and improve upon its requirements. In addition, many helpful documents are contained in the standard’s annexes including explanatory material that is linked to requirements in the standard, compliance inspection charts, and even reference material (Annex D) to help you justify the replacement of an older apparatus.

Typically, items that are introduced during the update cycle are included because of safety or operational concerns that have been brought to the committee’s attention. You too can get involved in this process. Located in the rear of the standard is a blank form entitled “Form for Proposals on NFPA Technical Committee Documents.” Outline your concerns, forward the form, and I assure you that the committee will address the issue.

To approach this complex project in an orderly fashion, an outline of tasks, arranged in sequential order, should be established and followed. Allowing sufficient time to thoroughly complete all phases is also an important consideration in satisfactorily reaching the goal.


The purchasing process is dependent upon many variables. Time, money and the physical and tactical requirements of the apparatus are some of the considerations. The following outline covers the numerous steps that may be necessary to turn the initial proposal into a functioning piece of fire apparatus.

  1. Determine who will research and formulate the specifications: fire chief, staff member(s), or possibly a truck committee.
  2. Establish and define the amount of time that is available from the beginning of the project to the delivery.
  3. Consider the financial implications and replacement options available: outright purchase, lease, lease/purchase or refurbishment.
  4. Conduct research. Identify the type of apparatus available to fit your needs. What types of features and options will enhance your operation? Finally, what manufacturers or dealers have a solid reputation for providing a quality product and warranty support.
  5. Secure funding needed for the purchase. Depending on the type of fire department (municipal, fire district or independent) other officials will most likely have to endorse the purchase to receive funding.
  6. Outline preliminary requirements using NFPA Standards (Annex B). This is a questionnaire type form that will guide the specifier through the various features of the apparatus by requirement.
  7. Request sample specifications and representative drawings from several manufacturers based on the answers provided in the Annex B purchasing questionnaire.
  8. Use the information provided by the manufacturers and assemble a preliminary specification of the apparatus that best suits the community’s needs.
  9. Hold a pre-bid conference if required or desired. Here, potential bidders are invited to sit in on a meeting to go over each and every requirement of the specifications in order to clarify any misconceptions.
  10. Distribute the final specifications for a public bid. This is generally done by a purchasing department or the administrative staff of the municipality.
  11. Evaluate the bids and make a recommendation of award of contract based on the best value (not necessarily the low bid). It is most important to evaluate all bids equally and be fair with the evaluation process.
  12. Attend a pre-construction conference with the manufacturer to discuss each detail of construction. This conference is best held at the manufacturer’s facility as there will most likely be many examples of apparatus meeting your requirements, and the people who actually build the apparatus will be available to answer questions or clear up anything that is not clearly understood.
  13. Conduct other inspections as specified. Formerly, pre-paint inspections were often specified, however, most apparatus manufacturers now finish and paint the main components of the apparatus separately, and assemble them at once. A good final inspection and performance testing at the factory is the best way to receive a satisfactory delivery.
  14. Receive delivery and perform acceptance testing. Final acceptance testing should be done upon delivery. This should include: road test with the apparatus fully loaded, operational test of components such as the aerial ladder or generator and a pump test if the facilities are available.
  15. Schedule manufacturer’s training, if included in the specifications. In your specifications, remember to allow enough days to cover all shifts in a career department, or some nights and possibly a weekend in the volunteer sector.
  16. When all members are proficient the apparatus is placed in service.

The typical time to accomplish all of these steps is 18 to 24 months so you must plan ahead!


In larger fire departments, apparatus specifications and purchasing duties are usually undertaken by an apparatus or maintenance officer, planning department or support- services staff, with final specifications approval by the fire chief.

In smaller career departments without extensive staff personnel the duties will usually be handled directly by the chief of department. In this case, the chief would be wise to receive input from his deputies or possibly the company officers who will ultimately utilize the apparatus. Some seek the advice of larger departments who purchase apparatus more frequently, or the assistance of a private consultant who is familiar with the process. Considering the financial implications of the purchase, utilizing outside help is usually a wise decision.

Volunteer fire companies will usually form a committee to deal with the purchase. The make-up of this committee can be critical to the successful outcome of the project. While all members of the company should be able to voice their opinions, a select group of knowledgeable individuals should be charged with researching and evaluating the features and options that will ultimately become the finished apparatus.

