By Raul A. Angulo
One of the best things about FDIC International 2016 was meeting new firefighters and vendors who help support the mission of the fire service with new tools and equipment.
There are so many great tools on the market that this year my mission was to walk the show floor to see what tools would stop me in my tracks. The newly unveiled P4 Rescue System by Power Hawk® was one of these tools.
The P4 is a fully self-contained battery-powered, interchangeable spreader, cutter, and combination rescue tool without hydraulics. Don’t let “battery-powered” fool you. We’re not talking about the Energizer bunny here or your battery-powered screw gun on the garage workbench that seems to lose it charge when you need it most. The Power Hawk P4 incorporates Electronic Direct Drive™ (EDD) technology by RESQTEC®-a worldwide manufacturer and provider of rescue extrication tools and aircraft recovery equipment-and uses a lithium ion battery as the direct power source to the motor, the gearing system, then directly to the output cutting and spreading force without hydraulic fluids, combustible fuel engines, pumps, hoses, valves, or seals. The actuation gearing system used to deliver the spreading and cutting forces is the muscle behind the tool. This gear system, which performs the functions of both a hinge and torque amplifier, has been transferred and applied to the P4’s design, allowing for a lightweight tool with high-output force.
Power Hawk Technologies, Inc., in Rockaway, New Jersey, manufactures and provides a variety of rescue systems and tools for fire and emergency services, law enforcement, the military, and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and is no stranger to aviation or battery-powered rescue tools. In fact, there is a company lineage that goes all the way back to Wilbur and Orville Wright, who made history with the first powered air flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903. In 1929, they partnered up with another aviation pioneer, Glenn H. Curtiss, and formed the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. It went on to become one of the largest aircraft and engine manufacturing companies in the world. In the decades to follow, Curtiss-Wright transformed some of its core propeller gear and motor technologies into lightweight, high-force, actuating systems.
In the early 1990s, William R. Hickerson, a Curtiss-Wright Flight Systems employee from the Fairfield, New Jersey, facility (who also happened to be a volunteer firefighter), invented the idea to use the Curtiss-Wright Power Hinge™ gear actuator to create a portable battery-powered rescue tool that eliminated hydraulics completely. In 1994, the 12-VDC-powered Power Hawk P-16 Rescue System was introduced at FDIC in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ten years later, the same employees who invented, developed, and managed the Power Hawk Rescue System product line purchased the business from Curtiss-Wright and formed a new company, Power Hawk Technologies, Inc.
|1 The new P4 rescue tool from Power Hawk Technologies, Inc. debuted at FDIC International 2016. It is a fully self-contained standalone cutter/spreader rescue tool that uses Electronic Direct Drive (EDD) technology and a lithium ion battery for power and strength and eliminates hydraulics. (Photos courtesy of Power Hawk Technologies, Inc.)|
Today, there is no question that we live in a global economy and if American companies want to be successful, we have to network, think outside the box, and look beyond our national borders to stay competitive and excel in an international market. The P4 is the perfect example where new innovation was made possible by Power Hawk Technologies partnering with a long-time industry friend, RESQTEC.
While reading about aircraft recovery operations, I was surprised to learn that when a large commercial aircraft-like a 747 jumbo jet-overshoots or veers off a runway, it’s called a runway excursion. There are at least two runway excursions each week worldwide, and it’s the most common type of aviation accident reported annually. It costs the global industry about $900 million per year. Axel Maarschalk founded RESQTEC in 1972, which is based in Lisse, the Netherlands. He partnered with Hurst Performance and introduced the hydraulic rescue tool concept into the world market outside North America. They were the first to launch the hydraulic rescue ram dedicated for fire service use.
It is the international sharing of the EDD technology, the lithium ion battery power source from RESQTEC, and the Curtiss-Wright Power Hinge actuating gear system from Power Hawk that is incorporated into the P4.
