Each year we present the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment magazine recognition awards for the best new apparatus and equipment introduced during the year. There is no award for new apparatus for 2008 since the manufacturers really outperformed with several new introductions in 2007 and 2006.
But for Apparatus Component Systems, the award goes to Fire Research Corporation (FRC) for the pump operator’s cover-your-backside invention of 2008.
FRC’s automatic booster tank refill system truly falls into the category of “Why didn’t I think of that?” Booster tanks have been carried on fire apparatus for more than 80 years. Usually the driver becomes the pump operator on arrival, and his first duty is to put the pump in gear, then dump the booster tank into the pump to charge the attack line.
As soon as a water supply is established (from a hydrant, connected tanker/tender or porta-tank), the pump operator closes the booster tank-to-pump valve and cracks open the tank-fill valve to refill the booster tank.
Should the permanent water supply be suddenly interrupted, the pump operator can then supply the attack lines with booster tank water while the firefighters on the nozzle can retreat to safety.
Pump operators always remember to refill their booster tanks. The only time they forget somehow always turns out to be the time their water supply is suddenly interrupted and three guys are halfway down the cellar stairs with a two-and-a-half.
FRC’s electronically controlled valve system handles the booster tank refill sequence automatically. It should be standard equipment on all new fire apparatus. It makes us wonder why it took more than 80 years for someone to think of a better way to handle the empty tank problem than having a bright red light on the panel staring the operator in the face. And it makes you wonder what else might have been overlooked all these years.
FRC certainly deserves our top award in the interest of firefighter safety and for this contribution to avoiding cases of a “near miss” or worse.
The 2008 Award for Best Personal Protective Gear Innovation goes to Grace Industries for its new multi-purpose personal alert safety system (PASS) device, which functions as a stand-alone unit or as an integral part of the Interspiro SCBA.
As the Spiromatic S6 PASS device, the unit snaps into a separate chest-mounted module that is automatically activated by SCBA air pressure. It is available with two-way telemetry that reports to a Grace on-scene accountability system.
The department can track firefighters and know immediately if anybody is in trouble. In addition, warnings and evacuation orders can be directed to specific firefighters or to all working on scene by using the PASS device’s communications system.
Removed from the SCBA module – or purchased as a separate unit – the device becomes the Grace SuperPASS 3 or the TPASS 4 model for use at incidents not requiring SCBA, such as wildland firefighting.
Since the new PASS standards went into effect in 2007, Grace Industries is the only manufacturer in the United States to produce a stand-alone PASS device. The company has long been the leader in integrated telemetry for PASS systems.
The Elkhart Brass Manufacturing Company’s revolutionary new Flex Attack nozzle wins the 2008 Award for the Best New Firefighting Tool. The Flex Attack is a compressed air foam system (CAFS) nozzle that can be switched among three different foam consistencies or back to plain water without shutting down.
Made with a Zytel polyamide center barrel looking like a futuristic ray gun, the Flex Attack shifts easily between click stop positions under any pressure. From the center wet consistency CAF stream, the nozzle barrel is turned to the left to open the waterway to deliver dry foam or clicked right to switch to a 15/16ths water stream.
The nozzle features a Teflon-impregnated aluminum alloy body and pistol grip and an aluminum-bronze shutoff bail operating polyethylene shut-off seats. The key component of the new Flex Attack is a patented pressure-balancing chamber just forward of the shut-off, which permits easy adjustment under any pressure or flow.
The nozzle is rated to deliver 184 gpm at 50 psi in the water-only setting and can handle a maximum operating pressure of 200 psi. Introduced at the 2008 Fire Department Instructor’s Conference and Trade Show, the Flex Attack attracted a lot of attention as a revolutionary product in the Elkhart line.
And our award for the Best New Rescue Tool of 2008 goes to Hurst Jaws of Life for its portable, self-contained QuickStrut system for rapid vehicle stabilization.
There are a lot of systems for preventing vehicle movement during extrication operations, but the new Hurst QuickStrut is compact and quick to set up. Weighing 75 pounds, the carrying case opens on scene, and all you need is inside.
There are two stainless steel adjustable struts which telescope from their 48-inch carrying length to 6 feet 3 inches, adjusted by L-shaped operating levers and two ratchet adjustable straps with vehicle hooks.
The base plate digs into the road surface. The swiveling top plate grabs into the vehicle as tension is applied to the straps. Both struts can be set up by a two-man crew in about 90 seconds.
Each stainless strut is rated for 2,205 pounds and can be positioned at any angle from 25 to 70 degrees. The compact unit is reasonably priced and training is simple.