On March 19th Tom Shand conducted a one day Engine Company Operations class to support the training programs provided by the Essex County Fire Chiefs Association in Massachusetts. This program followed Mike Wilbur’s aerial and tower ladder class that was held this past fall. Approximately one hundred fire fighters from fire departments throughout the area attended the class which covered topics including the top five things that engine companies need to accomplish at all incidents, hose line placement and strategies, attack line hose loads and pump operations.
It’s that time of the year to register for the 2011 F.I.E.R.O. Fire Station Symposium. This year’s program is outstanding with offerings for new and existing stations. There are topics that have never been presented before, such as the hardening of fire stations. After the weather extremes across the country this year, the need for fire stations to remain functional has never been more evident.
Please pass this information along to your distribution lists and help us spread the word!
Announcing the 2011 Annual F.I.E.R.O. Fire Station Symposium. In cooperation with the IAFC and hosted by the Charlotte Fire Department.
November 14-16, 2011
Charlotte Omni Hotel (in the heart of uptown)
132 E. Trade St,
Complete information and on-line registration at: http://www.fierofirestation.com/
- Orchids or Onions: Don Collins, Clemson University Fire Department
Money NOT Well Spent
By Robert Tutterow, President F.I.E.R.O.
An often overlooked area for cost reductions, without sacrificing service delivery, is by better management of fire stations. This applies to the design and construction of new stations as well as the operating costs of existing stations (excluding payroll, apparatus and equipment).
According to building life cycle cost analysts, the initial cost of a building is only 10-20% of the life cycle cost over a 30-50 year period. The remaining 80-90% is for utilities, maintenance, furnishings, repairs, renovations, etc. There are numerous areas to reduce these expenditures. And, these are costs that ad no value to the delivery of emergency services. It is money NOT well spent.
Here is a sampling of areas that can be addressed:
1. Identify “indirect” cost savings. For example, firefighter protective clothing is VERY expensive. However, it is susceptible to degradation if improperly stored, i.e. exposure to light and poor ventilation. And, improper cleaning of protective clothing will shorten its lifespan.
2. Design firefighter training into the station. Many training props can be incorporated into the fire station without sacrificing the appearance or function of the station.
3. Station Furnishings: Identifying and making the best selection of station furnishings that provide long-term value with minimal maintenance.
4. Doing the homework about all the design aspects of a new station to prevent expensive change orders and the “do-overs”. This includes using an architect who is experienced in fire station design. NOTE: Most architects are very competent, but lack the experience to design around all the nuances of a fire station.
5. Hardening of the fire station. In this year alone, practically every part of the country has been impacted by natural disasters (floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildland fires, etc.). During these events, the fire station must remain operational. Failure to harden can compromise emergency services and lead to unanticipated replacement or repair costs.
6. Safety in the fire station. A metro fire department just completed a review of their workers’ compensation claims for the past few years and discovered that injuries sustained in the fire station were costing them more than injuries at emergency scenes.
7. Identification of alternate streams of revenue. A few fire departments have identified funding sources, outside of tax dollars and fund raising, to build new fire stations. This requires “thinking outside the box” for joint ventures.
8. Considerations for renovation or consolidation. There are opportunities to renovate an existing station rather build a new station. Vice-versa, money can be spent on renovations when it would be better invested in a new station.
9. Big picture approach. A valid deployment study might identify the potential for consolidation of stations.
10. Think green. The initial “green” movement usually was very expensive on the front end with questionable return on investment. However, new products, designs and processes, have made several “green” initiatives financially attractive. If LEED certification is important to a community, the fire station is an excellent example.
11. Health in the fire station. Fire stations, being a shared space by many, can be a source for spreading diseases such as MRSA, bed bugs, flu, food poisoning, and other communicable diseases. There are ways to minimize these threats to reduce absenteeism, medical costs, and disinfecting costs.
12. Building Materials: Identifying and selecting the building materials that require minimum maintenance and provide lasting value.
13. Utilities: Identifying and installing energy efficient designs and systems that provide lasting cost savings, without compromising the comfort of the firefighters.
14. The little things. With a critical eye, a tour of practically any fire station in the U.S. will generate a lengthy list of items that were not considered in the design of the station. Establishing a knowledge base of these “little things” can eliminate costly adaptations.
15. Design for the future now. Fire stations must last for decades. By doing your homework, you can identify ways to make changes to a fire station as service and equipment needs evolve with minimal costs.
Fire stations are unique structures. They may include aspects of the following venues: garage, dormitory, fitness center, office building, classroom, maintenance shop, decontamination facility, laundry, community rooms, and others. Designing, constructing and maintaining fire stations require a skill-set and experience that is hard to find.
