There are few better feelings in a firefighter's career than when you get new equipment either issued to you or to your truck, or get a brand new apparatus for your station.

Right away, become familiar with the operation and function for the new gear/equipment. It is absolutely necessary to know every button, horn, whistle. In other words, you get to know it intimately. When you arrive at the scene of an emergency, it does not look good in the public's eyes if you are fumbling around trying to figure out how to get it to work.

When it comes to apparatus, a factory representative likely will go to your department to show the crews all truck details. I would always video the initial factory rep demo meeting for crews manning the truck (after receiving their permission, of course). When the apparatus is finally delivered, there would be a DVD accompanying the manufacturer's operation manual for reference as needed.

This video is extremely valuable because often the rep will discuss the useful tidbits and idiosyncrasies that may not otherwise be covered in the manuals or other training resources. In addition, it will capture questions from crews that may not otherwise be asked if a rep was not there.

Every person involved with the truck — officers, drivers, crew members and instructors needs to read and get to know the manual. Take the truck out and drill with it. Start slow, and have the manual in hand. Look at the pictures in the manual for the operating controls, identify them and know where they are. Follow manual procedures, and perform every function. Practice, repeat and observe.

This way when an issue arises at the emergency scene, you will know what to do without having to use the manual. Even still, if you cannot figure it out, then when you do return from a call, you will know exactly where to go in the manual to find your answer.

Basically, drill, drill, drill. It needs to become second nature.

Get together with the other shifts that will be using the truck and discuss the compartment configurations and the equipment placement. This should occur prior to the first day of responding at the station. Read all the power tool manuals and know how to troubleshoot, change blades, gauge fuel/oil ratios/mixture and handle battery maintenance for the radios and other battery-operated tools.

Also, know how to operate the new electrical and gas-powered saws or any other new tools. Assure that the new gas power tools are "broken in." Drill with the new saws. They may handle or feel different from the previous ones assigned to the vehicle. Try out the different blades that can be used on them.

Know how to use the extrication tools (rams, spreaders, cutters, etc.). Know what type of hydraulic fluid is used. Get familiar with the couplings of the hydraulic lines and all the accessories that accompany the equipment.

The other valuable asset is to have a database/inventory/truck check system that can used to track or alert you when maintenance needs to be performed on a rolling weekly, monthly or annual schedule. They can automatically send requests, for example, for new blades, fluids or batteries that need to be ordered.

There should be a system in place to report if there is a malfunction or if it needs repair. If you already have one, it will need to be modified to reflect the recent changes for the new equipment. Optimally, the system also can link to "training" or "checkout" videos through a tablet, laptop or smartphone via WiFi; and send maintenance-related photos to appropriate personnel.

Whenever new "stuff" arrived, I was like a kid in a candy store. I wanted to check out all the features the new tools had to offer, immediately opening the operating manual. If a truck arrived, I would start to climb all over it from top to bottom, open all the compartments and start thinking about my equipment placement.

I encourage everyone to show this same type of enthusiasm. These items do not come cheap. The taxpayers which means all of us want to be assured of the best equipment and response capabilities. We owe it to them and to ourselves to learn it and know it to operate safely around our crews and the public.

The key to all of this is to practice and drill with the new "stuff." It is our obligation and responsibility to the citizens to assure the emergency response crews and their gear are going to perform to the highest level when needed.