Depending on of the size of the fire company, the following personnel, if available should be considered for their input and expertise:

  • Company Officers for suggestions relative to the tactical and operational objectives that they expect from the apparatus.
  • Drivers/Operators/Engineers can provide input into the performance expected of the vehicle.
  • Maintenance Personnel should focus on the mechanical and maintenance portion of the apparatus.
  • Training Officer who will most likely be well informed about current practices and procedures that can be applied to enhance the operational efficiency of the apparatus.
  • Safety Officer who should direct his concerns to enhancing the general overall safety of the apparatus.
  • Members participating should be selected carefully. Strong personalities can easily burden and bog down the entire process.


Whether a decision to purchase or lease was made, the chief or committee should plan on conducting extensive research into the basic types of apparatus, the features and options available. There are several ways that this can be accomplished.

  • Advertisements and articles in trade publications often contain interesting material about the latest apparatus and equipment trends, maintenance procedures and problem solving ideas. Much can be learned from the research that goes into preparing these essays.
  • Attend one or more of the many trade shows that are presented around the country. Apparatus manufacturers and component suppliers are well represented at these events and display their latest designs, innovations and features. This provides the committee with the convenience of access to knowledgeable factory personnel, who can answer most questions about their products, from many manufacturers all in one location. It also provides an opportunity to closely examine the workmanship and quality of the apparatus in contention for the purchase.
  • Visit the manufacturer’s facility. Many routinely offer guided tours and most welcome an inspection of their facility. Examining apparatus that are in various stages of the building process is a very enlightening experience. Inspecting apparatus that are finished and awaiting delivery can often stimulate new ideas or highlight different methods of accomplishing certain goals. As with the apparatus shows, record items of interest for future reference.
  • Visiting neighbouring departments that have had a recent delivery of a similar piece of apparatus is another way of networking information. On this type of visit, it is also wise to talk to both the officials who were responsible for the purchase to gain information about the manufacturer’s reliability, conformance to specifications and general disposition, and to the members who drive and operate the unit. This will hopefully provide a well rounded opinion of the product and the manufacturer. When calling for the appointment, ask if a copy of the bidding specifications and possibly a shop drawing are available for you to have. They will be valuable when researching products and making comparisons.

Based on your previous research, several acceptable manufacturers should be contacted for a sales presentation. In addition to the demonstration, most dealers would be happy to provide brochures, sales information and possibly recent shop drawings from other deliveries for your consideration. This material is a good starting point for developing your own specifications.

It is also important that one member of the committee be designated as the secretary or “scribe” to record the details of the meeting and to assemble the material provided in a neat orderly fashion for future reference.


After establishing an approximate price and delivery time, the chief needs to seek approval for the necessary funding. When requesting funding, provide an honest estimate and be careful not to cut yourself short. In the apparatus industry, there are frequent price fluctuations and several variables that have to be considered when the final bid is prepared. Most recently we have all suffered stiff increases in the price of fuel. That translates directly to higher prices for the raw materials such as sheet metal and engine components. With the amount of work that is required, and the life expectancy of the apparatus, it is better to err on the high side rather than having to settle for less that desired or having to go back to the city officials to ask for more money, which could seriously jeopardize funding for the entire procurement project.

Approaching city officials to request a large sum of money for the purchase of a piece of apparatus can be intimidating to say the least! This is especially true when the spokesman does not have a background in public speaking. Remember, in most cases the people who you have to convince to fund the project have no expertise in the fire service and need to be educated on the subject.

There are several important items that should be understood before entering this arena:

  • Be prepared. All areas of justification must be fully explored and documented. Anticipate all possible questions and have answers prepared that are rehearsed and flow naturally. Being properly prepared will also help reduce the nervousness and anticipation that you might be experiencing. Never “Wing it”!
  • Stress escalating maintenance costs and inefficiency. Have actual maintenance costs available as part of your research. Elected officials must be convinced that in the long run, this is a wise economic decision. Be prepared to answer why refurbishment is not economically feasible (if this is the case).
  • Explore the issue of public safety. Are the citizens at risk because of an unreliable piece of apparatus? Produce records highlighting the number of times the apparatus was out of service at the shop or unable to respond.
  • Don’t get emotional, stay calm. Remember, ultimately this is a business transaction and it is always easier to do business in a rational manner. Don’t threaten…no one likes to be “put in a corner”.
  • Emphasize your complete commitment to work with the administration by expressing an understanding of budget limitations and keeping the specifications basically “frill-free”.
  • Emphasize the time frame involved, which could be from 18 to 24 months, and the anticipated price increases associated with delaying the bid.



