Improving Fire Apparatus Life Span Projections in the Norfolk Department of Fire and Paramedical Services

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By Edward L. Senter, Jr.

Fire apparatus replacement intervals should be based on the estimated effects of variables such as age, use, and maintenance costs on useful life span. The problem was the replacement intervals of the Norfolk Department of Fire and Paramedical Services (NFPS) were based exclusively on age.

The purpose of this research project was to examine variables that may affect useful life span, compare planned replacement intervals with projected life spans, examine the replacement practices of other fire departments, and identify steps to improve fire apparatus life span projections. Descriptive research was used to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the ages, mileage totals, unit activity levels, maintenance costs, and performance test results of NFPS fire apparatus?
  2. What is the operating condition and performance level of each fire apparatus in the NFPS fleet, as judged by fire apparatus operators?
  3. How do the planned replacement intervals of the NFPS compare to the remaining useful life spans of fire apparatus, as projected by fire apparatus operators?
  4. What variables do other local fire departments examine when assessing fire apparatus for replacement?

The procedures used to complete this research consisted of a literature review, a records review, an apparatus survey, and a fire department survey.

The results of this research included the substantiation of the research of others, the discovery of practices that were incongruent with the recommendations of others, the identification of varied apparatus operating conditions and performance levels, the detection of shortcomings in planned replacement intervals, and the discovery of an objective apparatus assessment process.

The recommendations of this research project included the development of apparatus programs to manage and analyze data, assess operating condition, and test performance. Also included were recommendations to search for alternatives for extending life spans, and to educate others about fire apparatus needs.