Alan M. Petrillo
The introduction of more technology is on the horizon for monitors, nozzles, fire pumps, and other fire service equipment, according to a number of pump and component manufacturers.
For example, David Durstine, vice president of marketing for Akron Brass Co., says, “I think we will see technology play an even more important part in the fire service than it does at the present. You’ll see manufacturers adding interfaces to equipment that allow firefighters to have more data at their fingertips that will allow them to make better decisions on a fire scene.”
He points to the increased use of wirelessly and remotely controlled monitors and valves as only two of the inroads that technology has made into fire service equipment. “Akron Brass just released our Navigator Pro, a new line of electric valve controllers that are multiplexed and fully sealed in a waterproof unit with a sunlight-readable display that provides the user with a variety of types of feedback and can be automated with a compressed air foam system (CAFS),” he notes.
|(1) Akron Brass makes the Navigator Pro, a line of electric valve multiplexed controllers that are waterproof and sunlight readable. (Photo courtesy of Akron Brass.)|
Durstine predicts that monitor flows will continue to get higher in the future. “Right now, the 1,500-gpm monitor is the most popular flow rate,” he says, “but the trend is toward pushing upward to 1,750- and 2,000-gpm monitors, all with electronic capabilities.”
He also believes water flow performance will be enhanced in 1,250- and 1,500-gpm monitors through electronics, providing more efficient, lighter, and more compact devices without sacrificing performance or safety. “In some cases, you will see an increase in reach of 10 to 15 percent and a lowering of friction loss by 5 pounds per square inch (psi) to 10 psi,” Durstine says.
Increasing Ease of Use
Eric Combs, Elkhart Brass’s director of marketing, says the company is rounding out its EXM product family with a midrange monitor to complement its Sidewinder EXM and Scorpion EXM models. The Sidewinder is designed for the 150- to 750-gpm market, while the Scorpion is designed to handle the 1,000- to 2,500-gpm flow range.
Combs says the new 7400 EXM midrange monitor, as yet unnamed, will function in the 500- to 1,250-gpm range. “The current EXM product lineup has been very successful in meeting the needs of more challenging niche applications,” Combs says, “but there’s a need for a midrange product that has intuitive controls, durability, and performance and is easy to use. We wanted to bring that midrange monitor to market.”
Ease of use is “becoming an expectation across the board from customers,” says Elkhart Brass’s marketing segment coordinator Chelsea Peters. “Our customers are users of consumer goods as well, and that drives a lot of expectations in the products they use for firefighting,” Peters says. “They expect the product to work well, have no tolerance for poor quality, and want a product that incorporates technology that makes it easy to use.”
|(2) Task Force Tips plans to introduce the Flip Tip nozzle early in 2013. The nozzle has two tips that can be flipped apart, making it into either two smoothbores or one smoothbore and a combination nozzle. (Photo courtesy of Task Force Tips.)|
Rod Carringer, vice president of sales and marketing for Task Force Tips (TFT), says he has seen some retrenching from remote control monitors on the top of pumpers, with departments returning to manually operated deck guns.
“Generally, fire departments don’t want a firefighter on top of a rig using a deck gun, plus they want to use that space for something else,” Carringer says, “but cost considerations are playing a part in whether a department buys a remotely controlled monitor. However, we’re still seeing a fairly broad mix of manual and remote control monitors going on the top of trucks.”
Carringer admits that electronics play a huge part in the equipment that TFT makes. “We do a lot of custom software coding for various vehicle manufacturers because each one has its own code language,” he says. “Our monitors speak English very well. But perhaps in the Midwest, they speak another version of English, and we have to modify our code to deal with that. While in the South, we have to modify the code again. It’s all necessary to allow the flawless integration of the equipment in the manufacture of trucks.”
TFT also works directly with fire pump manufacturing companies. “As they build their pump modules, our electronic commands have to be sure to integrate with theirs,” Carringer points out. And although specialized coding is an important part of components, Carringer sees more manufacturers tying into a vehicle’s CANBUS system to allow a more seamless interface of equipment.
