Evaluation of Fire Apparatus Design Changes in the Norfolk Department of Fire and Paramedical Services

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By Edward L. Senter, Jr.

The design and performance of fire apparatus must be routinely evaluated to ensure that the needs of both the fire department and the community are being met in a cost-effective manner. When appropriate, bid specifications should be revised to improve the design of future purchases. The problem was the Norfolk Department of Fire and Paramedical Services (NFPS) had never formally evaluated its new fire apparatus.

The purpose of this research project was to evaluate the design and performance of all new fire apparatus purchased by the NFPS between Fiscal Years 1995 and 1997. An evaluative research methodology was used to answer the following questions:

  1. How have the new fire apparatus purchased between Fiscal Years 1995 and 1997 affected the NFPS?
  2. What is the opinion of NFPS personnel on the performance of the new fire apparatus purchased by the department between Fiscal Years 1995 and 1997?
  3. What is the opinion of personnel from other career fire departments on the performance of new fire apparatus of similar make and models to that purchased by the NFPS?

The procedures used to complete this research included a review of fire service literature and Norfolk City documents and records, and opinion surveys of NFPS personnel and personnel from other fire departments that have similar fire apparatus.

The results of this research presented distinct implications for the NFPS including the need to enhance apparatus replacement forecasting methods, improve recordkeeping on apparatus "downtime," improve design and performance features on future apparatus, and base apparatus mission statements on actual as opposed to perceived needs.

Recommendations included improvements in the areas of data collection, fire apparatus mission requirements, apparatus research, specification development, regulations and standards, personnel accommodations, equipment accessibility, operational performance, and fire service political activity.