The P4 Rescue Tool
The first thing I noticed was the compact (lithium ion) battery that slides right into the P4 unit. Unlike the P-16 rescue tool, which relies on a 12-VDC battery that has to be carried along with the tool and connects to the spreader/cutter with cables, the P4 is a self-contained, standalone unit ready to go. The battery only has two buttons: an on/off button and a test button that lights up five bars to indicate the charge level on the battery. You can’t get more “firefighterproof” than that. The lights are bright and easy to read even in sunlight, and the two buttons are easy to depress with gloves. The EDD direct-drive power is concentrated directly on the cutting and spreading gears because no hydraulics are used. In Power Hawk tests, the tool has been able to cut doors on multiple cars on a single battery charge.
Right in front of the lithium ion battery is a sturdy handle that allows the operator to firmly grip, balance, and direct the forces of the tool-very similar to the top handle on a chainsaw. The other rounded handle grip is at the base of the unit behind the battery. It’s shaped like a mini steering wheel and allows the operator to grab and operate the P4 in any position.
The control knob, set inside the base (mini-steering wheel) handle, is a large mound-shape dial with four evenly spaced notches so the operator can open and close the tool with thumb pressure. Moving your thumb to the left opens the arms; thumb pressure to the right closes the arms. The short base doesn’t extend beyond the operator. This allows the operator to operate the P4 in any position, and it can be easily used by a left-handed or right-handed rescuer. The base handle also protects the control knob from accidental activations when the tool is set down on a surface.
The P4’s patented Rotating Power Head allows the cutter and spreader arms to be rotated to the left or the right. With the turn of the top dial, which is called the clutch knob-a pressure brake set-the power head can be rotated up to a 61-degree angle. This allows the spreader, the cutter, or the combination tool to be used in any position, in tight spaces, around corners, over the top, or underneath surfaces without any loss of power or spreading and cutting strength. This is a feature that traditional straight rescue tools cannot do.
|2 The P4 patented Rotating Power Head allows the cutters or spreaders to rotate up to 61 degrees, which allows it to be used in any position, in tight spaces, and around corners without any loss of spreading power or cutting strength.|
Interchangeable arms and tips are also features of this tool. The spreader tips slide onto the arm and are held in place with a retainer pin. The spreader tips are reversible for changing the angle on a purchase point. There are also aircraft spreader tips available for aircraft rescue and firefighting applications.
The double-column retainer pin is one solid unit-one for each side. The pins secure the spreader, cutter, and combination tool attachments to the P4-another improvement from the P-16, which uses two separate (but tethered) retainer pins per arm to secure the attachments. This allows the operator to secure each side of the spreader or cutter attachment with a single motion, which saves time. By removing the pins, the operator can quickly turn the P4 from a spreader tool into a cutter or switch out to a combination blade (one side cutter, one side spreader) in seconds. The retainer pins are locked in place with magnets instead of cotter pins or spring-loaded heads. The gearing system allows the torque forces to remain at the working end (front) of the tool, not toward the rear, so the operator isn’t wrestling with the tool.
For extended use, the P4 has the EDD 10X Battery Backpack as an accessory. It is a lightweight backpack equipped with a larger lithium ion battery that gives the P4 10 times the operating time of a single battery operating charge. Urban search and rescue personnel will love this feature. There’s also an LED light that mounts on the unit with a strap that shines light directly on the working objective during night operations or inside dark structures.
The P4 is an all-weather tool and, because it has a self-contained power source, eliminates the problems and maintenance associated with hydraulic rescue tools, including setup times. Since you’re not dealing with hydraulic or combustible fluids, there are no storage requirements. That means the P4 can be carried on any apparatus, including command vehicles and rescue ambulances. The ergonomic, compact design makes it an attractive, viable option to invest in when apparatus compartment space is at a premium because of all the other equipment fire departments need to carry.
The bottom line is: If you have a powerful battery-operated rescue tool that is ready to go with the push of a button and capable of handling the job, it will become the “go-to” rescue tool of choice. Time is of the essence. Rescues need to be safe, but they also need to be fast. Ready-to-go systems beat systems that need to be set up-every time. That’s just the way firefighters are.
RAUL A. ANGULO is a captain (ret.) with Ladder Company 6 of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department with 35 years of service. He is an international fire service speaker and author and an editorial advisory board member of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment.