Inside the Apparatus Industry

What’s best—the side-mounted, top-mounted or even the side-mounted top-mount pump panel?

Story & Photos by Bob Vaccaro

I’ve written an article or two in my time about how to choose the right pump panel for your vehicle. Those articles focused primarily on your choice between a side-mounted or top-mounted pump panel. In some cases with rural-type apparatus, there was a front-mounted pump with all of the controls and discharges right up front with the pump.

Pierce PUC pump panel with low discharges and the pump panel in compartment.

A Rosenbauer rear-mounted pump panel.

A Firematic BRAT with front-mounted pump and panel.

But it seems that that the rules have changed in the past several years, with manufacturers stepping up to the plate with new ideas. We’re now seeing rear-mounted pump panels with intakes and discharges out of the rear or side of the apparatus, reducing interference with the pump operator. For example, in the case of the Pierce PUC or the Crimson Transformer, the pump panel is located in a compartment where the discharge is lower and out of the way of the apparatus operator/engineer. Another variant is the side-mounted top-mount that several manufacturers have designed to give you the best of both worlds.

There are pluses and minuses to each type of pump panel, so you and your apparatus committee will have a lot to think about as you begin the design process. No matter what you choose for your design, take into consideration the safety of your firefighters.

Some agree that the top-mount is the best design because it is seemingly safer than a side-mount. The pump operator is up high and off of the street and has a commanding view of the fire scene. It also keeps them from tripping over hoselines that might be connected on that side of the pumper. Others argue that the pump operator should be watching their gauges and not the fireground. Plus, they have to climb up and down to connect hoselines.

Keeping the hoselines (whether they are intakes for large-diameter supply lines or various 1¾" or 2½" discharges) away from the pump panel is probably the best way to go, in my opinion. By designing this way, you have the option of a rear-mounted pump panel in the rear driver’s side compartment, and having discharges and intakes in the rear of the apparatus and/or on the sides.

In choosing the PUC or Transformer, you also have a compartment pump panel, with the intakes and discharges located away from the panel itself. The third design gives you a top-mount, side-mount, also located away from the hoselines.

One safety-related issue: The trend seems to be moving away from hosebed-mounted, manually operated master-stream devices. With that design, the pump operator or other firefighter would have to climb up on top of the hosebed to operate a deck gun. But manufacturers nowadays are designing electrically operated master-stream devices that can telescope in height and rotate 360 degrees with the touch of a joystick. In some cases, this can be done with a remote control away from the apparatus itself.

Last but not least, let’s try to put an uncluttered pump panel on the rig. Most of you know what I mean by this. We don’t need a master’s degree in engineering to operate around the pump panel. We’re seeing more and more departments, including some major cities, going back to the basics—the old-school-style manually controlled discharges (whether by wheel control or hand lever). Some are moving away from the electronics and computer-operated systems. This is an area that you’ll have to investigate to determine what is right for your department.

Bob Vaccaro has more than 30 years of fire-service experience. He is a former chief of the Deer Park (N.Y.) Fire Department. Vaccaro has also worked for the Insurance Services Office, The New York Fire Patrol and several major commercial insurance companies as a senior loss-control consultant. Vaccaro is a life member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

Copyright © Elsevier Inc., a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Comment by Tyler Lyons on February 16, 2011 at 4:25pm
We have the Pierce PUC. Love the design, Its great to have all the controls in the compartment. Hoses are mostly out of the way and your not stepping on them to run the panel. I do miss the top mount pump panels for view of the scene, but we do have cameras to the passenger side and rear of the Engine, with a screen in the pump panel compartment. Great design by Pierce.

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