Once funding is committed, the fire department must begin the serious process of developing the bidding specifications. The first step in this process is using the information contained in NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, to determine what chapters of the standard apply, depending on the primary function of the apparatus.

There are seven categories of apparatus listed in the standard. They are: Pumper; Initial Attack Apparatus; Mobile Water Supply; Aerial Apparatus; Quint Fire Apparatus; Special Service Apparatus; Mobile Foam Fire Apparatus.

The general requirements section of the apparatus Standard contains the following statement: It shall be the responsibility of purchaser to specify the following details of the apparatus:

  1. Its required performance, including operations at elevations above 2000 feet or on grades greater than 6 percent is required.
  2. The maximum number of fire fighters to ride within the apparatus.
  3. Specific electrical loads that are to be part of the continuous electrical load.
  4. Any hose, ground ladders or equipment to be carried by the apparatus that exceeds the minimum requirements of this standard.
  5. If trailers for the purpose of transporting fire rescue response equipment whether it is a Type I or Type II configuration.

This effectively places the burden of specifying everything that is needed for the apparatus to operate beyond the minimums on the purchaser. For example, in the most recent update, the requirement for the parking brakes to hold the apparatus on a 20 percent grade was removed. If your district has grades steeper than 6 percent, it should be noted in your specifications. Another example is the amount of hose to be carried. The standard calls for a minimum 30 cubic foot hosebed and the equipment section says that 800 ‘ of 2-1/2″ or larger and 400 ‘ of 1-1/2″, 1-3/4″ or 2″ inch hose must be carried on pumpers. Most fire departments that I have worked with carry far more hose than the minimums in the standard. This must be identified in the specifications so the required hosebed space and axle weight carrying capacity can be provided.

Another area where the NFPA standard differs is with ISO compliance. This is especially true in equipment that is to be carried. If you are in an ISO “sensitive” part of the country you will need to compare the requirements of each and make your decisions accordingly.

In addition, the standard has an Annex section (Annex A) that gives a large quantity of additional information and contains suggestions relative to exceeding the minimum requirements of the standard. Any requirement in the standard that has an asterisk (*) next to its number has additional annex material available.

It cannot be stressed enough that the NFPA Standard is a minimum standard. There are many areas where operational efficiency can be enhanced by exceeding the requirements of the standard.


It is safe to say that most apparatus purchasers are not automotive engineers or posses the qualifications to tell a manufacturer what dimensions the frame rails must be, or how many crossmembers are needed to provide the strength and stability necessary for the apparatus. For this is the reason we must rely on sample specifications developed by people who do have the necessary knowledge. By utilizing an established specification as a guide, we are provided with quantitative values with which the other bidders can be compared.

It is extremely important that the method of taking exceptions or explaining clarifications be provided. This fairly allows other bidders to present their version of compliance with the intent of the specifications. A bidder’s exception will often exceed the minimum requirements of the specifications.

While using the information contained in a manufacturer’s specification as a sample for your specs, there are many reasons why you should not use it as the bid document.

Certain “proprietary” items will undoubtedly be contained in the language that other bidders will either have a difficult or impossible time meeting and they are sometimes followed by the notation “no exception”. It is unlikely that a manufacturer providing specifications would include anything that they couldn’t meet!

Most manufacturers’ specifications contain large areas of language, from several paragraphs to several pages, describing sections of the apparatus. This makes bid evaluation extremely difficult as the other bidders will probably take an exception to the entire section and address the components of their assembly in the same manner. If the spec writer takes the information provided in the sample, and converts it into smaller, more manageable units, the specification will be easier to understand, and bidders taking exception will have to address each element individually.

Using phrases such as “approximately” or “not less than” or “not more than” when describing areas of the specifications that contain measurements (such as compartment sizes) will open the spec to more bidders.

Remember the NFPA Standards place the burden of specifying all of the details of the apparatus and its performance on the purchaser. Take the information contained in the sample specifications provided by reputable builders and modify it to meet the needs of your department.


Specifications can generally be put into three categories: design, performance and a combination of the two, design-performance.

Design Specifications

Design specifications spell out all of the details of material and construction. Most specifications obtained from the manufacturers could be categorized as being heavily design oriented. Often the design features of components are described down to the last nut and bolt.

