or What to ask for from a builder (OEM)

If a department makes the decision to go CAF, the unit may show up in any configuration. Below are a few tips for a department to consider when asking for a unit. A department will have a much happier relationship with their CAF machine if it is designed to meet the firefighters’ needs. Keep in mind; the unit may be built by a non-firefighter. The builder may not understand the firefighters’ needs.

* Water-Air Valves – to put CAF through a hose line, both a water (solution) valve and an air valve must be opened. The air valve should be in proximity to the corresponding water valve for the appropriate discharge. Having a bank of air valves located away from the corresponding water valves can cause confusing during IA (Initial Attack) applications.

* CAF Switches – It is convenient to have the air control switches and the concentrate control switches located in proximity to each other.

* Red Cover Switches – (often used for critical on-off functions) have been located where they can be bumped into the off position accidentally when the pump operator reaches for another switch or valve located above the red covered switch. Make sure these switches are located where they cannot be accidentally hit.

* Pressure Gages – The air and water gages are sometimes on the same gage (duplex gage). Sometimes they are separate gages located remotely to each other. Sometimes they are the same size and sometimes not. Think about this and ask for what suits your department’s needs.

* Hydraulic Oil Sump – Site Glass – The compressor system on most units incorporates a sump full of hydraulic oil as part of the compressor cooling system. The oil level needs to be checked as part of the daily/weekly apparatus check. Make sure the site glass is in a convenient, easy to see location. Firefighters will not perform regular checks if it is difficult to do so. Make sure the site glass is easily accessible, for example – not blocked behind running board equipment or blocked by other truck components. Having to remove the entire side pump panel of the truck for a daily oil check is not conducive to simplicity of design.

* Foam System Oil – depending on the foam system, an oil reservoir may be present. If so, it needs to be checked regularly. And similar to the hydraulic oil site glass, it also needs to be easily accessible. Some foam systems need periodic lubricating. Check to see where the builder plans to face the grease zert – will you be able to get a grease gun hose to the zert? Also, if there are other valves associated with the foam system (inject/cal flush valve), can they be easily reached and operated?

* Filters and Separators – have to be changed periodically and at least annually – will this be a simple project or a major nightmare due to inaccessibility?

* Access Panels – Doors – discuss all the components with the builder (OEM) and insure that all components are accessible either underneath the truck or through adequate sized access panels. The harder it is to access; the least likely it will receive proper care.

* Auxiliary Air Outlet – CAF units can have an air only auxiliary outlet. On some units, the OEM will tie the auxiliary outlet to the apparatus air brake system. Some manufacturers recommend minimum of weekly airflow checks through the CAF system. Without the auxiliary air outlet plumbed to the CAF system, a hose discharge must be utilized for the airflow check. Sometimes the hose discharge outlet is difficult to access. The auxiliary air outlet on the CAF system makes the airflow check a simple process.

* Air Inlet & trim Valves – {Warning: Firefighters should not make any CAF system adjustments unless properly trained to do so!!!} Occasionally, the air inlet or trim valves must be adjusted. It is recommended that this be done only under a trained mechanic’s supervision. The adjustments need to be made while the system is operating. Are these valves accessible for such a maneuver? Sometimes, these valves are placed in proximity to the compressor drive shaft, making them impossible to reach safely while the system is operating. They should be located away from drive shafts.

* Concentrate Clean Out Screen and Heat Exchanger Clean Out Screen – these two clean out screens are a part of most CAF systems and must be checked regularly and should be easily accessible. The heat exchanger clean out screen might need to be accessed during pump operations – is this located in a place safe to do so?

* Pump Panel Design – consider where everything is located on the pump panel. Will it be a smooth, simple process for the system operator, or will it require the operator to bounce around the panel to make the system flow smoothly.

Other Considerations:

How many outlets should have CAF?

It will depend on the number of CAF lines needed at any one time and the size and capability of the system. A small slide-in CAF unit may be capable of supplying one hand line. A 200 cfm unit on a Type 1 (NWCG) structure engine can usually supply 4 outlets plus the auxiliary air outlet and a deck gun.

What System Types are available?

Systems come in all types, including stored energy, pump mounted, PTO, and auxiliary engine driven systems. The system type will be based on the individual department’s needs.

Customer Service – Check with the manufacturer for things like tech support, warranty, finance options, installation (especially for slide in units and retro-fits), and operational instructions – how do we operate this unit. There is a lot more to understand when receiving a CAF system than just turning on switches.