Step Right Up. It’s Showtime

Fire tradeshows are in full swing and it's a good idea for every firefighter and fire officer to attend at least one trade show a year to learn more about products and innovations as well as take advantage of unparalleled training.

Editor's Note: This is the first blog by's Ed Ballam, who is the associate editor - industry news & products. Check back as this fire service veteran blogs about new and innovative products, what's happening with manufacturers and more.

Whenever I come back from a fire trade show, like Firehouse Expo, which is fast approaching or FDIC, which ended just a bit ago, everybody at my station wants to know what I saw that was new.

And the answer is almost always lots. If what was shown at the 85th annual Fire Department Instructors Conference is any indication, there will be lots of new stuff to see during the whole fire show season this year.

One of the hallmarks of a fire trade show is the debuting of new and innovative products. From the latest technological advances in SCBAs, to improvements to nozzles to innovations in apparatus, there’s stuff for everyone to look at and handle.

It is next to impossible to say what is the most impressive at any given show, but you can be sure the manufacturers and vendors are out to dazzle firefighters and officers with the absolute latest and ground breaking appliances, and gizmos out there anywhere. Something you might be scratching your head at this year’s show, will be next year’s must-have item that has everyone wondering how fires were extinguished previously.

A trend at this year’s show has been innovations and technology permeating the fire service. We used to think that joystick controls were cutting edge on fire apparatus controls, but now interactive touch screens, like you find on the latest smartphones and tablets are becoming increasingly employed on all kinds of firefighting tools and apparatus.

Rosenbauer America, a growing apparatus maker here in the U.S., displayed a touch screen pump panel at FDIC this year. Yup, you heard it right, a touch screen that opens and closes valves, increases pressure and engine speed and all the other typical controls you’d find on a conventional pump panel. It’s amazing to think that it wasn’t that long ago, electronics were avoided like the plague when it came to water and pump operations. First, there were electric valves, operated by motors or hydraulics, and then there were electronic pressure governors. Now, the latest evolution incorporates touch screen operations.

When I first saw the touch screen control panel, which looks a lot like a television screen, complete with a virtual image of the pumper to help the operator keep track of which discharge was being used, I quipped that I wanted a recliner and remote. While the recliner might be out of the question, I was told a remote was not far off. It would give the pump operator the ability to move around the apparatus and see what’s going on. It would also allow the operator to sit inside the climate controlled cab and still have complete control of the pump. Where I live and fight fires it got to minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit this past winter and I’ll tell you I would have appreciated that feature.

Sticking with pump operations for a bit, Waterous is now showing off a one-step compressed air foam system that does everything to set up CAFS operations with just a push of a single button. For all the advantages of CAFS, it’s been a challenge to get the air, water and foam mixture perfect. Even experienced operators can be challenged with varying static and residual pressure as the computer seeks to balance the ratios.

That, however, is all gone according to Waterous whose representatives say the company’s new system only requests the operator to choose wet or dry foam. That’s it. Again, technology has made our lives easier.

On the other end of the hose is, of course, the nozzle. Task Force Tips (TFT) is arguably one of the most innovative water appliance companies out there today and the company is now showing, and selling, what it calls the most innovative nozzle in over 150 years.

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