Central PA Bravest
February 24, 2012
Rural Water 101
by Gary R. Ryman
Rural water supply operations can be successfully conducted in a variety of ways and much depends on the equipment available in a particular area. Different jurisdictions use tanker task forces, rural box alarms, and for some, these operations are part of their every day bread and butter.
Innovation and ingenuity are the catch words for these operations, but these are useless without knowledge and training. Knowing the accessible water sources, static or otherwise in your first due area is critical. Every fill site is different and setting up for the best access and maximum flexibility is always a challenge. Pre-planning and training at these sites helps to establish the most efficient positioning and fill site set-up configuration. Conducting these sessions with the neighboring departments, who will most likely be assigned this responsibility, and doing the same in their areas, makes the system work.
The rules of thumb I have found successful are based on the use of large tankers, defined as 3000 gallon and up; all designed to both fill and dump quickly. A differing equipment mix could change the equation. Committing the first due tanker or “burying” it with the first due engine has some advantages. With both pieces in close proximity, a cheater can supply and supplement the attack engine tank water. Realistically, on a one or two room fire, this should be sufficient for a knock down. Murphy, however, works everywhere.
If the situation is such that a shuttle is implemented, the utilization of the first tanker in this manner allows it to act as a safety or reserve. Once the shuttle supply has been established, re-filling the first tanker is a priority. Over the course of an extended incident, something inevitably will interrupt the operation. Losing prime, a mechanical breakdown, or any other number of things can impair the supply. With the first tanker full, operations can continue and if an interior attack is underway, allow time to affect a controlled withdrawal if the gremlins cannot be promptly corrected.
While distance, flow requirements, and tanker size, can all be used to calculate specific needs, standard rules of thumb are usually easier. For example, a separate fill and dump site for every five tankers in use is typically desirable. Stacking tankers up at either end is inefficient, and two or three tankers waiting to fill means water is not moving. Dump sites can be entirely separate or simply additional drop tanks in tandem. Such situations are tailor made for jet siphons between tanks. Having one or two extra tankers in the mix helps minimize interruptions for breakdowns. The same goes for engines.
The officer with the overall water supply assignment should coordinate closely with the incident commander on the desired flow requirements. This will help determine the number of tankers, fill and dump sites, etc. Knowing secondary and tertiary sources is important in case of problems with the primary or a larger flow is needed. Getting the water supply operation onto a separate radio channel will help keep the increasingly crowded airway clearer for fire ground personnel. Given the choice of a pumper relay from a static source or a shuttle, the relay is the default choice if distances are manageable. It takes less moving parts and hence is inherently more reliable. This is another area where training is important. Trying to set up a relay operation without having trained on it previously is a recipe for disaster. What sounds easy to do in the book is anything but at three in the morning; particularly trying to get three or four engine companies who haven’t worked together to lay and pump an extended line in a timely manner.
Dry hydrants are a big plus, but need to be installed correctly and maintained afterward with annual back flushing. Sources other than ponds and creeks should not be forgotten. Swimming pools are a great possibility. Even if not apparatus accessible, a portable pump and five minutes work can provide a nice supplementary supply. Field expedient drop tanks can be put together with ladder and salvage covers. Run off from the incident, if channeled and dammed can be collected and sent back into the fray via a portable pump. You can’t get much more efficient on the fire ground than by using the same water more than once.
Even if you only have small non hydranted areas or seldom conduct these operations, they are entirely manageable with some forethought and training.
No Porta Pond - No Problem!
Secure 3 roof ladders with their hooks and some rope and throw a salvage cover over top.