Items To Consider For Safety In 2008

LEDs are taking over emergency lighting duties
LEDs are taking over emergency lighting duties. They greatly reduce power draw while increasing visibility while responding and at the scene.
Powermoon scene illumination
Powermoon scene illumination is a relatively new way to light up a scene. The Powermoon is a translucent ball on a pole that throws a diffused light in a large circle around the stand. It’s easy to deploy, and the whole package can be easily stored in an apparatus compartment. (Powermoon Photos)
battery-powered scene light
Fire Research Corp. has developed a battery-powered scene light, called Brytte Day. It’s a self-sufficient take-anywhere light with no cables or generator. (FRC Photo)

Where I’m from, here in Texas, the term “Looky Loos” means, “Looky here son, I’ve got something to show you.” In this column, I’d like everyone to listen up because the points I’m about to make could save a firefighter’s life.

The gist of this column is really to look at those items that could be specified on your next rig that may make the unit safer and more functional. Yes, you may have seen some of the ideas in my other columns; however this one may have some additional details or a different twist.

When it comes to scene lighting, the neatest thing I’ve seen lately is battery-powered scene lighting from Fire Research Corp (FRC). The light battery and stand are self-contained with no need to run cords from the rescue or engine. Just grab it and go to the scene. The idea is so good, other manufacturers have started offering them as well.

Speaking of scene lighting, fire departments should consider specifying high-intensity discharge (HID) portable or fixed light heads. HID produce better light with less power consumption. They’re available in a 12-volt version. That means, depending on your standard operating procedures (SOPs), your engine may not need a line voltage generator producing 120 or 240 volts. It’s important to make sure all four sides of your apparatus are covered with these bright lights, which means including at least one front “brow” light. FRC, Akron Brass and Havis-Shields are three suppliers of HID lights.

Another interesting concept in lighting is the Powermoon, which comes to us from Europe. The Powermoon is a translucent ball on a pole, which throws a diffused light in a large circle around the stand.

The radius of the effective light depends on the power of the metal halide or halogen lamp(s). The whole package comes in a convenient carrying case for easy storage on an apparatus.

There are some interesting Looky Loos happening in the new car, truck and trailer market with almost all having LED tail lights. LEDs are now being found on more apparatus these days as the life expectancy of LEDs is far superior to halogen or incandescent and the power draw is much lower. LEDs are now the most popular emergency warning light systems for apparatus, and the good news is the prices are coming down as the volumes go up. Some lighting manufacturers are offering complete National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 1901) packages requiring less than 15 watts of power. Some of the manufacturers offering LED lighting packages are Federal Signal, Whelen Engineering, Weldon Technologies, Power Arc and Code 3.

For daytime runs, a wig-wag headlight flasher system seems to be the most visible warning device. This is an excellent option that is available at a very reasonable price.

There are a bunch of “looky loos” for cab improvements.

If you will take a minute to read Robert Tutterow’s “Keeping It Safe” column in this issue, you will see that the two of us are strong advocates of buckling seat belts before any vehicle is moved. For those chiefs and officers with firefighters who think they’re immortal or conveniently forget to buckle their belts, there’s a piece of equipment I’d like to recommend. FRC has developed a seat belt warning system like the kind the revisions to NFPA 1901 will require by January 2009. The system has an interesting twist in that the system has a 30-day recording function (seats occupied, belts buckled or un-buckled, etc.) that can be downloaded to a laptop computer. This should provide some interesting data for safety minded officers who really want to ensure seat belts are being used.

Touch Pad Door Locks

Some of the forward-thinking custom chassis manufacturers now offer a door lock system with a touch pad controlled entry. It’s unfortunate, but there have been a number of incidents where cab-mounted equipment has been stolen, or worse, the entire apparatus, while fire crews are fighting fires or off doing inspections. That’s why this option makes a lot of sense. It eliminates having to leave one person to guard the rig or carry a set of door lock keys while away from the apparatus. It’s one of those “nice-to-have” options that are fairly reasonably priced.

