My volunteer departments is looking at ordering a new fire apparatus. We are in a debate about Side Mount pumps and Top Mount pumps. I have my own reasons for wanting a Top Mount. I am looking for what everyone else thinks about the advantages and disadvantages of both Top and Side Mount Pumps.

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Greenman
All of these responses are excellent, and serve to illustrate one major point: when specing an apparatus, it needs to be designed and set up around the needs of YOUR response area. Personally, I prefer the top mount pumps for all the reasons stated previously, mainly visibility and safety. My department operates very frequently on a 6-lane divided limited access highway, and therefore all our drivers are taught the proper blocking position to provide maximum protection on the scene when arriving first due. Next-in units are then positioned to increase protection. We did a lot of research when purchasing our rescue-engine, and after reviewing all the points of each, we decided on a top mount for all those reasons, and because those reasons made it a better fit for our district.
My Dept recently purchased a 1995 HME 1000 GAL ENgine, with a side mount Pump Panel, for us it works great, were in the country and it works well with all of our fluch mount hydrants, other then the highway we have, theres not a huge traffic threat to the saftey of our engineers. Buy what your dept can afford, but keep in mind it also has to fit your communities profile.

"...other then the highway we have, theres not a huge traffic threat to the saftey of our engineers."

I have to assume that you're referring to a limited access highway, with presumably a speed limit of at least 55mph. In which case, that highway IS a huge traffic threat to safety!

I'm certainly not saying that your apparatus is sub-par, or even not suited for your needs, because I do not know your response area, primary hazards, or anything of the sort. What I AM saying is that the highway is one of the most dangerous places we operate. It is, in my opinion, an IDLH environment in it's own respect. It requires the use of specialized equipement designed for that purpose to keep us safe (cones, signage, reflective vests, etc.) and also requires a certain skill set and mentality to operate safely. One must assume that every motorist on the highway is TRYING to run them over, and be prepared for when they are. That means properly positioning apparatus, operating outside the guardrails whenever possible, exiting on the shoulder-side of the apparatus, etc.

As for buying what your department can afford, I agree. Provided safety is NOT compromised. At no time should any self-respecting firefighter allow safety to be sacrificed in order to save money.

I'm glad your apparatus is working well for your department, but I would strongly consider how you operate with it to maximize safety. Especially on a limited access highway. Be safe.
Anyone who has seen "many, many" rear end wrecks that totaled apparatus may want to consider new SOPs or an attenuator vehicle. I'm sure you could also face your pump panel at every building, the long travel times, maneuvering down one way streets and dead ends should be interesting.
This just my opinion on those two types of pump panels as in my larger department we have one of each. The side panel allows for pull handles and easy acess to the rest of the truck and personnel. The top mount gives you better visability and safer work area as well as handles that are pulled back toward you or pushed away, the diadvantaged i have notice is difficulty in communacation with the pump operater both face to face and on radios were a headset is not used. If your dept. decides to go with a top mount make sure to purchase the headset for the person operating the pump it will save a lot of headaches with trying to get things done. Both types are bascialy the same in many other regards. They will have same intake and discharge handles and name plates,with also have flow meters, gauges, etc. It's all in what you like and any variation in cost.

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