Recognizing there are limited resources for stakeholders to acquire the requisite knowledge base in these issues, F.I.E.R.O. (Fire Industry Equipment Research Organization) developed the Fire Station Symposium. The Symposium brings together the industry experts and experienced fire service personnel with “best practices” ideas. F.I.E.R.O. is a not-for-profit organization of fire service personnel who provide educational offerings to the fire service and related industries. Only volunteer labor is used in the development and delivery of the symposium.
The next symposium is November 14-16, 2011 at the Omni Hotel in Charlotte, NC. Full details and registration can be found at www.fierofirestation.com. This will be the tenth annual symposium. All past attendees have agreed that the event is “Time and Money VERY Well Spent”.
- Getting the Right Start — Avoiding Costly Change Orders: Ken Newell, Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects
- This Old Firehouse: Renovate or Start Anew?: Bob Mitchell, Mitchell and Associates Architects
- Awards Program: Blake Redden, Charlotte Fire Department
- Selecting Station Furnishings and Reducing Operating Costs: Jim Zwerg, Phoenix Fire Department
- Integrating Training Props into the Station: Mark Shoemaker, Cole + Russell Architects
- Reducing Operating Costs & Maintaining Your Existing Station: Practical Sustainability: Keith Pehl, Optima Engineering & Ken Newell, Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects
- Extending the Life of PPE by Proper Storage and Care: Kirk Owen, Tencate, (retired Plano Fire Department)
- Going Green and LEED: What’s it all About?: Lynn Reda, LeMay Erickson Willcox Architects
- Safety in the Fire Station: Kevin Roche, Phoenix Fire Department
- Station Hardening: Storm and Seismic: Josh McDowell, Group MacKenzie & Ken Newell, Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects
- Alternative Funding Sources for Fire Stations: Adam Thiel, Alexandria Fire Department
- Evaluating Response Time and Existing Conditions for Relocation and/or Consolidation: Dr. Charles Jennings, Manitou Inc. & Bob Mitchell, Mitchell and Associates Architects
- Design for the Future — NOW!: Dennis Ross, Pacheco Ross Architects
- Plugging the New Fire Station & its Fit to the Betterment of the Community: Don Collins, Clemson University Fire Department
- Modular Firehalls: Kimberly Johnston and John Botelho, Johnston Davidson Architects
- Apparatus Room Floor Finish Basics: Joseph M. Mottola, H2M Architects and Design
Tom Shand with Emergency Vehicle Response is developing a new engine company operations class. This course will be an eight hour course which will consist of six hours of classroom lecture and two hours of hands on operations. If you are interested in bringing this class to your department, please contact Tom at FOGHOG333@aol.com
Your apparatus committee has just spent the past eight months investigating different manufacturers and models of pumpers for your next new rig. After the bid opening you find out that only one manufacturer put in a proposal for the pumper and that their bid is within the allocated budget for the project. Unfortunately several days later the committee learns that the city council under advisement from the solicitor has ruled that you cannot award the contract for the new pumper when only one bid was received. After several meetings with fire department officials and the city council the apparatus committee is instructed to revise the specifications to “open them up” for a competitive bidding process.
This situation is being played out in many communities as chief officers are being asked to not only justify why a new piece of apparatus is needed, but the bidding process is being scrutinized as never before with public funds for capital purchases. Not just on a local level but several state attorney generals and auditors have been reviewing fire department expenditures and bidding practices. During 2008 the State Commission on Investigation in New Jersey published a report on fire apparatus purchasing and in part stated: “Given the vital public safety mission associated with this machinery and the size of the public’s financial stake in it, taxpayers and entitled to expect that fire trucks are purchased properly and efficiently through a transparent, accountable procurement system grounded in a competitive public process.”
In Part 5 of the Apparatus Architect series (Firehouse, May 2001) we discussed the various types of bidding specifications: manufacturers, performance and requests for proposals (RFP) specifications. While there are advantages and disadvantages to each of these styles of bidding specifications it is important to note which type of technical specification will provide your department with the needed apparatus at a competitive price without violating any local or state regulations.
During the apparatus committee meetings conducted with prospective vendors it is advisable to ask each of the manufacturers being seriously considered to prepare a set of specifications for the proposed apparatus for your review. Based upon a bullet style outline specification that your committee had previously prepared and the discussions held during your meeting the manufacturer’s representative should be armed with sufficient information to produce an initial set of specifications. At this point the apparatus committee can review several sets of specifications noting components that they would prefer to have provided on the new apparatus and comparing the extent of descriptions of body compartments with dimensions and other critical areas.
