|(1) A firefighter uses an Akron Brass Mercury Master quick-attack monitor supplied by a large-diameter (LDH) hoseline. (Photo courtesy of Akron Brass.)|
|(2) Akron Brass will introduce its Apollo PE 1,250-gpm portable electric monitor with wireless control at the 2012 Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC). (Photo courtesy of Akron Brass.)|
|(3) Elkhart Brass used 3D fluid analysis to improve the flow efficiency of its Sidewinder EXM 700-gpm monitor, as well as to give it tighter swing lines. (Photo courtesy of Elkhart Brass.)|
|(4) Task Force Tips (TFT) offers its Valve Under Monitor(VUM), designed specifically for areal ladder and platform operations. The valve controls water flow to the monitor and creates a manifold where discharges can be added. (Photo courtesy of TFT.)|
|(5) TFT uses a pressure-control mechanism on all its master stream nozzles that allows an operator to change the operational pressure of the automatic nozzle to maximize either reach and penetration or maximum flow. (Photo courtesy of TFT.)|
|(6) TFT's Typhoon remote control monitor provides flows from 500 to 1,500 gpm and is used in both pumper and aerial applications. (Photo courtesy of TFT.)|
Monitor manufacturers have recently spent plenty of money, time, and effort on research and development to improve their flows and make their products more efficient, easier to control, and safer to operate. Some of their efforts reflect calls from fire departments and apparatus manufacturers who are requesting the best performance possible out of the most compact and economical products.
Maximum Stream, Minimum Space
Rod Carringer, vice president of sales and marketing for Task Force Tips (TFT), says his firm has been focusing on reducing friction loss in monitors, improving stream quality, reducing cost, and saving space and weight.
"Often a fire apparatus manufacturer will give us a list of items that need to be accomplished in a monitor, whether for a platform, aerial, or pumper," Carringer says. "Typically the elements range around space issues because trucks are getting so jammed with storage, ladders, and other equipment in the compartments and on top of the vehicles."
Another element being integrated into monitors is the method of control, Carringer maintains. "Vehicle electronics have changed, and we have the ability to feed electronically into the truck's CANBUS system, which leads to touch screen operations for our monitors," he says. "Through joint initiatives with others in the fire service industry, we're seeing pump panels with touch screens that have tremendous control of the data feed and integrate all of the operational controls."
Carringer says TFT plans to debut one of two new monitors it is developing at the 2012 Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC)-a high-flow monitor designed in a smaller package than typical for aerial platforms.
TFT also has been busy redesigning its master stream nozzles, Carringer adds, and will show a new version for the municipal fire service at FDIC in flow ranges of 500, 750, 1,000 and 1,250 gallons per minute (gpm).
David Durstine, vice president of marketing for Akron Brass Co., says he's been seeing trends in both manual and electric monitors, leading the company to use technological advancements to maximize the use and capabilities of monitors.
"Personnel situations are driving some fire departments to portable and rapidly deployed manual monitors like our Mercury monitor," Durstine says. "It's designed to flow 1,000 gpm or less and typically is applied on the ground quickly to get a large amount of water on a fire fast."
Durstine says that in terms of truck-mounted electric monitors, many departments go with the larger capacity models, usually up to 2,000 gpm, simply to have the maximum capacity available. He notes that Akron has seen an increase in the size of flows in general for both manual and electric monitors.
The company plans to introduce its Apollo PE at FDIC, a 1,250-gpm portable electric monitor that can be plugged into a 12- or 24-VDC power source on a fire truck or moved to a ground base and used remotely via wireless and battery power. Battery life is in excess of four hours at 1,000 gpm, Durstine notes.
Akron also will unveil a new monitor control package at FDIC that operates through the V-MUX (vehicle multiplexing system) offered by its Weldon Division. The package is a plug-and-play system that incorporates a new line of remote controls and handheld wireless units that integrate into the V-MUX system, giving feedback from monitors and allowing diagnostics and troubleshooting.
Eric Combs, product market director for Elkhart Brass, says one of Elkhart's advances in monitors is its ability to perform finite element fluid analysis, which essentially is three-dimensional fluid modeling through computer-aided design (CAD) software.
"We take the 3D model and run it through the program, inputting the inlet pressure and flow rate to be achieved, and it shows where there's turbulence, which is energy loss," Combs says. "That lets us make modifications to the design that would not have been realized until a prototype had been constructed."
Combs points out that Elkhart has been making notable energy loss savings across its monitor lines-30 percent for the Scorpion EXM, the Sidewinder EXM, and the Vulcan EXM. The Scorpion EXM is rated to 2,500 gpm, the Vulcan EXM to 1,500 gpm, and the Sidewinder EXM to 700 gpm.
"For instance, by keeping the waterway and monitor compact in the Sidewinder EXM, we're able to get better flow efficiency and also provide tighter, cleaner swing radiuses," Combs states.
Elkhart's latest monitor, the Scorpion EXM, uses a complicated cross-sectional shape to produce its energy loss savings results to be more efficient, says Combs. The Vulcan EXM shares a similar internal and external design, the result of the 3D fluid modeling done by Elkhart designers, he says.
With all EXM line monitors, Elkhart offers "Absolute Positioning," Combs points out. "We have sensors at the monitor joints so the monitor always knows where it's pointed, even if it is shut down and then turned on again," he says. "Block-out zones can be programmed, as well as rotational limits both horizontally and vertically, so there's no opportunity for the monitor to hit the cab or a door or a front suction if it's mounted on the front bumper. Firefighters can have confidence in its ease of use and that it will always be pointed in a safe direction."
Elkhart plans to demonstrate a new integrated valve controller at FDIC, giving potential users a sneak peek at the product and allowing it to garner feedback from possible users. "Elkhart is a long-time believer in electric valves," Combs says. "The typical fire truck has between eight and 15 valves on it. Using electric valves makes for a more efficient design in the vehicle's plumbing system, and they are much more intuitive in that pressure, position, and control can be pulled together in one location."
Valves of the Future
Carringer believes that electronics will have a big impact on monitors and nozzles in the near future. "Fire departments are balancing their needs with their budgets," he says. "They look at the cost and determine the value of putting an electronic remote control deck gun on top of their truck because they may not want firefighters climbing up there due to safety issues or they might not have the staffing to man it."
He adds that TFT believes the safety and flexibility of a remote controlled monitor on a pumper or aerial allows maximization of crew because a firefighter isn't needed to man the monitor. "It can be controlled from the ground or elsewhere," Carringer says. "The chief doesn't have to have a firefighter standing on top of the pumper or at the tip of the aerial."
Durstine concurs that technological advances are making monitors more user-friendly. "The enhancements in CAD and the efficiencies of castings and machining have helped us make monitors more efficient and easier to use," he says. "You will see constant advancements in technology being applied to monitors."
For Combs, it's the integration of monitors and valve controls over a network that's the next big thing. "This is where the market is going," he says. "It's still early in the integration of components, but the newer technology in monitors and valves is the foundation for valuable improvements in how these products interact over the next several years."
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based freelance writer and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.