Hosebeds Revisited: Follow the manufacturers’ lead & design ergonomically correct hosebeds

Hosebeds Revisited
Follow the manufacturers’ lead & design ergonomically correct hosebeds

Story & Photos by Bob Vaccaro

It’s been a couple years since I touched on the subject of fire apparatus hosebeds, so I thought it was time for an update. If you visit some of the fire service conference exhibit halls, you’ll notice an interesting phenomenon: More and more fire departments, along with just about all of the fire apparatus manufacturers, are starting to design their apparatus with ergonomically correct hosebeds.

Basically, lower hosebeds are becoming the norm in the industry. I find it interesting that after all of these years of breaking of backs climbing up the back of the apparatus to reach hoselines, we’re only now starting to see the light. The result will be fewer back injuries, fewer falls from the apparatus and easier repacking of hose after an alarm.

It all makes sense to me. Unfortunately, change is slow in the fire service, especially when it comes to safety issues. We always seem to be reactive instead of proactive.

Over the past several years, the NFPA, along with all of the fire apparatus manufacturers, has been doing a great job making fire apparatus safer. However, it’s up to you to design into your specs features like low hosebeds. Tank size, ladder racks and equipment storage are other areas that must be dealt with, but for the most part, just about every manufacturer out there seems to have designed a vehicle that makes the grade when it comes to lower hosebeds.

As you’ll see in the photos, most of the apparatus have high baffle boards that can be easily adjusted for different types and size of hose loads. And most of the hosebeds I’ve seen are deep so they can carry a big load. Just some things to consider when writing your specs.

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.

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Comment by Dennis Steele on July 17, 2009 at 11:51am
Well at least we are learning from the past!!! been a long time coming
Comment by Oldman on July 16, 2009 at 10:25pm
I have a hard time connecting the lower hose bed to the term "ergonomically correct". True, they are not as high off the ground. But to say that they will result in "fewer back injuries, fewer falls from the apparatus and easier repacking of hose" is misleading. True, they are not as high off the ground, (on average 4 1/2 feet from 8 1/2 feet) but the majority of the injuries I have personally witnessed over the last 25+ years comes from slipping or completely missing the tailboard (20 - 22 inches). The average firefighter must still climb on the tailboard to deploy the hose.

Unless human anatomy has changed, the average firefighter does not have 6 foot long arms, so someone will still have to be in the hosebed in order to load hose. I will agree that the taller boards will make it easier to hold on, but this only lessens the chance of falling from the hosebed.

Aside from the points already mentioned, there is the fact that in order to have these lower hosebeds, there is a limit to water capacity. In my department, the engines have 1000 gal booster tanks out of necessity because our "rural" area has no hydrants. 250 gal doesn't sound like a lot of water, but when your next engine or tanker is still enroute, that extra water might mean the difference between putting a stop on the fire, or losing the building.

I am not saying it is all doom and gloom, and for some, these hosebeds will work fine. This is a well written article and makes valid points. But as much as the fire service tries to standardize, there is no such thing as a one size fits all apparatus.
Comment by Andrew J Economedes on July 16, 2009 at 8:40pm
Agreed! It just baffles me! I would bet that the non-FF that are specing the appartus are for the most parts chiefs who want "their" vehicle and at the same time when you read about the deliveries in the magazines they brag about how they had safety in mind. I guess there are still many who believe that if you use the new fad you are a "progressive, safe and PC department" Fortunately my department has an apparatus committee composed of end users and believe it or not the 2 chiefs LISTEN!
Comment by Brotherhood Instructors, LLC on July 16, 2009 at 8:27pm
Agreed Andrew, certainly not new and not rocket science. However, we all know and understand that many times the firefighters that are using the engines are not the firefighters writing the specs for the engines. These engines appear to have been spec'ed "firefighter friendly" which is what I was referencing.

Your comment regarding rear-mount pumps and full height rear compartments are on target as well!
Comment by Andrew J Economedes on July 16, 2009 at 8:20pm
This is not new nor rocket science. FDNY has been doing it for years. What gets me is the fire service clammers about wanting these hose beds but then departments order rear mount pumps. WT..!! Or they order a full height compartment in the rear. Again WT..!
Comment by Brotherhood Instructors, LLC on July 15, 2009 at 10:51pm
Great hose bed designs. Thanks for the article. This certainly allows firefighters to safely and efficiently stretch hose lines off of the rear. Good stuff! Thanks.

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