Equipment, Technology

Technology – Good and Bad

Issue 7 and Volume 18.

By Chris Mc Loone

In late May, a Washington, D.C., ambulance shut down while transporting a gunshot victim. The ambulance operator was able to safely pull the vehicle over to the side of the road to await another unit to finish the transport to the hospital. Immediately prior to the engine failing, the operator noted a light had illuminated that indicated engine failure was imminent. News reports out of Washington, D.C., that week reported it was the emissions control system that caused the problem.

I wasn’t convinced it was an emissions control problem. Although logically it made sense based on the vehicle’s age, it just didn’t figure to be the cause-unless regens weren’t being performed. Unless there was something really wrong with system, the driver would have been signaled multiple times before the engine actually derated-IF everything was working properly. So I was disappointed that this looked like a case of not performing aftertreatment regeneration when prompted or that the emissions system was being made a scapegoat here.

A week after the incident, news arrived that the culprit was actually a faulty fuel cooler screen that caused the engine to shut down.

These 2010 engines have caused a good deal of consternation for fire departments all over the country. The Washington, D.C., Fire Department did the right thing and conducted an investigation into the incident and discovered the actual cause of the engine shutdown. However, remember to not let our general displeasure with EPA-compliant engines cause you to rush to judgment when an apparatus or ambulance experiences engine trouble. And, whatever you do, don’t delay your regens unnecessarily. Legitimate problems with emissions control systems may occur, but do everything you can to ensure your operations are not the cause of the problems.

Technology and the Fire Service

The use of new technology within the fire service has come up in a number of my conversations recently. Topics ranged from how to use it, the cost of it, why the fire service embraces it or doesn’t embrace it, and so on. There is any number of answers to any of those questions. Any time a product employing a new technology allows us to complete our tasks more safely and efficiently, it’s a no-brainer, to me, to put it to use.

A case in point is a recent training night at which several line officers and firefighters got a chance to use a new hydraulic tool power unit. We all got a chance to use the new product, inspect it, and learn about it. The technology in this case was using a lithium ion battery as the unit’s power source. The instructor began the conversation by stating that there is a great deal of fear out there regarding battery-operated tools. Many departments know firsthand how the NiCad batteries we had charging in our trucks connected to shorelines had dismally short life-spans. Lithium ion batteries, however, are a whole different game. Questions ranged from whether the tool would work slower as the battery strength diminished, what the overall lifetime of the battery is, how long we can work off the battery before the power unit shuts down, how many stages the pump has, and so on.

In one hour and seven minutes, we performed three door removals, one B-post removal, and a vertical displacement and removed the trunk lid for good measure. Our instructor also reviewed some new tactics for rescue scenarios.

Using a power unit with this technology to me is a no-brainer. It’s quiet. There is no exhaust-which is good for the rescuer and the rescued. The truck’s generator is not running, so it’s not pumping out diesel exhaust into the air around the rescuers. No generator means no cord reels to trip over-health and safety are covered right off the bat. Powering up the unit is with the touch of a button. The rescuer literally picks it up with a tool and hydraulic hose and goes. There is no waiting for the generator to get going to energize the hydraulic pumps on the truck. There is no struggling with gas power units to get them started. That takes care of efficiency.

This is just one example of how technology can improve our safety and efficiency. There are countless other examples. Don’t be afraid to give them a try and integrate them into your operations.