By Bob Vaccaro
Published Wednesday, September 5, 2012
| From the October 2012 Issue of FireRescue
If you’ve read my columns for any length of time, you know that I’m an apparatus buff. But I also constantly keep my eye out for fire service products, gear and gadgets that are new to the industry and that spark my interest. And if you’re like me, you’ve probably noticed that there’s been no shortage of eye-catching and innovative products coming on the market this year for the fire service.
In general, fire service manufacturers have been consistently responding to the changing economy and changing technology over the past couple of years. This has resulted in a lot of change for the fire service, which as you know, can be difficult to implement, but it has also resulted in advancements and improvements that greatly benefit our industry and, more importantly, our customers. Here, I’ve highlighted just a few of the apparatus and products that have made noteworthy changes, upgrades and improvements.
Spartan Chassis came out in full force this year with its Advanced Protection System (APS), which increases the probability that firefighters will walk away from the apparatus if it’s involved in a serious accident. Specifically, the system’s new cab design includes seatbelts equipped with special retractors that absorb weight loads, thereby reducing occupant injuries; the design also improves survival rates in rollover and side-impact accidents.
Spartan also boasts full front and side curtain airbags that are 300% bigger than the competition; the rear curtain airbags are 700% bigger than the competition. And believe me, this wasn’t hype. At Fire-Rescue International (FRI), which took place in Denver this year, I saw their air bag system on display beside a competitor’s in the open position, and the difference was extremely obvious.
As if that weren’t enough, Spartan installed knee air bags on the driver’s and officer’s side of the cab, as well as a steering wheel bag. Outboard sensors control their operation, which is one of several industry firsts, according to Spartan.
Pierce Manufacturing continues to offer an impressive variety of apparatus models and cab configurations. The impressive Dash CF is a 105', heavy-duty ladder truck that features the Pierce Ultimate Configuration (PUC) design, the Pierce-exclusive DD13, 500-hp big block engine and their side-roll protection system.
Pierce has also created a Dash CF pumper, shown at FRI this year via the Cedar Hill (Texas) Fire [FRI 1] Department. This rig features a 450-hp engine, TAK-4 independent front suspension, Command Zone advanced electronics, and frontal impact and side-roll protection systems. All Dash CF pumpers offer the PUC configuration with its simplified, two-step pump shift operation. The entire pump system is also located above the frame for easier and quicker service and maintenance.
Other Pierce offerings on display at FRI this year include a second aerial ladder, shown courtesy of the Golden (Colo.) Fire Department, which is built on the Pierce Velocity chassis. This vehicle features a quint configuration with a single rear axle, a 450-hp engine, TAK-4 independent front suspension and a 75' aluminum aerial device.
A Pierce Arrow XT pumper, on display courtesy of the Del Mar (Calif.) Fire Department, features a 500-hp engine, TAK-4 independent front suspension, the PUC pump system, a 500-gallon water tank, a Husky 3 single-agent foam system and a raised-roof cab with seating for six.
A Pierce Saber pumper was also on display courtesy of the Southeast Weld Fire Protection District in Keenesburg, Colo. This vehicle features a 450-hp engine, the PUC pump system, a 19" front bumper extension, a 12" raised-roof cab with seating for six, and for the officer, an additional five inches of leg room.
Lastly, the Responder pumper is built on a Freightliner chassis and features Command Zone advanced electronics, a 1,000-gallon water tank, a 1,250-gpm, single-stage pump and stainless-steel plumbing. The hosebed holds 1,500 feet of 2½" hose and 400 feet of 1½" hose. The pumper/ tanker, built on a Peterbilt chassis, features a 1,700-gallon water tank, a 184-inch-long body, roll-up doors with adjustable shelves and a 1,250-gpm, single-stage pump.
E-One’s 137' foot ladder stands out because it’s the tallest ladder made by a U.S. fire apparatus manufacturer. But E-One’s engine, the E-Max, also comes with many impressive features, such as a narrow pump panel, easier maneuverability and accessibility, and more storage room. These features are available on the Typhoon, Cyclone, Quest and Commercial chassis.
Smeal’s Freedom Series pumper for Grand Junction, Colo., which was built on a Spartan Metro Star chassis, and a 105' rear-mount aerial for Markham, Ontario, which was built on a Spartan Gladiator chassis, were both on display at FRI. But Smeal also showed off its AL-11 Aerial Logic system. This totally integrated system uses sensors to obtain feedback on a ladder’s extension, location, retraction, angle, load and breathing air system status. It also gathers information on the J1939 engine, controls all vehicle lighting functions, allows the operator to monitor all the critical functions of the aerial, and gives a continuous readout of everything related to aerial operations.
Rosenbauer displayed its Commander chassis and cab, as well as a 78' Smart Aerial Quint, but also showed off a pretty cool Jeep that was outfitted with an ultra-high pressure system and configured as a brush truck for the Eagan (Minn.) Fire Department.