There are certain advantages and disadvantages of each type of specification.

The advantage of a design type specification is that everything is clearly defined and uniformity of the fleet for maintenance, parts inventory and training can be maintained.

The disadvantage of using design specifications is that they can be overly restrictive to other responsible bidders. Design specifications tend to restricts innovation. By identifying every component, progressive new ideas will not be incorporated into the apparatus. When using a tight design specification from one manufacturer, there is a possibility that the cost of the apparatus will be more, due to reduced competition. Also, other manufacturer’s bids might be higher when trying to meet the design criteria specified if it differs from their normal method of construction.

Performance Specifications

Performance specifications are written around the required functional criteria of the apparatus. In this type of specification, all of the details of performance are outlined along with the associated testing necessary to quantify the results. Basically it tells the bidder what the apparatus must do, but not necessarily how to accomplish it.

As with the other types, there are advantages and disadvantages when using performance oriented specifications.

The first advantage is that performance specifications are generally more competitive. Allowing a manufacturer to build in his own style in order to meet your performance criteria will result in competitive pricing. Performance specs allow innovation. All new innovations in fire apparatus were once ideas to meet certain performance objectives. Without restricting the design, better use can be made of innovative features. This could result in a more effective apparatus. Some of the disadvantages of the performance specification are that the interpretation of the specifications could be flawed due to the reduced number of design definitions. It is very important to identify quantitative (measurable) performance requirements to guard against minimal compliance. Also, uniformity of the fleet will be lost when purchasing from several different manufactures.

Design-Performance Specification

The third type is a combination design-performance specification. This type couples both the necessary design features, with the necessary performance criteria, to arrive at a specification that will provide an apparatus that is designed to fit your needs, and will as perform as desired.

There are many advantages to using this type of combination specification, and because it is adaptable, actually no disadvantages. Some of the advantages are:

  1. It is practical. By combining the correct amount of important design features with the necessary performance, a practical specification is developed.
  2. It is Competitive. This type of specification allows for more competition between the bidders. The increased competition will help reduce the cost of the apparatus.
  3. Uniformity of certain components can be maintained, for example the brand of fire pump, by outlining them as design rather than performance features.

Finally, it adds credibility. Rather than using a manufacturer’s specification, word for word, the combination specification is really your specification.


One of the biggest pitfalls in specification writing is a weak or poorly written set of general requirements. Sometimes referred to as the “boilerplate”, this section outlines the bidding instructions and defines the “ground rules” that apply to using the specifications. The general requirements are sometimes more important than the construction specifications in relation to determining the validity and evaluation of a manufacturer’s bid.

Following are some of the important issues that should be completely explained in the general portion of the specifications. Remember, a manufacturer’s sample specifications might not contain all of the items that the fire department considers important and certainly will not contain anything that would be difficult or impossible for him to meet.

Intent Statement

A general statement that describes the apparatus and the requirement to comply with the current NFPA Standard as well as federal, state and local motor vehicle laws. In the intent statement you should also identify the NFPA type of apparatus you are specifying for example an aerial or a quint as the requirements for each differ.

Include in your intent statement the following: “Any error, omission or inconsistency that is identified by the bidder shall be listed as such in the exceptions and a proposal to meet the intent of the specifications shall be listed.” Sometimes when writing specs you may make an error or include components that are inconsistent. This puts the burden of identifying them on the bidder and how they intend to resolve the discrepancy.

Bid Submission Requirements

The method and form of submitting a bid including the acceptable way of outlining deviations and exceptions, with full explanation and in bid order, and if contractor specifications and example drawings are required. It is also wise to include, in very direct language, that the fire departments specifications will prevail over any proposal submitted, unless a properly defined exception was granted. This will help avoid a problem that sometimes surfaces when a bidder does not take exception but proposes to build according to their own standards regardless of the specifications. This could be construed as taking total exception to the specifications and might be cause for rejection.

Performance Requirements

Performance requirements, including road and operational functions should be included.

Delivery and Payment Terms

The location of acceptance and location of delivery, whether at the factory or in your community should be established. Payment terms should also be clearly defined. Some manufacturers offer a discount for pre-payment of components or progressive payments as the apparatus is being built. If your desire is to consider one of these discount plans, you should outline the points at which you are willing to make prepayments. If you leave it up to the bidder, you will be faced with comparing “apples to oranges” when each bidder offers a different discount program.

