|MSA has developed an eye protection system where the visor slides up between the inner and outer shell. The new product protects the goggle/visor from scratches and abrasions incurred through normal wear and storage.|
|Pierce’s new Velocity cab and chassis uses mirrors commonly found on buses and meet the federal standards for rear-view visibility. The front windshield is one piece, a design that also enhances visibility. (Fire Apparatus Photo by Robert Tutterow)|
|VizCon has a compact method of storing six traffic cones in a space the size of a breadbox. The cone design makes the cone nearly impossible to tip over.|
|A new vest, offered by Reflexite Corporation, uses a new checkered reflective tap that has proven effective for European emergency responders. (Fire Apparatus Photo)|
|Pierce Manufacturing has incorporated a new SCBA bracket incorporated in the seats of its Velocity cab and chassis. It uses inertia to hold the tanks in place.|
The 2006 Fire Rescue International (FRI) held in Dallas this fall, provided several equipment design advancements to improve firefighter safety. The improvements are notable in that they reflect many of the safety initiative discussions.
The big splash of FRI was the unveiling of Pierce Manufacturing’s new Velocity cab and chassis. Pierce announced five focus areas in their new design: safety and seats, improved visibility, storage and clutter management, more interior space and easier maintenance. Obviously, this article will focus on the safety aspect.
The first thing noticed when viewing the Velocity is the bus-style mirrors. Pierce says they are the first fire apparatus mirrors to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 111 visibility standards for school buses. The mirrors are mounted on roof top arms that extend approximately two feet in front of the cab. The design allows for minimum movement of the driver’s head to use the mirrors.
The mounting diminishes the overall width of the vehicle by about eight inches when compared to conventional mirrors. Hopefully, this can minimize “mirror swapping” with other large rigs when clearances are diminished. Enhancing visibility further is the elimination of the center post in the one-piece front windshield. The one-piece design allows for three windshield wipers.
In my opinion, the most innovative feature of the Velocity is the new self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) holder. The design is remarkable in that there are no straps, or manual locking/unlocking devices.
The SCBA goes in and out of the holder just like the popular spring clips. The locking mechanism is inertia driven. Pierce had an excellent demonstration of how the new design works, as they showed a seat that being propelled forward and then abruptly stopped (simulating impact) with the SCBA remaining securely in the bracket.
New SCBA Seat
Though a Pierce design, the product will be made available to other manufacturers. Framing the new SCBA bracket was a new seat with dual density foam. The new seats feature double length seat belts with double retractor, and a built-in side air curtain.
Though the seat’s appearance must have received its inspiration from the face of a bulldog, the “wrinkled seats” were most comfortable.
The Velocity is the first cab designed to help minimize clutter. Compartments are integrated into the cab for storage of items such as radios and resource manuals.
The design recognizes the information age of the fire service and provides a nice work surface area for officers’ laptops. The integration aspects of the design do not interfere with the driver’s visibility.
Most importantly, minimizing clutter makes for a significantly more protection in the event of a crash. The cab even featured helmet holders. Sanitizing the cab is long overdue, especially for career and combination departments.
Other notable safety features include the industry’s widest doors for easier entrance and egress. The door handles are large to facilitate use by gloved hands.
The driver’s foot pedals are adjustable, and the Velocity is the first in the industry to offer frontal crash protection with an air bag in the steering wheel.
On the personal protection equipment (PPE) front, MSA introduced its “integrated goggle” for its Cairns traditional-style helmets.
The goggle flips down, similar to a face shield, but when in the stowed position, it rests between the outer shell and impact cap. The design appears to eliminate the need for a face shield, which is now an option for National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) compliant helmets.
There are many advantages to this design. First, eye protection is provided on the helmet. Second, the center of gravity is lowered as opposed to the faceshield stowed above the helmet shell.
In addition, the goggles are protected from the products of combustion when in the stowed position, and they are protected from scratches and abrasions incurred through normal wear and storage.
The Cairns helmet incorporates a desired feature of European-style helmets while maintaining the traditional look. Also of note, this new feature can be retrofitted to existing Cairns traditional-style helmets.
Cairns plans to offer the same feature for modern-style helmets later this year. Perhaps this is a first step in helmet design which incorporates all types of head and eye protection into one integrated unit.
Safety was also on the minds of IAFC members as its Health and Safety Section met with the National Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation, and the Safety Task Group of the NFPA technical committee on fire department apparatus. One that group’s top priority is making sure all firefighters buckle up. Some of the vendors, like Pierce, have already gone along way to achieving that goal with the release of the Velocity with its new safety belt system.
In a related development, Fire Research Corporation introduced, at FRI, its new monitoring system designed so firefighters can avoid using the safety belts by merely buckling them and sitting on top of them. The monitoring system can not be defeated that way because each seat has a sensor that follows the sequential order of the fastening of the belt from the firefighter sitting in the seat to the click of the belt being secured.
A visual and audible alert is activated if the seat is occupied and not properly buckled. The visual alert shows up as a green/red, go/no-go signal for each seat. The driver and/or officer know immediately which occupied seat is not belted as the indicator flashes red. Perhaps most importantly, the activity of the system is stored inside the control box that includes a USB port that can be easily downloaded. In addition, the system captures vehicle speed and lateral G-forces. The H.O. Bostrom Company, an apparatus seat manufacturer, was demonstrating the system in one of its seats on display. This new feature will be available for any apparatus manufacturer.
From a roadway incident scene safety perspective, VizCon introduced a compact method of storing six traffic cones in a space the size of a breadbox.
Each cone has a rubber base and mesh top with a spring loaded wire integrated within. Amazingly, it is almost impossible to tip the cone over. With a direct hit, the cone springs back to its functional position. The design further allows the cones to be compressed within the footprint of the base to minimize storage space. They have developed a deployment mechanism allowing the cones to be automatically deployed from a vehicle without putting firefighters in harm’s way.
Reflexite Corporation was showing its new red/white checkered reflective tape. The new tape was applied to a prototype American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 207 Public Safety High Visibility Vest.
The beauty of this product is that it could differentiate fire personnel from other agencies operating at the scene.
For example, the police vest on display was outfitted with blue/white checkered reflective tape. The checkered pattern has proved very effective for European emergency responders.
Editor’s Note: Robert Tutterow, who has nearly 30 years in the fire service, is Charlotte (N.C.) Fire Department’s health and safety officer. He is a member of the NFPA’s technical committees on fire apparatus, serving as the chairperson of the group’s safety task force. He is also a member of the NFPA’s structural firefighting protective clothing and equipment correlating committee.