Elkhart Brass’ new HERO Pipe was recently tested by the Chicago Fire Department in a wind-driven environment and has proven to be a great asset to big-city fire departments that must fight fires in multi-story or high-rise buildings. The pipe is designed to work from the exterior of any size building, whether the building has window sills or not. To operate, an incident commander and their firefighters battle the fire from the floor below and erect the pipe from that location with sill clamps and hydraulic stabilizers. The pipe extends out the window and up to the incident floor. It can extend from 7½ feet to 15 feet and features a telescopic waterway and a remote-controlled articulating nozzle.
The portable HERO Pipe unit is lightweight, easy to transport and carry, and requires minimal personnel. I saw both the demo video as well as a live demonstration of the product being erected, and discovered it not only takes minimal staffing, but it can also be left unstaffed if needed.
The Wildfire Automated Suppression and Protection System (WASP) is a completely self-contained unit that features a 20,000-watt diesel generator, powerful pumps and more than 3,000 feet of line with 34 sprinkler heads. But the WASP is very user-friendly; it can be transported by a pick-up truck to a given location and can be deployed easily by two operators within 45 minutes.
If firefighters must retreat out of an area due to safety concerns, the WASP can be left behind to pump water continuously for up to five days without supervision. The WASP can also be used to provide emergency lighting and power.
What’s really neat about this unit is that you can transport it to a wildland/urban interface (WUI) area, deploy it and draw water from lakes, ponds, swimming pools, etc. You can also leave it unstaffed for a certain amount of time—its satellite hook-up allows firefighters to operate it via a cell phone, laptop or computer from virtually anywhere.
Akron Brass displayed a new video display unit that can be installed on the dashboard of any apparatus. Called VISTA IV Display, you can control your lighting and HVAC with the full-color Vista IV display. New features include an optional touch screen with buttons, 800 x 480 resolution and four video ports. Other options include a wide operating temperature range, an automatic screen that changes in response to current conditions and a sleep mode to eliminate night glare. The VISTA IV is available in panel mount or 6" arm mount, and it’s video-ready for back-up cameras, thermal-imaging cameras, DVDs and GPS.
Hale’s new pump, the Qmax-XS, is advertised as big muscle in a small place, and it’s definitely compact. If you’re looking to spec one out for a new apparatus, it’s just 28 inches wide with electric valves and 34 inches wide with manual valves. This is especially beneficial to departments that are looking to not only save space but also add additional compartments to their new apparatus.
Hurst has come out with several new products in the past few years, the most notable being the E-draulic battery-powered cutters and spreaders. This year, Hurst introduced the new Jaws of Life P600, the smallest, most lightweight power unit on the market today. This new unit powers all the electric and battery-powered cutters, spreaders and combination tools.
With the P600, noise levels are kept to a minimum, and it doesn’t generate fumes like the older, gas-powered units. It’s also lightweight, making it easily transportable and more mobile so that it can operate in any area or situation. What’s especially nice is that this unit can be operated in battery mode, but if need be, it can be operated off an electrical cable. I’ve operated these units and have seen various demos. They are most certainly mobile and easily operated in tight situations.
Phasecore has been around for a while, but it’s recently entered the first responder arena with its line of cooling vests that require no water. So how does it work? Well, the components are made of a non-toxic, non-flammable, salt mixture that’s sealed inside a thermal aluminum wrapper. When the temperature rises above its activation point, the mixture produces a cooling effect by transforming from a solid state to a liquid state. And unlike ice gel or other frozen liquids, the Phasecore vests do not over-cool or shock the body. They can be stored in a refrigerator or freezer and can be used and recharged repeatedly.
Aside from the vests, the company also manufactures cooling hat liners, quad hamstring wraps, lower back wraps, shin and calf wraps and even laptop coolers.
FireCom has taken interoperability to a new level with their new 5000D Series digital intercoms. The 5000D Series allows users to connect up to four radios for simulcast interoperability with mutual-aid companies or other agencies to improve operational efficiencies and responder safety. The digital intercoms are customizable to accommodate new or existing radio and intercom configurations, and can interface up to four additional devices including cell phone; they are also retrofitted to be compatible with existing Firecom installations.
This product is definitely worth looking into not only to retrofit an existing vehicle, but also to install on a new apparatus that you may be speccing out.
A Final Note
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the new products and apparatus displayed at FRI or introduced to the market this year; this is only a sampling. But if you’re a gear/gadget buff or an apparatus buff like me, you like to stay up-to-date on all new innovations geared toward the fire service. And to do that, I recommend spending some time at fire service trade shows. Peruse the exhibit hall, get your hands on the products—but also make sure you know what your department needs and how much it can spend. It can be a very helpful experience for both your department and your community.
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