Beatrice Fire and Rescue’s new pumper truck hasn’t seen a lot of action since it arrived at the fire station last month, but the truck hit the streets of Beatrice Wednesday for a training session with several firefighters.
The new $430,000 KME Panther purchased from Firefox Rescue will replace a 1993 Smeal pumper truck that was the first truck out of the station in the case of a fire, and the replacement has several new features.
The truck is generally larger than the one it will replace, and Chief Brian Daake said its important for firefighters to be familiar with the differences before using the truck in an emergency.
One key feature is the ability of a passenger to control key functions in addition to the driver.
Most controls are center-mounted and the truck features two monitors on the center console, one angled for the driver and the other toward the passenger, allowing operation from either position, meaning the driver can better focus on the road.
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“One safety feature added is a backup camera and what’s nice with this system is it’s set up where if we have somebody following too close, whoever is on the passenger side can activate the backup camera and see where they’re at,” Daake said. “The monitor shows which seats are occupied, which seatbelts are on, the lights that are on and if doors are closed.
“(The passenger) can start the generator for the lights in the truck while we’re in route instead of getting on scene and starting it. That’s good because I don’t like my drivers to be distracted. They should focus on driving.”
Each monitor also shows vehicle information such as speed, oil pressure and RPMs.
Wednesday’s training consisted of a course through town and the Gage County Fairgrounds, where a brake test was held.
Even on slippery conditions and 750 gallons of water on board, Daake said the truck handles and stops significantly better than the model it will replace.
Several safety features are also included on the new truck, including air bags, stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes.
Whichever emergency response vehicle the department is in, he added driving habits in general have evolved over the decades to focus more on safety than speed.
“It’s better to get there a few second later than get in an accident and not get there at all because that really causes problems,” he said. “I’ve seen a huge paradigm shift because when we first started out in emergency services, it was ‘go fast and get there as quickly as possible.’ Because of things that have happened nationally with accidents, it’s now more of drive smarter, not faster.”
In addition to driver training, rescue workers will continue to train on the truck’s other operations and maintenance before it’s put into service, which will likely occur in late December.
Reach Scott Koperski at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKoperski.