Increasing efficiency – the case for rapid response vehicles

Published:  10 February, 2012

Through effective vehicle conversions, fire services can allocate resource dependent on the task and rationalise their operations.  Andy Harris, specialist vehicle sales manager at UK company Bott, explains how.

In the current economic climate, increasing cost efficiency and maximising productivity are at the fore of those in the emergency services sector – in addition to addressing carbon reduction targets.  For fire and rescue services, rapid response vehicles and ICUs (Incident Command Units) – which can be tailored to specifically suit each application – are an ideal way to respond efficiently and quickly, while maximising budgets by being multifunctional.

Rapid response vehicles are becoming increasingly common in the structure of emergency services fleets.  As public sector spending cuts are restricting budgets, fleet managers are looking for the best cost-effective solutions which will maximise efficiency and productivity, as well as help towards achieving their carbon reduction goals.  

Specialist vehicles are recognised as a way to deliver this.  A single vehicle could fulfil a number of roles and be future proofed, by considering possible changes in equipment, technology or usage as part of the design process.  For a fleet operator, the key is to identify the most suitable base vehicle, taking into account their geographical and operational needs, which will assist in maximising budgets and ensuring that the vehicle will continue to cater for their on-going and evolving requirements.

As a Midlands based fire station suggest, over 50% of call outs are to smaller fire incidents, for example, street bin fires, or to RTCs (road traffic collisions) which do not necessarily require the immediate attendance of a full pump or tender with five or more fire fighters.

Using a rapid response vehicle rationalises a fire service’s operations by allowing officers to reach the scene of the incident quickly and assess the situation, deciding on what further action, or resource is required.  They can also be used to transport officers and equipment, outside of an emergency scenario.

Fire engines are traditionally slower with higher fuel consumption and emissions than smaller vehicles which can be converted into rapid response units – ranging from four-wheel drives to small and medium-sized vans, which save fuel and go a long way to help reduce a fire service’s individual carbon footprint. 

Rapid response vehicles can be fitted with CAFS (compressed air fire fighting equipment), or Fire Fogging equipment, with minimal water requirement, making an effective system which is a practical fit in a smaller, lighter vehicle. Breathing apparatus, rescue equipment and tooling are integrated and interchanged as required.  The key is to work closely with a vehicle conversion specialist, like Bott, to ensure that all aspects of the vehicle, including gross and axle weights are operationally compliant.

In the case of Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service, Bott’s design was based on Mitsubishi’s L200 4x4 Pickup and included two individual sliding platforms, installed in the rear of the vehicle.  The inclusion of the platforms ensures a flexible solution which assists fire service personnel to access equipment or to load and unload without unnecessary reaching or lifting.

The vehicle was also waterproofed with a specialist Line-x coating so that wet pumps can be loaded into the vehicle without causing any damage.  Bott also included two specific locations for breathing apparatus cylinders in the design, for safe and secure transport

To kit out rapid response vehicles, Bott uses Bott Vario – a modular steel and aluminium racking system which is designed to be durable, safe and the lightest on the market.  

The use of advanced lightweight racking reduces vehicle weight enabling fast, efficient transport for the fire officers, while remaining in line with the overall cost and sustainability targets of the Service.  Having equipment properly organised also promotes rapid retrieval, increasing efficiency further and potentially helping save lives in critical situations.

Safety is another key issue.  Rapid response vehicles, travelling at above-average speeds to reach an incident, need equipment to be securely stowed to prevent damage to both goods and personnel in transit.  A well-designed storage system eliminates any of these safety issues.

Incident Command Units

Another key area which emergency services are looking to is developing purpose-built ICUs.  Not only will these transport command officers and all necessary incident analysis equipment directly to the scene of a fire or accident, they can be used for training, exhibitions and events, and even roadshows.

ICUs can be fitted with a range of equipment from operational command and briefing areas, seating areas, scene communications and management facilities, display and presentation equipment, overhead projectors, smart boards, LCD monitors and radios.

The case for rapid response vehicles and flexible ICU’s is ever-growing, as recognised solutions to help the emergency services cope with the increased pressures from spending cuts and carbon reduction targets.  When commissioning a new vehicle, the best advice to fleet managers and specifiers is to consider how else it could be utilised, in both the short and long term.  After all, if designed well, a specialist vehicle can be used for multiple purposes and can therefore make budgets work harder.

  • Operation Florian

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