Aerials, Pumpers, Wildland Urban Interface

Embracing the Future

Issue 6 and Volume 22.

Chris Mc Loone   Chris Mc Loone

I feel like I’m at a weird stage in life where I can use a smartphone but there’s functionality on it that I will never understand the need for nor how to use it.

My 13-year-old son has tried to explain these things to me, and I’m sure I give him the same face he gives me as I try to explain why diagramming sentences might not seem important at this moment in time but will benefit him later in life.

It’s sometimes a little scary thinking about the future and what it will bring. Sometimes, in an attempt to make our lives easier, consumer goods manufacturers build products that work well but are more complex, meaning it’s not as easy today as it was back in the day to take apart a clothes washer, for example, to replace the pump. And in the future, it will be even less so, more than likely.

So, I just got back from FDIC International, and it was a week of what you’d expect from Indy: camaraderie, challenging training, new products – the best of the best of what the fire service has to offer. Discussions went from the good old days, to new firefighters, to the changing times, to “did you see this truck” or “did you see the new widget from ABC company?” But, it is the future that has really gotten me thinking since I got home.

Rosenbauer, for the first time, displayed its Concept Fire Truck (CFT) at a public exhibition. The CFT is the end result of a project that commenced in 2011. The target of the project was to “create a scientific concept incorporating the latest technology based on trends which indicate future behavior and perceptions.” It’s important to remember that the truck displayed was not a prototype but a concept. We could not take pictures or videos of the inside of the truck, but Rosenbauer was kind enough to let me mention a few things about the truck I found interesting.

First, and I have to admit that I did not notice this right away, the CFT did not have any side mirrors. Instead, the inside of the rig’s A pillars had screens connected to cameras that allowed an apparatus operator to see the rear and side of the truck. As someone who has whacked a few signs in his day with apparatus mirrors, I was a fan of this concept. I was able to sit in the driver’s seat of the CFT for an idea of the driver experience and, while there would be an adjustment period for going from mirrors to the A pillar screens, it seemed like a plausible direction to go in in the future.

At an invitation-only event prior to the exhibits opening, Rosenbauer representatives introduced the crowd to the CFT, and it made its grand entrance by driving down an aisle and turning into Rosenbauer’s booth, practically in complete silence. This is because the truck is electrically driven and has all-wheel steering, making it maneuverable and very quiet. Think about that on the road to a fire. Inside, firefighters faced each other on bench seats along the driver and passenger side. Will this design element become pervasive? I don’t know. The point was not to say, “This is what’s coming, get ready for it.” The point was for show attendees to consider the future and what it may be bringing.

I am sure that some walked by the booth and only took a look and said, “Not in my firehouse.” But, my hope is that more attendees walked by and walked around the rig and thought, “Hmph. I hadn’t thought of that. That could work.”

Each of us has an opinion on what the future holds for the fire industry and fire apparatus design. My hope is that the CFT made people start thinking about the potential various technologies have to positively impact fire truck design in the future. FDIC International 2017 had more presentations and products than I have ever seen targeting cancer. The CFT is an electrically driven fire apparatus – no diesel exhaust. Does that mean that electric or hybrid fire apparatus might have a place in our future? They might.

The future should be exciting for all of us. Fire truck automation will increase, but so should our understanding of what is happening inside the fire truck so we can be prepared if “the push of a button” doesn’t yield the desired result. Fire trucks incorporating technology will also increase. The CFT had a lot of electronics in it. And a few booths over, HME unveiled its “glass cockpit” cab, which incorporated touch screens for the dashboard, taking analog gauges and switches and making them digital. Get the conversation started in your fire department. What we once considered fire trucks of the future are closer than we think.