Innovation Marked 2009

This past year, 2009, was a rather slow one for apparatus makers with some reporting new sales off by as much as 40 percent over previous years – perhaps a reflection of the sour economy and the reduction of tax revenue.

Other segments of the fire service industry seem as if they were not as seriously affected as the apparatus market. 

Some of that may also be attributed to the fact that the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program favored personal protective equipment and other fire safety equipment, devoting more of the federal pie to those markets over apparatus.

Programs dedicated to fire prevention were also given preference under the program which provided $560 million to the nation’s fire departments.
While the economy may have put the brakes on sales, it didn’t slow innovation, research and development.

Many PPE makers introduced new products and announced new initiatives to keep firefighters safe. MSA introduced several improvements to products, including a new SCBA face mask, as well as improvements to the company’s line of thermal imaging cameras and gas detection devices.
Scott Health & Safety was in the mix as well with the introduction of a wireless communications system using Bluetooth technology.

Specifically, Scott’s new EPIC (Enhanced Performance Integrated Communications) is used to enable Scott SCBA users to communicate effectively both locally and through an interface with radios.
Technological advancements were also noted with Bullard, the maker of a variety of PPE equipment for responders as well as thermal imaging cameras.

Bullard introduced a new camera, called the T4MAX, with an enhanced engine and a vastly improved display, according to the maker.

The TIC has an “ultra-high” 320X240 detector, a trademarked “Super Red Hot” colorization informing firefighters of areas of intense heat, electronic thermal throttle isolates heat sources, and more than 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit saturation temperature.

The camera also has an improved 4.3-inch widescreen format Liquid Crystal Display, with a bright display that enables viewing in thick smoke and direct sunlight. It also has a 2x and 4x digital zoom.
Advancements in electronic technology helped Firecom launch new products – wireless headsets and base stations. With the new devices, responders are able to connect to the in-cab intercom system and vehicle radios using wireless technology.  According to the maker, the headset is ideal for command vehicles, on-scene first responders and ambulance attendants.

Draeger expanded its family of single gas detectors with the launch of the Pac 3500 and Dräger Pac 5500.

Both devices are designed for personal protection by measuring the concentration of oxygen, carbon monoxide or hydrogen sulfide in the air. The Draeger Pac 3500 has a lifespan of approximately two years and the Draeger Pac 5500 has an indefinite lifespan with proper maintenance and servicing, according to the maker.

Earlier this year, Globe Firefighter Suits introduced a new suit at a value price for the budget-constrained customer. The line is called CLASSIX  and it features regular or lo-rise pants and a jacket with Globe’s free-hanging throat tab, contoured collar and sleeves, underarm gussets, dual action cargo pockets, and double sleeve wells.

The pants have a hook and loop fly with hook and dee closure and take up straps, padded H-back, rip-cord suspenders with horizontal loop attachment, diamond crotch gusset and flex liner knees.
Holmatro Rescue Equipment introduced a new ram head this year on its 4000 series rams. According to the maker, the big advantage of the new  ram head is the optimized grip which was achieved by changing the shape of the head from round to square, according to Holmatro.

The new heads, or tips, make for a better grip during dashboard rolls, according to the maker.
Rescue tool maker, TNT Rescue Systems developed the NEXUS, a shunt valve coupler which allows responders to hot swap tools on over 100 feet of line under pressure, according to the maker.

The coupler eliminates thermal expansion on the hose and requires no tools to relieve pressure.
The coupler also has a 360 degree swivel for no hose tangle, a safety lock to eliminate tool disconnection during use and grips on both ends of the coupler that can be operated with gloves on.
Despite apparent soft sales for apparatus builders, they still made news in 2009 with new products and acquisitions.

In April, E-ONE,  acquired the “Water Master - Vacuum Tanker” product line from Southern Fire Equipment in Hattiesburg, Miss. The acquisition gives E-ONE a unique, self-filling vacuum tanker in its product offerings. The design was developed by Reggie Ridgway, a volunteer fire chief who made the tanker after being frustrated with limited water supplies in rural fire districts and losing homes as a result.

Also in April, Pierce Manufacturing, introduced its Changeable Response Unit (CRU). The new products allows fire and rescue departments to customize a single pickup truck to do the work of several specialty vehicles through an interchangeable system of dedicated modules.

The modules fit into the cargo area and can be easily swapped out one for another, according to the maker. It’s based on a flatbed, or box system which can be configured for specific response applications.  They can be configured for brush fire responses, ice rescues, scene safety, rehab, water rescue or hazmat responses and just about anything departments can conceive, according to Pierce.
The hook-and-lift system loads and unloads different units quickly and easily with all systems operational from inside the cab. The quick attach and detach process can be completed in less than two minutes. The loader is engineered to fit 3/4–ton and larger, single or dual axle configuration vehicles.

When not being used for a specific emergency application, the vehicle can be returned to its original function through the use of an available skid or platform, according to Pierce.

Crimson Fire, a subsidiary of Spartan Motors, displayed the first pumper in its new Legend Series in the spring. The new line was designed to provide a quality-built vehicle at an affordable price.

According to Crimson, the pumper features a new body style and a modular design allowing fire departments to choose from nine configurations to create a custom truck to meet their needs.

The modular design also allowed Crimson to streamline production and reduce quote-to-delivery time as well as offer the apparatus at “a very attractive price point,” according to Crimson.
Rosenbauer America had firefighter safety in mind when it introduced its latest product development in 2009, called the EZ Load Hosebed.

The patent-pending hosebed has a 1,500-pound lift capacity and can be loaded from the ground or below shoulder height minimizing the risk of injury. It also is auto-leveling keeping it level at all times, and, according to the maker, it is the lowest powered hosebed available on NFPA compliant fire aerial apparatus.

It works by a flip of a switch at the rear of the body which activates a hydraulic motor to lower the hosebed automatically.

The fire service industry is not static and it’s a safe bet that innovators will come up with more products and designs to make firefighting safer, easier and more effective in 2010.