Roll Up Apparatus Doors

Roll Up Door Truck

If you read the trade magazines you might notice that it seems as if every new piece of apparatus delivered is equipped with roll-up doors, also known as shutters. These doors are made up of individual slats of metal, each connected to one another with a pivoting joint. A spring loaded bar at the bottom acts as a handle, and when it is pulled out from under the clips which secure it, the entire door can be slid open. These doors moves on rails and will form a small cylinder at the top of the compartment when the door is fully open.

  There are a number of benefits with this style of door. The first is that, since the doors move straight up and out of the way, instead of swinging open like traditional doors, it allows firefighters to stay closer to the apparatus, keeping them out of harm’s way when operating on a road. It also allows the apparatus to fit in a tighter area while still having access to all the compartments. Another benefit over traditional doors is that, since they don’t swing outward, there is nothing to bump into when you walk past. Finally, if the door is accidentally left open, there is nothing sticking out which can get caught on something and cause damage to the truck.

  There are various “styles” of roll-up which you may want to considering when looking at outfitting your truck. The doors can either be front roll or rear roll, which means that the door forms a cylinder at the front or rear of the compartment when opened. Rear roll doors need to be installed in a sufficiently deep compartment to allow enough space to open. These types of shutters require space in order to fit one opened. This space is known as the “header” and can mean between a 2 1/2″ and 6 1/2″ clear space required at the top of the compartment as well as a 10-14″ minimum depth of compartment. All of this depends on the height of the door. In compartments where such a header space would be impossible, a sliding style of door exists which allows the door to roll across the top and down the back of the compartment in order to save space.

  In some cases the shutters can even be motorized, and can be connected to a switch inside the passenger compartment, or at another sensible location. Such doors could even be connected to the parking brake, allowing all the doors on the truck to open before the firefighters even get out.

  One thing to keep in mind is that due to the nature of the operation of the door, the appearance of the truck from the outside won’t be as streamlined as with traditional doors. For some, this comes in conflict of what a fire truck “should” look like. This can be minimized by specifying that the door be painted to match the apparatus color, instead of leaving the finish as bare aluminum or color anodized. However, the ridges formed by the individual slats that make up the door will still be visible, so it the surface will not be as uniform as a traditional door.

  Cost is another consideration when it comes to specifying doors for a piece of apparatus. In this case the debate is between material cost and installation cost. Traditional doors are made out of standard sheet metal, while roll-up doors are made of custom aluminum extrusions. Naturally the base material of the roll-up doors will cost more. However, swing-out doors need to be bent and welded to fit the shape of the compartment they are being installed on. To contrast, once the roll-up doors are extruded to the proper width and attached to each other, the whole assembly can be mounted after drilling a few holes. Since roll-up doors are so much easier to install than swing-out doors, some apparatus builders are treating swing-out doors as an added cost option; the costs savings in labor offsets the higher material cost for roll-ups.


  As with anything else in the apparatus buying process, you have to determine if roll-up doors are the best fit for your unique needs. You need to be aware of their capabilities and limitations as it relates to your application. You also need to determine if the costs involved in both installation and maintenance are within your price range. Finally, you need to ensure that the manufacturer of the doors (if it’s a retrofit) or the truck builder (if it’s a new delivery) are on the same page as you and are going to be around for support if future problems arise. Roll-up doors do have a number of benefits and can make the fire scene safer for the personnel, but you also need to make sure that they allow you to keep the truck’s equipment safe while still providing easy access. It doesn’t matter how high tech the door is, if it is not providing these functions then it should not be on the apparatus.

2 Responses to “Roll Up Apparatus Doors”
  • August 28th, 2010 at 5:37 pm

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  • August 29th, 2010 at 6:28 pm

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