As a word of caution, require that the component being paid for, such as the chassis, be invoiced and a certificate of ownership be issued. In the past, some fire departments have lost chassis that were pre-paid when the manufacturer suddenly went into bankruptcy.

Special Construction Requirements

Items such as whether a custom or commercial chassis is acceptable, the type of material to be used in the construction of the cab and body, and if one manufacturer is to build the entire apparatus. The latter, is somewhat restrictive but some purchasers require it to help prevent the possible problem of divided responsibility for warranty work. You must also realize that it might restrict the number of bidders on the project.

Approval Drawings

If approval drawings are required, the time when they will be delivered should be established, as well as whether they or the written specification take prescience. A pump panel approval drawing is a very important requirement and generally will not be supplied unless specified. I think that there are more complaints about pump panel lay-outs at final inspections than any other single feature. It is a lot easier to adjust the pump panel on paper rather than after it is built! It is also wise to state that the fire department will make every effort to correct the approval drawings, but the written specifications, along with any corrections, will prevail.

Manufacturer’s Experience and Reliability

Requirements that outline the criteria to establish a manufacturer’s reliability and reputation should be included. Items such as the number of years in business, a list of customers who can be contacted and possibly a financial statement from a nationally recognized financial rating service are sometimes included.

It might also be wise to include a statement if you not willing to accept a “prototype” or first of a kind, apparatus built by the manufacturer. This will establish whether they have built apparatus similar to the one described in your specifications.

Bonding and Insurance

Bonds are a form of insurance that bidder will comply with certain requirements of the bid. A bid bond insures that the bidder is responsible and will execute a contract if awarded the bid. This provides recourse if for instance, the bidder submitted an inaccurate price or later decided that he did not wish to proceed with the contract.

A performance bond is issued after the contract is awarded and indicates that the bidder will perform according to the provisions of the contract. If the contractor does not perform up to requirements, the bonding company is only responsible to provide a suitable replacement apparatus at the bid price. It should be understood that while bonding provides an element of protection it also increases the price of the apparatus.

Liability insurance is another item that is sometimes required. Multi-million dollar policies are maintained by the larger manufacturers; however this might be difficult for some of the smaller builders. Some departments only include a phrase the manufacturer will be responsible to defend any and all law suits resulting from the use of the apparatus.

Factory Inspection Trips

Factory trips are an essential part of the apparatus construction and inspection process. The number of trips, number of participants and what associated costs will be borne by the bidder should all be included. Some departments require a set dollar amount for the trips to be included by all bidders and others pay for the trips themselves in order to eliminate any unfair advantage that a bidder who is geographically closer to the department might have.

Be sure to include a pre-construction conference at the manufacturer’s facility, rather than at your fire house. You will have access to the people who are actually going to build your rig and can give valid answers to your questions. In addition, it provides a good opportunity to pick up new ideas and see what the finished product will be like.

Maintenance and Service

A requirement for a factory authorized service center within easy travel distance of the purchaser is sometimes specified. Requiring the bidders to supply the size of the facility, number of employees, number of mobile units and capabilities of the facility, can help determine if the service center meets the requirements of the purchaser. The location of where warranty service will be performed, at the fire station or at the repair facility, can also be specified.

Build Time

This is especially important if time is of the essence. The specifications should require the number of calendar days from the signing of the contract until delivery. Bidders should be warned that stating a time from the receipt of the chassis or other major component until delivery is unacceptable. Some purchasers include a penalty clause or liquidated damages for late delivery. If this requirement is included, it is more likely that you will get a fair appraisal of the actual anticipated delivery date. The penalty should also cover apparatus that are incomplete or not up to specifications until they are brought into conformance.

Special Requirements

Special requirements such as specific height, length, weight or turning radius should be outlined.


If training by a representative of the manufacturer is desired or expected, it must be clearly outlined in the specifications. The number of days or special hours including evenings and weekends for volunteer departments, should all be considered. Interestingly, the 1999 edition of NFPA 1901 called for the manufacturer to “instruct” the purchaser on the new apparatus. In the 2003 edition, it was changed to “demonstrate” the apparatus. In the 2009 edition it was removed entirely!

