The fire and emergency services are experiencing changes the likes of which haven’t been seen since the seventies, when the Vietnam War, the gasoline crises, high interest rates and inflation altered the landscape.
In the early 1970s, fire apparatus shifted from gas to diesel engines and manual to automatic transmissions, and increased to 500- to 1,000-GPM pumps and 2.5- to 5-inch supply hose.
That decade also saw a shift in fire-apparatus market leaders. American LaFrance, Pirsch, American Fire Apparatus, Ward LaFrance, Mack and Grumman, and others disappeared from the scene. The small, family ownedbegan to expand to compete with big boys FMC and , eventually knocking out FMC along the way.
Since then, fire trucks became more specialized. Fire trucks with EMS transport capability came to market, but never caught on. However, command vehicles built from converted recreation vehicles gained popularity.
Now, some 30 years later, the fire service is experiencing déjà vu. Sept. 11, 2001, the Iraq conflict, rising gas prices, dropping interest rates, and a failing national economy are changing the fire service all over again. More than one industry source has predicted that the fire service will not recover from the economic downward spiral for another three to five years, and it certainly never will return to the economic boon of 15 years ago.
Safety became the new mantra, as seatbelts became more visible and black boxes recorded data. E-One introduced energy-efficient fire trucks, and fuel-saving idle-reduction technology.took it a step further with its
Instead of specialized vehicles, are trending toward all-purpose trucks that operate with fewer people or practical trucks that are more cost-effective.
And that’s for departments that can afford to purchase new vehicles. Many need to extend the lives of their vehicles. This makes the EVT a valuable commodity. How will fire departments maintain and extend the life of their vehicles without trained technicians?
NFPA 1917, Automotive Ambulances, appears to be on schedule for 2013, and some have voiced concern about increased costs associated with NFPA standards. If you consider that almost 80% of responses today are EMS-related, doesn’t it make sense to have a standard for ambulance safety for responders and patients?
How has your department changed the way they maintain emergency vehicles? Are you keeping your vehicles longer? Would you consider an energy-efficient element important to your next vehicle purchase?
Have a safe, healthy Happy New Year!