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Baltimore County, Maryland Fire Department

Where safety meets innovation: Baltimore County Fire Department overcomes obstacles with the latest aerial tillerWhere safety meets innovation: Baltimore County Fire Department overcomes obstacles with the latest aerial tiller

The Baltimore County Fire Department has a motto: “Every day is a training day so everyone goes home!” Thirty years with the department hammers home that important motto for Charles Rogers, Fire Director, Health and Safety Officer.

Rogers’s title is also Research/Development/Procurement, and he likes knowing his department owns the first ever Rosenbauer tractor-drawn Aerial Tiller. “This truck was designed by firefighters for firefighters. Rosenbauer listened to the firefighters in design and layout, and they should be proud of this product,” said Rogers.

Baltimore’s tight colonial streets can inhibit firefighting capabilities. “We overcome those obstacles with technology like the Smart Aerial,” he says.

The first tiller went into operation mid May 2013, with two more on order for the Baltimore department.

Smart aerial, smart controls, smart choice

Rogers is a fan of the Smart Aerial’s safety features, especially when conditions aren’t ideal.

Using programmable logic controls, the system provides feather-soft starts and stops. For example, when first running the aerial, the ladder won’t start at full speed. Instead, it begins slowly and gradually builds to full speed. Likewise when an operator stops operations, the ladder stops at a slow rate, never abruptly. Even if the operator’s hand slips off the control, the ladder comes to a gradual stop.  

The truck has built-in cab and body collision protection. If the ladder moves too near, the aerial comes to a soft stop instead of colliding with the cab or body. This feature protects the county’s investment by preventing accidental damage to the truck. Also, if future alterations are required, such as adding a light bracket to the cab and body, Rosenbauer can easily reprogram the truck to include that change.

Baltimore County Fire Department Rosenbauer Tiller Fire Truck

Quicker set up, quicker rescue

The truck has short-jacking capabilities that allow the operator to work on the side where outriggers aren’t fully deployed. Can-bus controls (a system that manages electrical components) continually deliver information on extension, degrees rotated, elevation and load on the aerial – all to ensure the ladder’s working area is safe. If the operator rotates to an unsafe position, the ladder comes to a soft stop, and the operator can then move the ladder to a safer position. 

The monitor automatically stows. This protects the monitor and body from damage, and keeps the overall length to a minimum.

Short jacking allows firefighters with quicker set up times that translate into quicker rescue times; short jacking also protects the operator by permitting him to operate only within safe parameters. Can-bus based technology does the work and prevents any chance of tipping the truck due to human error.

Modified A-jacks are an essential feature to handle the colonial streets of Baltimore, “allowing the jacks to go underneath a car to achieve set up and still give us operating capabilities,” says Rogers. The color code on the jacks allows safe operation based on number of feet of elevation on tight areas.

Outrigger sensing prevents other risks when the fire department works from one side of the truck. Should two outriggers lift off the ground, the ladder immediately comes to a stop to prevent the truck from tipping.

“Sensoring and technology keep the truck in safe operation,” says Rogers. Reducing risk reinforces the department motto that everyone goes home at the end of the day.

Baltimore County made a wise decision in choosing the galvanized aerial. All interior and exterior parts are covered in a protective coating to prevent corrosion for up to 25 years. 

Principal concerns are safety for the fire departments and protection of their trucks. Rosenbauer feels both points are accomplished through the Smart Aerial.

By the numbers

That important level of confidence is useful when you handle 115,000 all-inclusive calls each year through 25 career stations and 33 Volunteer Independent Stations. The department is made up of 4,051 paid and volunteer firefighters, with Fire Chief John Hohman at the helm.

He and his team are responsible for 610 square miles, protecting 810,000 people of Baltimore. That team includes Fire Specialist Ron Schreiber who represents 48 Career Members from Station 15 as well as the Equipment Maintenance Bureau and Purchasing Bureau.

Ordering another two tillers wasn’t a hard decision for Rogers and his department. “When you need trucks and your firefighters get to design with their job in mind and a company listens to us – the firefighters – it’s a win/win,” Rogers explains. “And by ‘win’ I mean for the taxpayers and the firefighters. They will use and trust this piece of equipment. Their peers helped design it. Believe me, we’ve been talking loud about this technology with other departments.”

According to Rogers, if they like something in Baltimore County, then it’s worth talking about. “For our firefighters, it’s safety first. And we want to get the best bang for our taxpayers’ money. We’ve found that with Rosenbauer, the focus is on quality, not quantity.”

Being flexible and meeting specifications are of paramount importance. Rogers has to be able to make changes and know that he can adapt features to his department’s specific issues, like those challenging colonial streets.

A “hands on” attitude is another must for Rogers when working with DPC, the Rosenbauer dealer. When their first pumpers were built, Harold Boer, President of Rosenbauer America, and his team spent the entire day inspecting them “from top to bottom. Mr. Boer didn’t like a compartment door on the pumper. He sent it back to the floor and had his people change it before we could even bring it up as an issue. He’s out there on the floor, not up in an office.”

In charge of logistics and apparatus, Rogers has a 13-year history with his dealer. When asked if he had any apprehension about ordering additional equipment, his reply was simple and direct: “None. We know what we want and settle for nothing less. DPC has been great to work with. They listen and advise us any time we need them. They don’t deliver and walk away with a check!” 

The Baltimore County Fire Department will order 12 additional pumpers, bringing the fleet’s total to 21 pumpers, one quint and three aerial tillers.

Rogers extends a warm welcome: “If your readers have questions or want to see and operate a good piece of equipment, Baltimore County is the place to visit!”