In the past some departments either by past practice or custom would choose one of the vendors as the preferred apparatus or then publish with few changes the manufacturer’s specification in its entirety as the bid specifications for the new apparatus. Here is where we can begin to get into trouble. Virtually all apparatus manufacturers employ technical writers and engineers to ensure that some of their proprietary designs are incorporated and described in their specifications. There are two sides to this scenario as follows:
In the first instance the departments wishes to specify a specific brand and style of intake and discharge valves for the fire pump as they have previous experience with this manufacturer’s valve and have had positive results with them. In addition their maintenance shops routinely stock repair parts and seal kits for these components. The impact here is minimal as most all apparatus builders can supply the different brands of brass goods and hardware that are available to the fire service. Some of the larger manufacturers may use as standard one brand of valve, but by and large other choices are available and can be supplied with little or no cost impact.
In the second case after the apparatus committee is able to test drive a new demonstrator pumper they determine that the specifications should be written to state:
“The apparatus shall be provided with a windshield with a minimum of 4200 square inches of wrap around tinted safety glass with solar management treatment and supplied with four (4) vertical pantograph wiper blades.” There are several points here to consider. First most all builders of custom chassis fire trucks have a windshield that provides sufficient viewing for the driver and officer. More often than not the frontal viewing area is blocked by other components such as radios and MDT’s that are installed on top of the dash board area. Where there are several thousands of dollars in between reputable bidders it is not wise to attempt to justify the higher priced unit based upon something like the square inch area of the windshield as a critical component on the apparatus. Using a manufacturer’s proprietary specification may get you everything that you desire on your apparatus; however it also guarantees the department that you will also be getting the manufacturers standard components in some areas that may not meet your needs in the long term. It also can put the department in a difficult position when you only receive one bid for the project and have no basis for comparison on the bid price being offered.
There are several alternatives to consider including the development of an open specification which clearly outlines the mission of the apparatus together with a listing of all of the major components on the apparatus indentifying which ones are considered to be “No Exceptions”. Major components such as axles, tires, fire pumps and emergency lighting are available to all builders. However, engines, front axle suspensions and body compartment dimensions can be specific on just one manufacturer and can eliminate some vendors from bidding on the apparatus. It may be more beneficial to list all of the equipment that is going to be carried on the apparatus and determine the minimum cubic foot storage area needed to accommodate this gear, rather than attempt to specify the precise dimensions of each body compartment. In this way you will not only put the bidder on notice as to the anticipated hose, tool and equipment payload, but you will not inadvertently eliminate any bidder.
Whether your department chooses to use a manufacturer’s specification or develop their own for use in the bidding process you should clearly define which components or design criteria where you will allow for alternatives to be proposed. In this case every area or component where the bidder’s proposal may be at variance with the department’s specification an “Exception” should be noted in the bidder’s proposal detailing what is being offered with a description as to why the requested component cannot be supplied. Where necessary supporting technical information should be supplied for evaluation by the apparatus committee. The number of exceptions that a vendor may have to take with respect to the department’s specification should be of lesser concern, with emphasis placed on the quality of the technical explanation as to why a component or design cannot be supplied.
The industry term for when bidding against another manufacturer’s specification is called “chasing the spec”. Even with modern computer programs a manufacturer’s
representative can spend four to five days of effort to put together a well developed proposal in response to a departments bid specifications. In some cases a minimum number of exceptions are noted in the proposal for the department to review, leaving the apparatus committee to read each and every page of the proposal to determine exactly what the vendor is proposing to supply. At the point when the contact is awarded to a vendor understand that the department is agreeing to have the apparatus constructed in accordance with the vendor’s proposal and not necessarily the department’s specification. If any item within the vendors bid is not in full compliance with the department’s original specification and no exception has been noted, the onus is on the department to identify these items and correct them prior to entering into a formal contract.
After the bid proposals have been opened the apparatus committee should develop a comprehensive spreadsheet to identify the major components and features on the apparatus and then go through each bidder’s proposal to see exactly what is being offered. In these tight economic times there can be great differences between the lower and upper bid prices for a single unit. At times it can be difficult to initially determine how there could be a spread of up to $60,000 dollars between bidders. Well, unless you read all of the details in each of the vendors proposals you may easily be mislead into thinking that each of the bidders were supplying exactly what your specifications requested.
At this point if your department has not obtained any outside assistance from an experienced apparatus consultant now is the time to get some help in reviewing each of the bidder’s proposals in detail to provide a written report for the department to review. Formal requirements for supplying bid bonds and performance bonds can generally be easily determined for compliance. Evaluating the differences in warranty terms and body construction techniques may require some expertise that is beyond the capabilities of your local resources.
Following some of these concepts will insure that your department will obtain several competitive bids for your new apparatus and will make the entire specification and bidding process go smoothly. Time spent during the initial phases of work with your apparatus committee will pay dividends in the end.