Yesterday, I got my most recent reminder of the ignorance of the general public when it comes to what we do. Let me explain . . . .

Currently my fire department, is trying to get our town to purchase a new ladder truck. Our current ladder truck is a 1982 American LaFrance which has had a very successful run, but is now or course, 26 years old, and has seen a lot of miles, and fires.

The truck now has extensive rot damage, (I wish I had thought to take pictures), and the aerial device itself has mechanical problems. Also the truck has mechanical problems too. This truck in the past 18 months has been out of service a total of 5 months!!! The cost of keeping this old ladder truck certified for use is getting worse every year, not to mention the down time when the truck is out of service, and the costs of the services needed to repair it!

Our department 4 years ago requested a new ladder truck from the town, and the cost would have been $750,000 back then. It was declined. Last year it was requested again, and that same new truck would have cost $1 million, it was again declined. This year if the truck is purchased, it will cost the town $1.3 million!

Last night I attended the town meeting along with several other members of our department to show our support at the meeting while the town voted. We were there to answer questions regarding why the town needs a new ladder truck.

This is the attitude of our town:
One gentlemen in particular didn’t understand why we needed a new ladder truck. He felt that the extensive body rot was minor, and easily repairable. He also felt that if the truck was still in operating condition, then why can’t we “just use it until it dies?” He said that if we were doing our job currently, then there was no reason to spend money on something that we didn’t need!!!

During the town meeting, the chief played a 911 recording of a structure fire that happened in town during one of the periods where our ladder was down and out of service. We called for mutual aide from one of the surrounding towns for a ladder. It took 20 minutes for them to respond because they had to come from so far away. There were people in the building on the 2nd floor during the fire!

Another town resident said that they didn’t see why it was a big deal it took 20 minutes for mutual aid to respond! Do people really not understand the significance of this?!?!

Another example of complete and utter ignorance is when one gentlemen actually said to the ladder truck captain: “Let’s say I vote yes to buy this new truck, and over the next X number of year, neither myself, friends or family has a fire in their home, that would mean that, I helped vote yes to purchase something that didn’t benefit myself in any way directly or indirectly . . .why should I do that?”

These are examples of some of the attitudes in our town folk think. IS EVERYTOWN THIS BAD?!?!?!?!?!?

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Remember two very important concepts that apply to providing fire-rescue services...

1) You get what you pay for
2) Sometimes someone has to die to get people's attention
3) They generally don't dial 911 when someone does something smart.

I think all of the above might apply to your situation.

Just make sure that your department documents your repeated efforts to replace the apparatus, and take it out of service if it's too dangerous or too expensive to keep it in service. This is especially true if the aerial isn't tested to NFPA standards at least annually. It's better to just junk a rusty old antique than to give your town a false sense of security or to risk hurting or killing a firefighter because the town doesn't want to spend the money to buy a replacement.

There are some other options -
1. Spec out a less expensive aerial - smaller, fewer bells and whistles, etc.
2. Seek a grant to fund the new apparatus.
3. Seek a bond issue to defray the cost of the apparatus over a longer time.
4. Seek a lease-purchase agreement that can lower the initial cost and get you a chance of replacing the apparatus in less time while the truck is still in good shape.

Good luck,

A few questions, and hey remember I love new apparatus too but the cost figure is hard to swallow considering the town is probably in bad shape with this economy. Towns are seeing people, not paying their tax bills now-a-days, so if you are on the job be happy they are holding off on a truck and not jobs brother.

Your original post talks about using a person trapped on the second floor. This is a pretty lame attempt at saying you need 1.3 million for a fully loaded tower or a articulating skylift, etc. Your engines lacking ground ladders bro? I don't know Spencer but is there a need for an aerial or is this just a bedroom community? Also where is the nearest ladder? MA is pretty dense, if it is 4-5 minutes away, with a full-time department, then start it automatic.

