Cantankerous Wisdom: I Know What SAM Is!

Photo by Brian Franz. This could be the future look of pump operators’ panels.

By Bill Adams

Previously, I mentioned an upcoming delivery by Kaza Fire Equipment in Pennsylvania for a rig with a new-fangled pump control system called SAM that I didn’t understand. Going from a mechanical relief valve to a pressure governor was a monumental step for this Raisin. SAM had to be researched before I could comment about it.

I contacted Peter Lauffenburger, Senior Director of Commercial Strategy for IDEX who walked me through SAM’s development. Per my request, Peter was very helpful in explaining the system “in terms a high school senior” could understand. His and Jason Cerrano’s answers to my questions are combined below. It isn’t often vendors refrain from TechnoSpeak when explaining the concept behind their products.

*SAM is the acronym for what or who? “SAM isn’t an acronym. Think of SAM as another person on your crew.”

*What can I compare SAM to in real life? “SAM is similar in concept to a lot of the automation used to control vehicles – almost like the automated systems that can fly aircraft. It was developed to mimic what the pump operator does to control the pump today.”

* Who invented SAM? “It was initially developed by Jason Cerrano, a 20-year veteran of the fire service, who created the first prototype SAM system by retrofitted an existing apparatus.”

* How did IDEX get involved? “IDEX acquired Jason’s business in 2018 and integrated it with IDEX’s Fire & Safety Equipment. SAM was released to market at FDIC 2019.

*How was it developed? “Jason started SAM development in 2015. He was the inventor and primary developer of the system. There were a lot of contributors internally to the integration and final development of the system. It was a combined effort with Hale, Akron Brass and Class1 participating in the system development. Refinements and feature expansion are ongoing.  Mike Laskaris was the principal engineer for IDEX Fire & Safety leading the project since the acquisition and worked closely with Jason to integrate with IDEX Fire & Safety equipment. Mike has been with Hale Products for 35 years and recently retired from his local fire department with 30 years of experience on combination and volunteer departments. During his tenure he has worked with fire departments across the globe from California to Germany to Australia and has extensive experience bringing new technology to the fire industry globally.”

* When was the first prototype unit installed? “It was installed in St. Louis on Engine 10 in 2016. Engine 10 is one of the engines that sees the most working fires in the city.”

* How’s SAM been received? “All OEMs can and are willing to install a SAM system. So far, over a dozen apparatus manufacturers have built or are currently in the process of building a truck (or multiple trucks) with SAM.”

Hale’s website has the following bullet points on Sam:

1. It automatically opens the tank to pump valve when it sees it is in pump gear.

2. When the operator then selects a discharge, sets a pressure for that discharge then SAM charges the line and adjusts engine speed as needed and maintains the desired set pressure for each discharge.

3. It automatically transitions to an external water source. When an external water source is ready the operator selects the intake, tells the system to open it and SAM takes action. After transitioning to external source, the system refills the tank

 4. If transitioning to a pressurized source the system will bleed air from the line, open the intake valve and manage the engine speed during transition to keep discharge pressure steady.

 5. If drafting, the system will pre-prime up to the intake valve then open the intake once the prime has been established.

I asked Lauffenburger to explain—in simple terms understandable for the Raisin Squad or a high school science class—how SAM accomplishes those functions.

“SAM is a network of electronic devices that already exist on fire apparatus today such as electric valves, pressure transducers, electronic modules, and tank level sensors, etc. The screen on the pump panel is where the operator interfaces with the truck to tell it what intakes to open and what discharges to open and at what pressure. The electronic modules and electric valves have logic in them that control the automated functions listed above; opens and closes valves; and increase and decrease the engine speed as needed so the operator doesn’t have to.

“The important thing to understand is that the equipment used for the SAM system actually isn’t really new. It communicates the same way as the rest of the networks on the fire truck that control the engine and other critical functions communicate (and have been like that for the last 20 years). It also uses equipment that has been used in fire trucks for decades. The only thing that is new about SAM is the interface and program that is orchestrating the pumping of the fire truck so the operator can focus on more important things on the fire ground.”

Photo by Rick Smith

*How many “screens” are there?“ The standard installation includes a 10-inch and 7-inch screen on the main pump panel and a 10-inch screen on the passenger side panel. There is also a wireless SAM Control center that can be carried around the fireground and provides complete control from the wherever the pump operator is on scene.”

*Are there manual back-ups if a screen fails or is damaged? “You bet. There are several layers of redundancy. The screens are redundant, so if there is a problem with one screen, the operator still has full control from the second. SAM also has a manual mode that can be activated to pump just like they pump today by managing the pressure governor setting and opening and closing the electric valves on the touch screen.”

After SAM has been around for a while, I’ll contact some dealers and end users who have experience with the system to get the in-service scoop on it. In the interim, I want to thank Lauffenburger and Cerrano for explaining SAM in terminology even I can understand. Some fire service hierarchy that purchase fire apparatus and some “senior” pump operators may not possess advanced learning degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering. Old people might dismiss a new concept rather than learn about it. It is refreshing to be educated on a new concept or theory without a down-your-throat sales pitch and confusing TechnoSpeak. Thanks guys.

BILL ADAMS is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board, a former fire apparatus salesman, and a past chief of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.

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