Warranty Requirements

The requirements as to the length of warranty and method of requesting warranty service on the apparatus should be outlined. Individual components such as the engine, transmission and pump will be covered by their respective manufacturer’s warranties. Some purchaser’s specifications require that the dealer act as the warranty agent, coordinating claims with the component builders. When the purchaser has specific warranty requirements, it is advisable that the bidders be warned that any difference between the warranty requirements stated in the specifications, and the warranty offered by the bidder, be taken as an exception. Many times a bid will contain a page of warranty coverage and a phrase that the bidders “stated” warranty applies. It is important that they cite the differences as exceptions.

Determining The Apparatus Requirements

As I said earlier, NFPA 1901 contains Annex-B which is an easy, fill-in the blanks type questionnaire that will help you lay-out the components of your apparatus. Accurately completing the questions in Appendix B will help to comply with the responsibility of the purchaser in supplying the details of the apparatus and its required performance.

An easy way to proceed is to give the completed form to sales associates and have them turn it into a sample spec. Use the information in the sample spec to transform it into your spec.


When evaluating a manufacturer’s bid, the first thing that should be examined is that the bid contains the required documentation for bonding, insurance, financial report, customer list, construction specifications, example drawings and the general form of the bid proposal. Lacking important items such as a bid bond or insurance coverage should immediately disqualify the bid.

The bidder’s proposal should be compared to the fire department’s specifications, item by item, for compliance. If the bidder submitted the exceptions and clarifications as instructed, (in bid order), the process will go much more smoothly. A bid evaluation report should be organized and each exception or deviation should be listed. In some cases, the bidder’s exception might be equal or actually exceed the requirements of the fire department’s specifications. In this case it should be noted that the exception is granted. Be cautious of bidders who take exception to whole areas of the specification (i.e.: the body) and make a blanket statement that “The body will be constructed in accordance with our standard manufacturing methods”. The competing bidders know how their products differ from the specifications and it is their responsibility to outline the deviations if they want to be considered for the award.

Another important part of the bid evaluation process is to use the customer list that was provided by the bidder. Take the time to make some random telephone calls and network among other fire department that is using the same apparatus. If an air of discontentment is present, you will find out quickly!

When all of the information is evaluated, the committee should prepare a written recommendation for the award of the contract. It should be based on the bidder who best meets the intent of the specifications, with the least number of important exceptions and deviations. The price should be a secondary consideration. It is interesting to note that in some jurisdictions the prices are submitted in a separate sealed envelope where it remains until after the bids are evaluated. The bids are evaluated strictly on their quality and ability to meet the specifications. After the evaluation is complete, only the prices of the manufacturer’s who met the specifications are revealed and the others are returned unopened.

If the governing body agrees with the fire department’s recommendations, a contract will be awarded to the successful bidder and the apparatus construction process will begin. Unfortunately at times, a difference of opinion will develop, usually based on a low bid which does not meet the specifications. If this occurs, it is incumbent upon the apparatus committee to detail each and every discrepancy between the requirements of the specifications and the manufacturerÂ’s bid. If the purchasing authority decides that it wants to accept significantly less than was specified, the specifications should be re-written and a new bid conducted.


Preparing specifications and purchasing fire apparatus are major responsibilities that represent a sizable, long term investment of community funds.

To approach this complex project in an orderly fashion, an outline of tasks, arranged in sequential order, should be established and followed. Allowing sufficient time to thoroughly complete all phases is also an important consideration in satisfactorily reaching the goal.

Intelligent decisions based on investigation, research and evaluation of available products will result in the needed purchasing justification. When undertaking this serious work, the fire chief must determine whether he is content to be a follower, specifying a minimally compliant unit or if he would prefer be an innovator, taking advantage of the latest options and features.

Good luck with your apparatus purchasing project!

(Note: In a future article I will cover in-depth how to conduct factory inspections, delivery, acceptance and training on your new rig.)

Bill Peters retired after serving 28 years with the Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department, having served the past 17 years as battalion chief/supervisor of apparatus. He served on the NFPA 1901 committee and is still actively involved with the process. He is the author of the Fire Apparatus Purchasing Handbook and dozens of apparatus related articles.

This entry was posted on Friday, December 5th, 2008 at 12:00 am and is filed under commentary articles. There are 2 Responses to “Specifying and Purchasing Fire Apparatus” :
Jeanne U. Burgess Says:

I am experiencing some trouble with seeing your site correctly through the latest version of Opera. Looks fine in Explorer 7 and Firefox though.Hope you have a great day.

admin Says:

I am logged into the site using Opera 10.53 (Windows version) writing this note and everything appears to be working normally. Are we on the same version?

Leave a Reply