New Hampshire has many towns without a ladder with 3/4 story multi-unit residential buildings, (condos)
In this economy everyone needs to make sacrafices, does it suck YES. Times will get better.

Now is the time to start the education process with the powers to be. Research, document, calculate operating or repair costs and project repair/replacement. Show them you are human and willing to comprimise on the replacement, show them the figures of straight stick, quint, tower, etc.

Justify your needs though. For the stupid questions from the public, you need to educate them beyond the "what if they never suffer a fire" How about looking at insurance premiums, ISO ratings, etc. What this will cost business owners if the rating # goes up.

I ride on an 75' E-One quint, covers a bedroom community district, no need for a 100' or 115' aerial in this district. It took a trading in a reserve engine and a tired 1977 LaFrance 100' aerial, to get it. Cost recovery, and projected savings got the deal done...
Currently, we run a 100' ladder truck becuase thats what we need. According to the consensus, we have over 1200 buildings in our town that are 2+ stories, and some of them cannot be accessed as easily as one might think. Although it may seem simple to throw ground ladders to a 2nd story window, and yes that sometimes does work, one needs to consdier that a majority of the homes in our community have terrain issues. In recent years we had a 2 story structure fire, but the apperatus could not reach the buidling, so the ladder was extended almost 90" just to reach the roof so we could vent. I am not saying every situation is like this, but the situation DOES exhist in the town.
This is just perplexing to those of us who are asked to perform a jop without proper tools. I am not trying to lead you all into thinking I know everything thats going on. Does the $1.3 million include equipment? I don't know what it will include. Why dont we look at a quint or something used? I dont know other than to say the chief says we need what we need. I dont know the town's geography well enough to speak either way.
I do know that my experience has shown, that the 100' ladder is always the 2nd truck out during a structure fire, and it is used frequently; but it is also out of service frequently. To me it seems that we are spending just as much money to repair this unit and keep it in service as we would on a newer machine, and that makes no sense.
Lastly, the closest ladder truck outside of our town, is 20 minutes away, and that is with immediate alert.
I tend to agree with oldman here and would like to add not every town is like yours. We have been very lucky. By the end of this year and over the past 8 years we will have purchased a new cab and chassis to put under tanker-1, a new engine-1, a new cab and chassis with a 1250 gpm pump to put under tanker-2 so it will now be a pumper-tanker and a newer (not new but new to us and better than the 1977 we have) rescue truck and we have not spent half of what you are looking to spend on one truck. I know my department and yours would probably be like comparing apples to watermelon but still $1.3 mil on one truck? Another good point oldman makes is the education. The general public has no clue what we do and who is at fault for that? We are. My department had a propane burn during a local celebration and invited anyone who wanted to come and watch to do so. I could not believe the comments of amazement I heard and still hear a month later. I've been on the department for 10 years now and my own wife said "wow that's what you guys do". I couldn't help but think holy crap if my own wife has no clue how clueless is the general public. I guess there is a big educational difference between looking at pictures or watching videos and actually being close enough to feel the heat.

Since you truly need that much of a rig try to do what ever you can to educate the public as to why such a piece of equipment is needed rather than getting upset because they find it hard to swallow such a figure.
I see your frustration.....I have to ask...What do you do as a Department to "educate" the people and elected officials of your district..?? Do you have an active fire prevention team..? Do you go out and offer programs throughout the year...? or only when you have a big dollar item to push through..? Times are tough and may even get tougher...we have to do our part to show what we really need and to show it isn't something thats nice to have...You might even offer to take some of the officials on some calls with you so they can see how things work and how the equipment can and often does make the difference....Good luck....Stay safe and always keep the faith........Paul
I think people now days are afraid times are tough and really does your town have to have one when there is one 6 miles away.. it nice to have equipment and you get use to it.. But may be more education is needed to why you need a new one... It can't be because ou want a new one.. I know it is hard to digest ,but sometimes we ask for things we don't need and we could be getting thing s we do need..

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