While still on the topic of cabs, it’s important to make sure there are bright retro-reflective traffic vests for all seated positions in every rig. This is something that won’t break the budget and should be done immediately with every apparatus in your department before something happens.

If you’re a firefighter, I’m sure you’ve had this experience – climbing into a dark cab with a black interior and black access grab rails. I have, and it’s not easy to do. One way to increase the visibility and accessibility is to have yellow grab rails and handles as opposed to the normal black or dark gray ones. I might suggest having a floor to ceiling yellow bar installed just inside the door, and beside the seat. You’d be amazed how much that helps getting in and moving about the interior of the cab.

Moving on from the cab to the rest of the rig, I have to say Class A foam has been proven in departments across the country. Foam isn’t just for the wildland folks any longer. It’s now being used in every type and size department for the simple fact that it works. It should be included in your next apparatus specs.

There are many ways to mix the concentrate into the water stream and some are more accurate than others. The price can also range from as little as a few hundred dollars for a simple line proportioner to thousands of dollars for some of the more sophisticated systems that do everything except repack the hose.

Class A Foam

As one well respected, recently retired chief stated, “If you don’t have Class A on your new apparatus, it is outdated before you put it in service.” You need to be using Class A foam in your firefighting operations.

There’s also a real need for improved apparatus visibility.

Chief Thomas Carr Jr. heads up the Montgomery County, Md. (Washington, D.C. Metro Area) Fire Department. He is well known for his very positive approach to the safety of his firefighters and his support of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Health and Safety Committee.

Chief Carr wrote a letter to the NFPA 1901 committee recommending the adoption of red and yellow “Chevron” type striping for the rear surfaces of all apparatus. His letter – along with the strong feeling among many of the committee members – led to passing the requirement for alternating 6-inch red and yellow retro reflective striping on 50 percent of the rear vertical surfaces (in the 2008 version of NFPA1901). This is a new safety feature that can, and should, be on every vehicle in your fleet.

Storage for preconnects, equipment, tools, adaptors, and related appliances seems to be more of a problem today than it was 30 years ago, despite the fact that many of the new apparatus have upwards of 250 cubic feet of compartment space.

One area often overlooked is the front bumper where one or two preconnects could easily be installed along with a box for soft suction hose or frequently used tools. My suggestion here is to work with apparatus builders to ensure full utilization of all the space on the vehicle. Listen to them carefully as they have built many trucks and have seen quite a few uses for the various spaces that may end up as unused voids.

All new apparatus will be equipped with hose bed covers, but have you done something with your existing vehicles? Over the last couple of years, we have had several deaths caused by inadvertent hose deployment. It happens, and it is preventable. This is something that needs to be corrected ASAP.

If you have ever attended one of my classes, you would have heard my plea to do everything possible to reduce the need for firefighters to climb to the top of an engine. It is an unsafe position to be in, especially in an emergency situation.

For your next pumper, specify a remote-controlled deck gun, and let the engineer operate the unit from the ground. Consider a version that is radio controlled so the operator can move around to get the best vantage point. Task Force Tips, Elkhart Brass and Akron Brass have various styles of these depending on your needs.

One last item, but it relates to the safety of your funds, not your firefighters. Performance bonds issued at the time the contracts for new apparatus are signed protect your department. There’s no question about their value, and you would be well served to at least consider them.

There are lots of other Looky Loos out there, and it pays to keep your eyes open and notice what your peers in the fire service are doing. There’s some well-proven technology available that was never even heard of just a few short years ago, and it’s time to integrate some of those new-fangled things in your apparatus.

Editor’s Note: Bob Barraclough is a 40-year veteran of the fire service and fire manufacturing industry. He is chief columnist for Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment magazine and a 20-year member of the NFPA 1901 Fire Apparatus Standards Committee. A principal organizer of the annual FDSOA Apparatus Specification Symposium, he is also a past president of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association. Barraclough serves as a consultant to Rosenbauer America and Akron Brass and is called upon as an expert witness in litigation involving fire industry products. His career includes executive positions at E-ONE, Hale Fire Pumps, National Foam, Span Instruments and Class 1.

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