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The Best And Worse Of Fire Trade Shows: It’s Showtime!

Issue 9 and Volume 11.

Ziamatic makes ground illumination lights for fire apparatus adapted from the boat industry
Ziamatic makes ground illumination lights for fire apparatus adapted from the boat industry.
Ambulance attendant restraints were seen in several new units
Ambulance attendant restraints were seen in several new units. There is talk about having the NFPA write a spec like 1901 for ambulances and this is sure to be included.
The Ahrens Fox stainless steel pumper by HME features a low hosebed
The Ahrens Fox stainless steel pumper by HME features a low hosebed, L-shaped tank and a place to store the backboards next to the hosebed divider.
pumper has a power saw and gasoline right in front of the operator
Having equipment near the pump panel is nothing new, but this pumper has a power saw and gasoline right in front of the operator. The department gets an A grade for having no panel side intakes or discharges, but they should find a better place for the saw and gasoline.
A great way to remind firefighters that pins should be installed before operating an aerial is to put big labels on the outriggers
A great way to remind firefighters that pins should be installed before operating an aerial is to put big labels on the outriggers.
Made in N.Y. by Firematic, the "Brat" comes with a strong protective cage to ward off tree limbs, bushes and other obstructions.
Made on Long Island, N.Y., by Firematic, the “Brat” comes with a strong protective cage to ward off tree limbs, bushes and other obstructions. Available with or without CAFS, this rig is one of the most versatile brush units around.
mounting a rear traffic director is on the top of the hosebed on a solid bar
An excellent way of mounting a rear traffic director is on the top of the hosebed on a solid bar, protecting it from couplings as they come out of the bed. The bar also gives the hosebed dividers some rigidity. (Fire Apparatus Photo)
remote controlled valves, with switches at the pump panel
When specifying discharges on the right side, departments should consider remote controlled valves, with switches at the pump panel so the operator doesn’t have to run around the truck to open or close them.
FDNY decontamination units by Ferrara
FDNY’s new decontamination units made by Ferrara have high-powered hot water heaters and individual decontamination shower sections.

Well, it’s actually the Umpteenth fire equipment show of the 2006 season. There’s no question about it, there are too many fire shows. Each year, it seems like someone comes along with a new one declaring theirs is different than any other.

At one time, there was one big conference and apparatus exhibit put on annually by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). There were also a few regional or state shows sponsored by miscellaneous fire organizations.

It Looked Good

Then, others decided they could make money if they had their own show and charge the exhibitors to display their products to prospective buyers.

It looked so good, some of the fire magazines created their own show or, in some cases, three shows. It’s corporate America at its best!

“Show time” starts in January with the Florida Fire Chiefs Fire Rescue East conference in Jacksonville and currently ends with a show in November in Las Vegas.

That’s an 11-month season. Think about it, no professional sports group has a season that long. The reason is that the “jocks” just run out of “steam” and have to take some time off to recharge their batteries.

Should we consider a five-month maximum show season? It would reduce apparatus cost, make each exhibit a little more special and reduce the cost for fire departments to send representatives to see what is new. However, can you imagine the howls when a group cannot schedule “their” show?

One must not forget, to have a successful show, the manufacturers have to buy display space, set up exhibits, rent hotel rooms, send people and pay all their expenses.

All this just for the chance to talk to a potential customer. It is an expensive way of doing business and who pays for it? You guessed it, the customer. That means the fire chief, the town and ultimately the taxpayers.

Let’s look back at how this developed. Each year in August or September, IAFC has presented its Fire-Rescue Conference and Exposition.

Since 1883, fire chiefs from around the country and, in a few cases, the world have gathered to see what is new in apparatus and equipment and to hear what other chiefs are saying about running their departments.

The IAFC show was the “premier” USA apparatus exhibit until the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) under the guidance of the Fire Service Instructors and Ed McCormack expanded from the basement of the Albert Pick Hotel in Memphis.

Their conference eventually outgrew Kansas City and Cincinnati before moving to its current home in Indianapolis in 1995. The FDIC show has continued to grow annually.

When comparing the IAFC Conference to the FDIC, the big difference is that the FDIC doesn’t concentrate on the chiefs. It is an educational conference to “train the trainers.”

Since the trainers are generally closer to the purchasing process, manufacturers like to introduce their new products to the FDIC audiences.

Maybe it is time to gather all the show people together to discuss the situation. There has to be a way to consolidate (and eliminate) some conferences to reduce costs and allow manufacturers more time to take care of their normal business.

Also, two-day, not three-day exhibits, should become the norm. These recommendations could benefit everyone.

It’s time to put away the soapbox and, ironically, talk about some observations from the recent Firehouse Expo in Baltimore, Md.

Most apparatus shown this year were adaptations of other rigs shown at previous shows. There were some options I thought were noteworthy that I have detailed in the photos and captions.

Editor’s Note: Bob Barraclough is editorial director of Fire Apparatus and has been involved with the fire service for more than 40 years as a firefighter and industry consultant. He is a member of the NFPA 1901 apparatus standards committee, an organizer of the annual FDSOA Apparatus Specification Symposium and a long-time member of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association.

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