By John Leivas
Published Saturday, May 1, 2010
| From the May 2010 Issue of FireRescue
Firefighter accountability is vital for any fire department—paid or volunteer—and the fire service is always looking for ways to improve accountability on the fireground. We have passports with firefighter pictures, names and company assignments. We have PAR tags with names attached to a passport board that identifies engine, ladder, battalion and rescue companies, and we even have GPS tracking devices that can be added to your SCBA. The passport system seems to work just fine, but it’s only one piece of the accountability puzzle.
We tell our firefighters that as long as we can hear them, see them or touch them, we have accountability of our crew inside the structure fire. But how does that work when we’re multi-tasking, advancing charged hoselines or shagging hose from a doorway? It’s difficult to keep track of everyone. Fortunately, I think I’ve found a product that can help.
Last year, I was approached by a company out of Anaheim, Calif., to test a new device designed to help with accountability, inside and outside a structure fire. Smoke Trainer’s product—the Smoke Identification Light (SID)—is a 4 ¾-inch-long device that mounts to your SCBA air cylinder and illuminates LED light tubes to display identification of different teams, engine company numbers, instructors, EMS personnel, etc.
The first time I used the SID, it worked well but needed some minor changes. Fortunately, the folks at Smoke Trainer were more than willing to make some adjustments to improve the product.
I was then asked to evaluate the unit a second time. This time my department had just begun our fourth-quarter multi-company live-fire drill. We did a total of 31 live-fire drills over the course of 3 months. During this time, we were able to test the SID. One day in particular, we ran crews through a simulated warehouse fire at our training facility. We attached the SID to four SCBAs. Crews were faced with heavy smoke and fire conditions, with smoke down to the ground. This made it difficult for crews to see each other—a common problem on the fireground. We found that by using the SIDs, crews working inside could easily see other firefighters 8 to 10 feet away in heavy smoke conditions. Note: According to the Smoke Trainer Web site, the product is visible at approximately 30 feet away in dense black smoke; we found that 30 feet was more realistic for marginal smoke conditions.
We found the light easy to use and very durable. It weighs only 4 oz., is a half-inch thick, and is made of aluminum with carbon fiber 4 ¼-inch LED light tubes. It’s powered by four AA batteries that last up to 40 hours for continuous use. There are three different modes for the light—solid, flashing and strobe with four color variations (red, blue, green and yellow)—that illuminate the ID and ID number. You can put up to four letters and four numbers on the unit for identification.
The unit fits all major SCBAs. It has clip sizes that fit small and large SCBA cylinders and can also be attached through the bottle strap.
The SID can withstand temperatures up to 450 degrees F. It has two buttons that can easily be pushed while wearing gloves. One button allows you to turn on the unit manually and set the mode from solid to flashing or strobe. The second button allows you to change the color of the ID and ID number illumination.
The light is activated immediately upon exiting the fire truck.
I believe that the Smoke ID Light, which costs $139, made a considerable difference in our accountability of firefighters working on and around the fireground. Not only did it help identify what crews are on the fireground, but command could see them as well. Bottom line: Our crews had a very favorable response to the product.
On another note, don’t forget that it’s our responsibility to take care of each other so everyone goes home. Be safe!
Smoke Identification Light
+ Highly visible in dense smoke;
+ Easy to use;
+ Multiple light modes; and
+ Fits all major SCBA.
P.O. Box 27551
Anaheim, CA 92809
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