Carringer gave a mini preview of new products that TFT is working on for introduction early next year. “We’ll introduce an unusual portable monitor and also a new foam-related application,” he says. “Also, we will have an upgraded portable monitor, the Blitzfire, that has a changed design to allow it to shoot straight up so it can elevate its stream to work into a room’s ceiling. Firefighters have told us the Blitzfire’s low angle of attack is perfect, but they wanted something that could angle up higher.”
Carringer continues, “We’ll also have the Flip Tip, a takeoff on an 1896 patent for smoothbores. It’s now in field trials, but is two tips that can be easily flipped apart, giving the user either two smoothbores or one smoothbore and a combination tip.”
|(3) Darley Co. is developing the HMBC 500-gpm rated pump with an integrated belt-driven 220-cfm compressor and AutoCAFS Commander controls for compressed air foam. (Illustration courtesy of Darley Co.)|
On the fire pump side of vehicle components, changes are being made to make more compact pumps and modules so departments can use vehicle real estate for other uses like compartmentation.
Gary Handwerk, engineering manager for Hale Products Inc., points to Hale’s new QMaxSX, a slimmed down version of its popular QMax vehicle fire pump. “With the QMaxSX, we were able to shave a foot off the pump box with no loss of functionality,” Handwerk says. “The SX essentially puts the pump plumbing into a medium-size box but still gives the reliability and durability of the original QMax.”
Hale has also been successful with its Sidekick, a 500- to 1,250-gpm pump model that hangs under and outside of the frame rail on the driver’s side of a vehicle. “That allows the manufacturer to run a water tank farther forward so it’s right up behind the cab or to shorten the overall wheelbase and length of the vehicle,” Handwerk points out. “It also allows more gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) capacity on the front axle, which has always been a problem on tankers where they run out of capacity on the rear axle.”
The Sidekick has two 2½-inch discharges on the driver’s side panel and can be plumbed to allow remote 2½-, three-, or four-inch connections elsewhere on the vehicle. “The Sidekick will work well with six to nine discharges, depending on their size,” Handwerk notes.
|(4) Waterous plans to emphasize its One Step foam system in 2013, where water, foam, and air are mixed in a chamber at the touch of a button to develop the right proportions to produce compressed air foam. (Photo courtesy of Waterous.)|
More Pump Innovations
Jim Darley, national sales manager for the pump division of Darley Co., says his company has geared up to produce a full line of Z series pumps-the SSP (PTO drive), ZSM (midship), ZSE (engine-driven), and ZSD (direct drive). “We’ve been able to do more testing on the series and have found the pumps are capable of a 3,000-gpm fire pump rating and a 3,500-gpm industrial pump rating,” Darley says.
Darley Co. is also changing over to a new large-eye impeller and volute design for its P series pumps, increasing flows to 1,980 gpm off a 10-foot draft height. It also is developing the HMBC 500-gpm and KSPBC 1,000-gpm rated pumps with integrated belt-driven 220-cfm compressors that include Darley’s AutoCAFS commander control, a programmed logic controller to simplify the compressed air foam system (CAFS).
On the electronics front, Darley offers its Smart Panel, a high-resolution electronic pump controller that also displays engine data including battery voltage, oil pressure, temperature and rpm, inlet pressure, pump discharge pressure, set point, water tank level, foam tank level, and air compressor temperature and pressure.
Steve Toren, director of North American sales and marketing for Waterous, says he’s seen the beginnings of a trend toward fire departments buying more midsized pumps. “The fire industry has always bought big, large apparatus and carries pumps of 1,500-, 1,750-, and 2,000-gpm for their bigger water performance,” Toren says. “But fire departments seem to be rethinking those size pumps because they require larger engines and transmissions, which means higher costs on the initial purchase, as well as higher operating and maintenance costs.”
Toren cites recent industry data showing that the 1,500-gpm pump is still the most popular fire pump size in the United States but believes many fire departments are considering dropping under that size. “They’re thinking they might be able to do with a 1,250-gpm pump or even a 1,000-gpm, especially if they include a CAFS with it,” he says.
Toren says that Waterous will be promoting its new One Step foam system in the coming year, where water, foam, and air are input into a mixing chamber to make compressed air foam (CAF) in the right proportions at the touch of a single button. “It’s like the difference between a carbureted engine and a fuel-injected engine,” Toren observes. “Everything mixes well and more efficiently in the chamber and is discharged as perfect CAF every time.”
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.