Clean Cab Survey of Apparatus Design Approaches

The Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA) is committed to the manufacture and sale of safe, efficient fire apparatus and fire equipment. Its goal is to provide tools and information to promote fire apparatus safety. With that goal in mind, member companies have been learning about the process of creating a clean apparatus specification, also known as “Clean Cab Design”. The following information was presented at the 2019 FDSOA Apparatus Specification and Maintenance Symposium.


In August 2018, the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ Volunteer and Combination Officers Section (VCOS) and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) released the “Lavender Ribbon Report: Best Practices for Preventing Firefighter Cancer”. This important report focused on providing actions to reduce the risk factors of cancer in the fire service. Within the report, the Clean Cab Concept was listed as a preferred action to help mitigate the risk of cancer. From the Report, “The cab shall be considered a safe, clean place for fire rescue personnel and free of contamination. By establishing a clean cab concept for apparatus, it reduces any potential secondary and tertiary exposures and establishes a high standard for all to follow.”

The Firefighter Cancer Support Network published a white paper titled, “Taking Action Against Cancer in the Fire Service”. It identified areas where firefighters were highly likely to be exposed to contaminants. The report cited that contaminated gear was often placed into the cabs after a fire, and the interior of the apparatus cab was rarely decontaminated.


The best clean cab solution for each department will depend on many factors. A 100 percent clean cab is only possible if firefighters never reenter the cab in protective gear after exposure. If your operational situation requires firefighters to reenter a cab wearing contaminated gear, they will be exposed while in that cab until it is cleaned again. Design choices can be made to assist with keeping contaminants out of the cab and for ease in cleaning should contamination of the cab occur.

Interior Cab Surfaces: Spray-on textured applications resist normal wear and tear. However, these materials present a rough surface full of pockets and crevices that can be extremely difficult to clean. Cab interiors with a clean cab focus should have smooth easy-to-clean cab environments such as smooth painted exposed metal surfaces and smooth vinyl upholstery panels.

Fabric upholstery in the cab area can be cleaned but is not as simple to wipe as a nonporous surface. It is also not as conducive to thorough cleaning as other surfaces.

Flooring should be as smooth as possible while still adhering to National Fire Protection Association slip standards.

Cab Seating: Because of their constant use, cab seating is a key aspect of a clean cab. Seat manufacturers are continuing to develop new products and to refine existing products to reduce contaminant absorption in seat materials and to ensure a thorough cleaning process is easy for firefighters to accomplish.

New seat materials are easier to clean and are designed to minimize absorption or trapping of contaminants. This is accomplished with fewer seams, removable covers, or coverless options.

SCBA Storage:

The “Lavender Ribbon Report” recommends that, “No equipment that has its designated use for interior firefighting shall be housed, bracketed, or otherwise kept in the interior passenger compartment of any response vehicle.”

When designing apparatus, there are many options for self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) storage outside of the cab, including but not limited to out-and-down tray options, slide-out boards, and compartment wall mounts. When selecting SCBA holders, consider ease of cleaning as well as functionality.

The “Lavender Ribbon Report” suggests, “Once released by command and prior to leaving the scene, it is recommended that all [personal protective equipment (PPE)] be bagged at the scene using department-approved bags that are at least 6 mm thick. The bag opening will be twisted and taped or otherwise closed, then goosenecked (folded over on itself and then twisted and taped) or otherwise closed a second time. This procedure will likely minimize secondary exposures to any off-gassing. When practical, all bags are secured on the outside of the apparatus and not inside the passenger cab.”

Additional Considerations/Information: A decon hoseline should be a pressure-regulated garden-style hose and nozzle. This garden hose setup is preferred as it will provide a flushing with sufficient flow but lower water pressure. This low-pressure stream will reduce the possibility of embedding contaminants further into fabric. Departments operating in colder climates may wish to provide heated water for their gross decon procedure.

In addition to the use of on-scene exhaust protection measures, exhaust pipes can be designed to exit where firefighters are least affected when opening cabinets and accessing pump panel controls.

Visit the Florida Firefighters Safety and Health Collaborative’s to find clean cab specification examples and cancer prevention information.


FAMA member companies are active in offering design solutions that departments can specify on new apparatus that will help meet a clean cab goal. They remain committed to supporting the industry as new research is released and departments begin adopting alternative standard operating procedures. They encourage departments to work with their apparatus manufacturers to specify apparatus in a way that supports healthy procedures that will benefit firefighters now and in the future.

FAMA is committed to the manufacture and sale of safe, efficient emergency response vehicles and equipment. FAMA urges fire departments to evaluate the full range of safety features offered by its member companies.