|Chris Mc Loone|
As I write this, I am in Hannover, Germany, navigating my way through the largest fire industry trade show in the world: Interschutz.
It’s difficult to describe Interschutz. The show boasts approximately 1,500 exhibitors, all of which are spread across multiple buildings. Getting lost is not difficult—both literally and getting lost in the multitude of products themselves. There are so many, it’s almost hard to decide where to start.
As I write this, I’ve attended the show for two days. Believe it or not, there are four days to go. There have been things I’ve never seen before and some that I actually expected to see. You might think there wouldn’t be much to learn at an international show like this. Some might have the mindset, “They fight fire differently than we do here, so why bother?” I disagree with both sentiments.
First of all, there are close to 100 American companies here. So, right away it’s clear that an international event like this is important to the United States fire service industry. Don’t think that American exhibitors aren’t walking the floor looking to learn what our brethren across the pond are doing when they lay out their apparatus. For example, there are very few, if any, preconnected handlines on these trucks. I saw few threaded couplings. The lack of preconnected handlines is obviously a tactical difference between the two continents. The hoses are rolled up and in the side of the trucks. But, where they were placed on the truck was of interest to me. They are donut-rolled, and the trucks have “slots” on them for the hoselines to be stored vertically. I don’t question the tactical reason for such a setup, but I do like that slot design. It keeps the compartment looking squared away.
Second on my list is the extrication challenge taking place each day. Twenty-nine teams from 16 countries are competing in this challenge. It allows participants to practice their skills on the latest vehicles. It’s not often that you get a chance to watch rescue teams from different nations going through extrication evolutions. There is always something to learn by watching how others do things.
I touched on equipment storage above when I mentioned the hose rolls, but there is even more to it. The amount of equipment that these fire departments figure out how to squeeze into apparatus that is often shorter in length than what you find in the States is amazing to me. Understandably, some of it is not in a great spot, and I did wonder how I would go about retrieving some of it, but every single square inch on these trucks is used.
Also of note is how American manufacturers must navigate the global marketplace. It’s not as easy as you would think. Every country has its own standards. And sometimes, each county or city has its own set of standards. Picture a different standard for equipment in all 50 states and a company trying to produce a flashlight or self-contained breathing apparatus for each state. It’s not always easy designing products for the global marketplace. Where we gain, however, is when manufacturers bring ideas back.
Perhaps most important is that Interschutz only comes around once every five years, and when that happens, some companies wait for Interschutz to unveil new products. If you have the resources to come for the week, don’t you think seeing new products from the vendors we know in the States for the first time is worth it? Some might, and some might not. Some might be able to while others might not have the means. But, it’s worth it. You’re probably not going to walk out of here with a show deal on a light bar. But, you are going to see the largest collection of firefighting vehicles and equipment in one place.
So, I’ve got four more days and a lot of ground to cover. It’s tough being away from home in such unfamiliar surroundings. But, I’m lucky in that I get to see quite a few familiar faces—close to 100 of them—and some familiar products. Firefighters comprise a global family. As it turns out, the companies we turn to for our apparatus and equipment do too.
Our August issue will have a more comprehensive report from Interschutz 2015.
The amount of equipment that these fire departments figure out how to squeeze into apparatus that is often shorter in length than what you find in the States is amazing to me.