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 1932, the "Standard on Use, Maintenance, and Service Testing of In-Service Fire Department Ground Ladders".
The Standard for Ground Ladders provides that testing must be performed when the following conditions exist...
Test at least annually.
Any time a ladder is suspected of being unsafe.
After the ladder has been subjected to overloading.
After the ladder has been subjected to impact loading or unusual conditions of use.
After heat exposure.
After any deficiencies have been repaired, unless the only repair was replacing the halyard (rope).
Before the ladder is placed in service for the first time.
Ladders are visually inspected. Obvious damage and defects are aggressively sought. If defects or damage are discovered, the ladder is removed from service and replaced or repaired as required.
Static Load Test
To the casual observer, this test is most impressive. The ladder is fully extended horizontally and extreme weight added to the center. The weight simulates that of two average size firefighters in full protective equipment. Typically, the weight added is about 250 pounds. Once the weight is removed, the ladder should resume it's original straight shape. If there is any obvious permanent damage, defects or deformation or if the ladder completely fails, it is removed from service and replaced.
Ladder Hardware Test (Extension ladders only)
A specially designed test fixture is used to load the ladder across each extension lock assembly. The test is be applied for a minimum of one minute. Ladders must sustain this test with no permanent damage, defects or deformation. When hardware fails this test, the ladder is removed from service and replaced.
Roof Ladder Hook Test (Ladders with roof hooks)
A ladder equipped with roof hooks is subjected to a test of the hooks. The hook, fully deployed, must maintain a load test for a minimum of one minute. One the load is removed, there must not be any visual damage, defects or deformation. If any exists, the ladder is removed from service and replaced.
While firefighting is an inherently dangerous undertaking, a regimen of thorough ground ladder testing helps protect our firefighters. Unexpected failure of ground ladders is never good. It could lead to injury or death and hamper emergency operations. This is why we seek to identify equipment that is at-risk of failure, to prevent accidents.
Ladder testing also helps us maintain an excellent ISO rating for our 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 ladder testing is just one part. We also have regular testing programs for different parts of our operation, including fire hose and pump tests. 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 ladders passed the annual Ground Ladder Testing certification, ensuring continued first-rate fire protection service to our community.