Firehouse Magazine recently asked fire apparatus manufacturers to join a roundtable to discuss the all-important issue of vehicle safety. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports that vehicle crashes represent the second-leading cause, or about 25%, of firefighter line-of-duty deaths. The USFA...
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Firehouse Magazine recently asked fire apparatus manufacturers to join a roundtable to discuss the all-important issue of vehicle safety. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports that vehicle crashes represent the second-leading cause, or about 25%, of firefighter line-of-duty deaths. The USFA has joined with other fire organizations, including the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), in efforts to reduce this toll and ensure firefighter safety.
In light of this important initiative, and our focus on firefighter safety, FirehouseÂ® invited apparatus manufacturersâ€™ chief engineers or their representatives to discuss what they are doing now or planning to do to improve safety for firefighters. We asked each company to discuss safety-related technologies and describe any new safety, driving or ergonomic initiatives. We also asked what each believes can be done to reduce the rollover potential of apparatus.
We thank the companies that participated in this roundtable and invite all apparatus manufacturers to participate in upcoming exchanges of important information.
Doug Kelley, the pumper product manager for American LaFrance, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1991 with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering. He served in the Navy until 1996. During that time, he graduated from the Navyâ€™s Damage Control Assistant School with training in firefighting and rescue. He also was a 2Â½-year member of the damage control training team on the cruiser USS Mississippi out of Norfolk, VA. From 1996 to 2003, Kelley was chief engineer for S&S Fire Apparatus. He oversaw the development of many new products, including the industryâ€™s first commercial non-metallic elliptical tanker. Kelley has worked for American LaFrance since 2003.
Firehouse: It takes years for new technology to be tested and added to fire apparatus. Please describe any new safety, driving or ergonomic features that we can expect to see in new fire apparatus.
Kelley: American LaFrance has a number of projects in process or under consideration. Rather than discussing items specific to my company, let me highlight some higher level trends.
Within the fire industry, we are seeing a strong movement from active safety to passive safety. Active safety items are items that require operator action to be fully effective. An example of an active safety device is a pump discharge relief valve. Itâ€™s there on the pump panel, but it requires the operator to properly pre-set the necessary pressure, and many models have the ability for the operator to override it. Active safety items generally require a more experienced operator with a strong knowledge of how the system works. Passive safety items, on the other hand, do not require any particular operator action to be effective and cannot be easily overridden. Examples include air bags or anti-lock brakes. This transition from active to passive has been underway for many years in other industries, but has only just begun in fire trucks.
Furthermore, on the cab/chassis side, if you want to see whatâ€™s coming down the road, you only have to look at the trucking industry. If you see it coming for the over-the-road trucking fleet, it will only be a matter of time before it shows up on a fire truck.
One of the concepts Iâ€™m most excited about is electronic braking / steering integration. This will go above and beyond the anti-lock braking systems currently standard on all new apparatus. This system will monitor throttle, braking, steering wheel position, and acceleration in order to adjust individual wheel brakes and engine speed to minimize the opportunity to take the vehicle into an unsafe condition. Airbags and restraint systems are useful, but preventing the accident in the first place is infinitely preferable.