Qualification Part 1

Practical application of learned knowledge in a testing environment

Anxiety. Confusion. Dread.

Words that can be used to describe the qualification process.

Many months were spent trying to find time to complete this packet, in between calls, runs to the store, rainy days, and other assorted requirements that make up “the job.” Today, one of those packets comes to fruition.

Everyone seems to have confidence, except me. I don’t know why I worry, I used to be a driver/operator back in “the old country,” stopping short of earning that “Engineer” qualification for no increase in stipend but with increased responsibility. I left at the top of the lieutenant’s list, which had me riding in the right hand seat if an officer wasn’t available. A situation and a life long passed.

The big Pierce engine winds it’s way down narrower and narrower roads, guided safely by our official Driver. My lieutenant, a 20+ year veteran, made sure I knew the material. I was coached by some of the better drivers in the city, although I needed very little. I even managed to pull a draft on our leaky Pierce (the one previous to this one was barely able to hold water, let alone pull a draft quickly) so I had this right?

So the first step in the qualification process for engines is the written test. It’s s standard test over NFPA material and over SOP’s. That was the easy part. Book work, I have. Driving skill, we shall see. Passed it no problem, missed a few just because I got ahead of myself and marked the wrong ones. No big deal.

We made our way out to the draft pit where another truck company was doing a qualification so they rolled an engine qualification and a truck qualification together. The objective of the exercise was to drop hose lines (which were already in place), pull a draft, and supply an aerial device. Sounds easy right?

I was NEVER comfortable with drafting, even as a volunteer where the success of our operation was made or broken by how quickly you could achieve draft. I managed to break it down for teaching purposes after I learned it, and the way it was done here wasn’t that much different than how I had learned it. Change some numbers and you had it. I explained the process to the training officer (one of many) and went about setting up the draft. I repeated the steps in my head:

1) parking brake, switch to pump gear, put truck in gear to idle
2) remove 6 inch hard suction (already done here)
3) get rubber mallet and remove manifold (this was before we got dual Storzlok intakes)
4) attach hard suction
5) check connections
6) throttle up to 1200 RPM and pull the primer for no more than 45 seconds
7) wait for draft

We got all the way up to the throttle up part before the training officer stopped me.

“So with this being a newer pumper, how many RPM do you think it will take to achieve draft?”

“I dunno, I was going to start at 1200 and see what happens.” I answered.

“It should pull a draft at a lower rpm because it’s newer.”

I think somewhere he forgot about the inspection plate and acceptance tests (where that sort of information is recorded) and I remember 1200 rpm being the magic number. But, we will try it his way. So we throttled up to about 800 rpm and pulled the primer. Nothing. He then throttled up to 100, then finally to 1200, and hey, it pulled a prime.

“Guess not,” he quipped.