5 great products from 2013, and 5 I'd like to see in 2014
Here's a list of the most outstanding innovations to hit the fire service this year and a short list of those I hope to see next year
By Robert Avsec
Well, the end-of-year holiday season is upon us; it seems like just yesterday I was turning the calendar to 2013. We all know how important planning is in our daily operations, so here are some thoughtful gift ideas for your department.
1. Auto glass removal tools
Rhyno's Windshield Cutter is a battery-powered extrication tool that is easy to deploy with cutter blades that require very little clearance to effectively cut through the windshield, which increases the margin of safety for rescuers and patients alike.
The company also claims that its cutter keeps the majority of glass debris outside of the vehicle and minimizes airborne dust, something that also bodes well for both patients and rescuers.
2. New generation of rapid response vehicles
This new genre of emergency vehicle bears little resemblance to earlier versions of RRVs — medium-duty truck chassis with utility bodies or pickup trucks with a covered cargo bed. And they bear only a token resemblance to most mini-pumpers in service today.
Apparatus manufacturers are building these new RRVs using newer truck chassis such as those found on the Ford F-550 extended cab and crew cab (both with 6.4-liter turbocharged diesel engines), GMC Yukon, and Toyota Hilux — the Hilux is very popular in Europe. These models typically offer gross vehicle weight around 7,700 pounds; payload capacity of 2,750 pounds; and water capacity ranging from 50 to 150 gallons.
For fire suppression, an RRV can be outfitted with a Compressed Air Foam System to provide big apparatus fire power in a small apparatus package. The CAFS capability can come from a built-in system, a slide-in system, or several portable CAFS delivery backpacks.
Today's RRV resembles a well-designed computer: small package, many pertinent applications, easy to use and easily upgradeable.
3. Cold-weather strainer for rural water supply ops
This one may not necessarily be new, but it certainly caught my attention when I found it. The Kochek self-leveling floating strainer attaches to the end of a hard suction or PVC hose to prevent debris from entering the hose or the pump when drawing water from a pond or other body of water.
The long-handle ice strainer attaches to the end of a suction hose, then makes a 90-degree turn to allow the intake end of the strainer into a hole in the ice. This prevents debris from entering the hose or the pump and keeps the strainer below the level of the ice.
4. Quick attack master stream
One of the newest innovations in firefighting equipment is the quick attack monitor, like the Task Force Tips' Blitzforce or Elkhart Brass' R.A.M. These monitors are smaller than their dual-purpose cousins — think a really large nozzle at the end of 2 1/2 inch attack line — and are designed for quick deployment and operation by a single firefighter.
What makes a quick-attack monitor a better option than a regular nozzle at the end of that hose? These monitors may be smaller, but they have many of the same characteristics as larger monitors: a ground base for stability, the ability to flow up to 500 gpm, and once in place can be left unstaffed as they operate.
Quick attack monitors can be a real plus for situations like exterior exposure protection; once the monitor is in place, valuable firefighters can be deployed to other fireground tasks.
5. Google Glass
This one may turn out to be the game changer of the century, OK, at least the decade. Glass is going to provide an invaluable tool for future generations of firefighters from structural to wildland. There, I said it.
Glass is going to have a positive impact on how we navigate to the emergency scene; access departmental information from anywhere on the planet; use incident command systems to manage emergency incidents; and document any and all of our daily operations and tasks.
Items for my 2014 wish list
Once again, planning is important in our business, so I'd like to see and be able to write about these innovations in 2014.
1. Integrated SCBA facepiece and four-gas monitor
I'd like to see a manufacturer put these two together into one package with an in-mask display. Along with that feature, I'd like to see the capability to seamlessly switch from breathing cylinder air to filter mask functionality during overhaul only after the monitor readings are below acceptable limits.
2. Portable water removal systems
For years many departments have relied on various models of water vacs to remove water from structures. We need newer models that are lightweight, powerful and affordable because prompt water removal as part of the incident commander's property conservation strategy continues to grow in tactical importance.
As we become more successful in getting fire sprinkler systems installed in more occupancies, especially residential dwellings, we have to have better tools for safe, effective and efficient removal of water following fire suppression. The opponents to residential sprinklers are going to continue to hammer us on the water damage issue, just as they’ve always done, in their attempts to thwart us in our efforts to get sprinklers in every type of occupancy.
3. Portable traffic management zone equipment
The risk of death and injury to firefighters and EMS personnel working at motor vehicle crash sites keeps increasing. We can't continue to rely on road flares, traffic cones, and personnel with flashlights to guide and direct other vehicles safely away from first responders.
I am not exactly sure what this will look like, but I do know that it should be highly visible; be compact and transportable aboard fire and EMS apparatus; and be affordable. That's not too much to ask, right?
4. Smarter smoke detectors
Advances have been made to decrease the incidents of false alarms from things like steam or cooking vapors. However, more work needs to be done. I'd like to see a smoke detector that not only detects the smoke, but also transmits an alarm to the local 911 center with the address where the smoke detector is located.
Hallmark sells recordable greeting cards that contain more computer technology than that which existed in the entire world prior to 1945. Surely we can have smoke detectors that get it right and summon help at the same time.
5. National standard for training and certification
Although not a product per se, its creation would likely give rise to several education and training tools.
Since the beginning of EMS in the United States, there has been one standardized training curriculum for basic EMTs and for paramedics. There is a National Registry for EMTs and paramedics that makes it possible for an individual to move from one state to another without having to complete a training program that they've already completed and for which they are certified.
EMTs and paramedics have to engage in continuing education and recertify on a regularly scheduled basis. It's time for the fire service to follow the lead of its emergency response cousins in this regard.
So what's on your wish list?