(January 2014) – When firefighters and Emergency Medical Services teams around the world are in need of customized rescue vehicles or fire units, they turn to Madison, Ind.-based RKO Enterprises. Owner and Chief Engineer Kieth Olson got his start building firefighting equipment during his nine years in the U.S. Navy, continuing that line of work when he entered the civilian field.
Pictured above is one of the specialty fire fighting vehicles built at RKO Enterprises in Madison, Ind. It was made for Jay Volunteer Fire Department in Vermont.
In 1987, he began building fire apparatuses and then went on to found RKO in 2000. Having worked on firefighting systems “from tugboats to aircraft carriers,” Olson was specially positioned to understand what emergency technicians need and how to build it for them.
RKO Enterprises designs and manufacturers a variety of Truck Fire Rescue Units, Utility Vehicle Fire and Rescue Units, and Chem Bio Decon Units. Their firefighting units can be made to fit almost any utility vehicle, with one of their most popular items being a fire rescue vehicle customized on a Polaris Ranger. Having a pump and hose system that can fit in the back of a pickup truck gives emergency personnel options that they do not have with a more traditional fire truck.
“Emergency responders around the world, sometimes they need small equipment. These smaller vehicles, they can get places the bigger vehicles can’t,” Olson says.
Olson explains that the key to the business’s success has been offering quality products that are often simply unavailable anywhere else. He estimates that there are perhaps only 30 other companies anywhere in the world that offer a comparable service to what RKO Enterprises does. His customers range from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to private landowners seeking the added security of owning their own fire systems. Olson’s products can be found at local volunteer firehouses and in rescue services everywhere from South America to Africa. He says that customization is a normal part of their operations and that “because of our capabilities, we get special projects.”
One such special project was for he Jay Volunteer Fire Department in Vermont. The department recently received two emergency vehicles from RKO. Serving the Jay Peak Resort, the fire company was responsible for protecting an area that draws visitors year round to enjoy skiing the mountain slopes, hiking challenging trails or riding the Aerial Tram. About two years ago, facilities at the top of the mountain including a restaurant and apartments were undergoing renovations. This work highlighted the need for emergency equipment that would be able to operate in a mountainous area that receives some of the heaviest snowfall in the United States. A committee decided that the fire department needed a vehicle that could supply a pump and firefighting equipment to the top of the mountain and one that could be used by EMS responders.
The JVFD had difficulty in even obtaining bids for the sort of vehicles that they had in mind. Many of the companies they approached were unable to provide the sort of customization that the department required in order to effectively respond in the difficult mountain terrain. The standard units were unable to handle the weight requirements that the department laid out. RKO was able to meet the challenge. Larry Griffith, who works in RKO sales and tech support, recalls with a smile that the vehicles “had to climb a 4,500-foot ski slope to prove we could do it.”
Not only did RKO build the customized vehicles needed, but their workers also trained with the responders to make sure that they were able to effectively operate all the systems available in their rescue package.
“When that company was looking for someone to do the job, we could do it,” Olson says.
RKO Enterprises brings together a variety of designers, technicians, and welders who together have more than 60 years of experience building firefighting equipment. Their confidence in their work is shown in their unique lifetime warranty for their piping systems.
Griffith explains that, “We get a lot of repeat customers on our quality.” As he looks over the various units offered by RKO he reflects, “We’re proud of all of them.”
• For more information, visit http://rkoenterprises.com.
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