Tanker Shuttle Drill
August 2000

You can move a lot of water if you use a few "tricks of the trade" with a tanker shuttle.

The Water Supply Triangle asks three questions:
  1. How much water do you need to put out the fire?
  2. Where will you get that water?
  3. How will you get that water to the scene?
To answer these questions we need to preplan in our communities. Figure out fire flow for what might burn in our response districts and then decide where the water will come from. We also need to train constantly. If we know we need a certain ammount of water from a certain source, we should be practicing so that we are proficient and effiecient when that knowledge needs to be placed into service.

On a Saturday morning in August, firefighters from Petersham, Phillipston, Barre, and Orange met to practice those very things. In 90 minutes tme we had flowed over 70,000 gallons of water. The water source was two miles away and the water was moved by five tankers ranging in size from 1,200 gallons to 3,000 gallons maintaing over 700 GPM for the duration of the drill.

Thought #1:

Build 'em big -- and call a lot of them!

If you want to maintain a constant water supply incorporate tankers of 2,000 gallons or more into your mutual aid running card. You will need 4, 5, 6, 7 tankers on the road to provide 500 GPM and more if there is any distance tbetween the fire and the static water supply.

Thought #2:

Be able to accomodate multiple tankers at the fill site and the dump site.

Tankers should never have to wait at either spot (loading or unloading). If the tankers are not "on the road" they are not efficient.

Thought #3:

The pump of largest capacity should be at the static water source filling tankers. By feeding a distribution valve with large diameter hose, a large capacity pump (1500 GPM) can fill multiple tankers.

Thought #4:

Multiple dump tanks should be set up at the "dump" site. This is so a reserve of water can be established as well as mulitple tankers being able to drop their water at the same time. A siphone can be set up between the primary and auxiliary bags so water can be transferred between bags.

Thought #5:

Always have at least one pumper in reserve. If you look around and see that every piece of equipment you have called has been committed, it is time to call for more help. Chances are, whenever you are moving water for any period of time, some piece of apparatus is going to break. (At this drill we had two. One took 20 minutes to put back in service and the other took 2-1/2 hours.) Wouldn't it be nice to have a manned pumper ready to put into service when that other pumper fails?

Thought number 6:

Personnel, Personnel, Personnel!

Tanker shuttles are manpower intensive. An operation needing 500 gallons per minute or more will require 15 to 18 people committed to the water supply function alone with a tanker shuttle. This does not include the suppression people fighting the fire!

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