One of the worst things that can happen to a fire department is taking an apparatus off line because of a repair issue. FirePrograms Software has developed diagnostic software dubbed Link2 that is designed to prevent such events from happening. The software monitors vital vehicle systems, such as the engine, brake and electrical systems, and records key performance and usage data — information that can give departments ample warning that a problem might be on the horizon.
For example, let’s say that a truck returns to the station from a fire with its fuel and water tanks half empty. If those aren’t replenished, the system would take note of that and then automatically issue an alert. This is particularly useful for volunteer departments whose members are in a hurry to get back to their regular jobs and might forget to perform this important task.
“If the truck isn’t ready the next time they need to go out, that’s a bad thing,” said Gary Ewers, president of FirePrograms Software.
The system also automatically generates a maintenance schedule that is based on a variety of factors, including mileage, engine hours, pump hours, and events such as pump engagement or the number of times that the aerial is taken out of its cradle. In addition, daily inspections can be logged so that alerts are triggered and sent to the appropriate personnel long before a situation becomes a problem. For example, let’s say that an apparatus engine is leaking oil. Usually, that won’t be noticed until oil levels or oil pressure drop, according to Ewers. “But if they spot oil during an inspection, and note that, the software automatically sends alerts to the appropriate people, he said.
Without this level of intelligence, departments often don’t know that a problem exists until it’s too late, and even then have no idea what happened until after a flurry of phone calls with the maintenance service provider, the apparatus manufacturer or the component vendor. “For example, a ‘check engine’ light might come on in the middle of the night, but it goes away before anybody sees it,” Ewers said. “Our software would make note of that event and would automatically send an alert.”
The software also maintains a time-stamped log, so if a problem does occur, an emergency vehicle technician can review the activity sequence to determine what triggered the event.
“It could indicate that there’s a need for training,” Ewers said. “Or, the operator could have followed all of the appropriate steps but the problem was caused by something as simple as a switch failure.”
The ability to determine whether human or mechanical failure was the culprit will reduce instances of apparatus being taken out of service unnecessarily, Ewers said.
All of this information can be uploaded to the maintenance service provider, as well as the apparatus dealer and manufacturer, which also saves valuable time. “They don’t have to send somebody out to take a look at the truck. Instead, they get immediate visibility in to what’s going on,” Ewers said, adding that the result is much faster diagnosis of the problem.
The system replaces the vehicle data recorders that currently are required on fire apparatus by NFPA 1901, Ewers said. It is available to both apparatus manufacturers and to fire departments as a retrofit. The cost to departments is about $1,000. It will take an EVT from 4 to 6 hours to install the required hardware on each apparatus, Ewers said. The data generated by the system is aggregated and maintained by FirePrograms Software as a hosted service; departments can expect to pay about $14 per month per truck for the service, Ewers said.