In order to maintain a high state of equipment readiness and dependability, the Chestertown VFC maintains an aggressive maintenance and testing program on our equipment. While each piece of equipment is regularly inspected by our personnel, we also adhere to the recommendations of the National Fire Protection Association - Pamphlet 1911, the standard for the "Inspection, Maintenance, Testing, and Retirement of In-Service Emergency Vehicles."
This standard directs that vehicle fire pumps and their host vehicle should be thoroughly tested at least once a year. The test not only proves the fire pump, but the performance of the entire rig. Through a series of timed tests that, together, last approximately one hour, the unit is pushed nearly to it's full capacity and limit. The inspector is not only checking the ability of the unit's fire pump to provide it's rated capacity, they are also looking for potential defects in the vehicle's engine, powertrain, electrical system and any other potential problem that might compromise the pumping operation. If there is to be a failure, it's always most desirable that it occur during testing and not at an actual incident. A failure at a real incident could have catastrophic effects on a fire suppression operation leading to additional loss of property, injuries and even death.
There is an added bonus to local property owners for performing an annual pump test on firefighting equipment. The pump test is part of the ISO rating program for a community. The ISO, short for Insurance Services Office, evaluates local fire protection measures and assigns an ISO number. The system runs from 1 - 10. A number (1) one is the best possible rating while a (10) ten indicates the fire protection agency did not meet minimum ISO standards. The higher an ISO, i.e., a lower number, the community benefits by receiving better fire insurance rates. We are extremely proud to share that our community historically and consistently turns in an ISO rating in the top percentile. In addition to other factors, this is because of our regular testing programs, of which a pump test is just one part. We also have regular testing programs for different parts of our operation, including fire hose, all ground ladders and our aerial device / elevating platform. Additionally, we annually complete D.O.T. (Department of Transportation) Inspections. This is a rigorous examination of a vehicle's motor, drivetrain and safety equipment such as the braking systems, ensuring they meet safety specifications the Federal Government has in place for heavy trucks. These D.O.T. Inspections are performed in-house by qualified service personnel with experience. This minimizes expense and down-time of each piece of equipment. All of these testing and evaluation programs are considered when the ISO rating is determined.
This year, we retained the services of "Mistras Group, Inc." to complete the annual pump testing inspections. They are a commercial outfit that provides testing services to fire protection organizations, both private and public, around the country. We're proud to share all of our trucks that have fire pumps (3 engines, a tower ladder and the tanker) passed the annual pump test certification, ensuring continued first-rate fire protection service to our community.
At the same time Mistras Group was performing the pump test, they were also here testing our ground ladders. That program will be presented in a separate post.