More Camera Systems Included on Fire Apparatus

By Alan M. Petrillo

 

Camera systems are becoming more prevalent on fire apparatus not only to ensure the safety of personnel riding on the apparatus but also for the safety of individuals outside the vehicle.

 

Departments are mounting cameras as backup, side-scanning, and front-recording devices on fire apparatus as well as in specialty areas of fire vehicles such as the tip of an aerial or the top of an aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) rig.

Dino R. Nama, vice president of technical services for Intec Video Systems Inc., says Intec manufactures a broad line of industrial camera systems and components and has been putting cameras on vehicles since 1980. “We’ve been selling to the fire industry for 20 years now,” Nama points out, “but back then, the cameras were not used to the extent they are today. Cameras on fire trucks really took off about five years ago.”

1 Intec Video Systems Inc. has been putting cameras, like this Video Sentinel model on the mast of the North Arlington (NJ) Fire Department's rescue truck, on fire apparatus for 20 years.
1 Intec Video Systems Inc. has been putting cameras, like this Video Sentinel model on the mast of the North Arlington (NJ) Fire Department’s rescue truck, on fire apparatus for 20 years. (Photo courtesy of Intec Video Systems Inc.)

Camera systems installed on fire apparatus are used primarily for blind spot observation, Nama says, whether for rear vision, side vision, or forward vision for the vehicle’s operator. “Fire departments are using it a lot for rear and side vision, with the side-vision cameras used for lane changes, monitoring placement of aerial jacks, and even for improved views for tiller operators,” he points out. “In terms of front vision, an operator might use a camera for a better view if he has an overhanging platform. On tenders, operators use cameras to monitor water discharges.”

Nama says Intec promotes its AH series of cameras for the fire industry, which the company considers a relatively light-duty application when compared to some of the industrial camera products it makes. “If fire departments want a camera for extreme applications, we make our XL product line, which is a high-end, fully waterproof, and fully submersible unit that is built to withstand extreme vibration,” Nama notes.

2 This Intec CVC470HXL camera is shown sharing space with a nozzle capping a monitor at the tip of an aerial ladder.
2 This Intec CVC470HXL camera is shown sharing space with a nozzle capping a monitor at the tip of an aerial ladder. (Photo courtesy of Intec Video Systems Inc.

Joe McCleary, senior account executive for Safety Vision, says his company makes backup and side-looking cameras, as well as thermal imaging units that can zoom in on a specific location on a fire scene and record what is happening. “All of our cameras connect via cabling to a DVR recorder, which does the recording, and also connect to monitors so incident commanders have a live look and can respond accordingly to situations.”

Peter Plate, director of sales and marketing for Rosco Vision, notes his company makes back- and side-viewing camera systems, as well as windshield recording devices, mirrors, and sun visors, all of which are installed by original equipment manufacturers. “We are now seeing a convergence of technologies where mirrors and cameras are becoming one product where the camera is used for side viewing,” Plate says. “It’s more advantageous [having a camera in a vehicle’s mirror] because the angle to pick up the blind spot is better with a camera that has wide-angle viewing.”

Joseph Schechter, executive vice president of Rear View Safety Inc., points out that Rear View Safety manufactures commercial grade backup and side-view camera systems, as well as dash cameras and mobile DVRs. The company was started in 2007 and has been selling to fire departments all that time, he says.

Backup Cameras

Intec’s 500AH series incorporates a more than 120-degree field of view and high-quality optics that give very little distortion, Nama says. “We want to give the operator a clear and discernable image,” he adds, “especially in a backup situation or a lane changing situation.” All of the cameras Intec makes are color cameras, with the exception of some black and white models it makes for underground mining.

Backup cameras typically are placed dead center at the top rear of a vehicle, McCleary says, and are angled down toward the bumper, usually carrying wide-angle lenses. He adds that Safety Vision cameras are available in both color and black and white, although most of the units it sells are color. “There’s very little cost difference between the two now,” he says. “We also make the SV 690 model, which typically is used as a backup camera or affixed to a mirror for a side view and tied into an LCD monitor to enhance the image. About 40 percent of the fire departments that buy our cameras also tie them into a DVR for recording as well.”

Razae Mabanta, sales and marketing director for Convoy Technologies, says Convoy started making camera systems in 2008. “Our C1200RF-S backup camera system with a wireless monitor has strong long-range detection up to 100 feet and operates on a frequency for transmitting video that doesn’t interfere with any fire transmissions,” Mabanta says. “The system is waterproof, dustproof, and pressure-washable.”

Side-View Cameras

Intec also makes the DVC600 series, which is the same camera and quality of optics as the 500AH but encased in a streamlined enclosure, designed especially for use as a side camera where it is less obtrusive. “Our multicamera controller has two inputs intended for side cameras and includes a turn signal trigger that automatically brings that camera up in the display for the operator,” Nama says. “Our side cameras also have been used by drivers to view placement of an aerial vehicle’s outriggers.”

3 Safety Vision mounted a side-looking camera (inset) on each side of this aerial platform. The cameras are triggered by activating the turn signal.
3 Safety Vision mounted a side-looking camera (inset) on each side of this aerial platform. The cameras are triggered by activating the turn signal. (Photo courtesy of Safety Vision.)

“Side cameras like our SV-622 have a lower profile than the backup cameras,” McCleary notes, “because their function is to see down the side of the body of the vehicle and are activated by the vehicle’s directional.”

Convoy’s side-mount C1600 cameras are hard-wired and when used with an angled bracket can monitor from one to three lanes on the side of a fire vehicle. “We can make any of our cameras wireless by adding a transmitter and wireless module,” Mabanta observes.

Plate points out that Pierce Manufacturing uses Rosco Vision mirrors housing side-vision cameras on its Velocity and Impel chassis. “Fewer penetration points on the body of a vehicle minimize the time and expense required by the OEM to integrate camera systems,” he notes. Plate says that Rosco Vision’s side and backup cameras are called Safe-T-Scope, while its mirror-integrated cameras are known as Performa Style.

Forward-Looking Cameras

Intec’s forward-looking cameras give a driver a view from the outside of the vehicle or the top of the rig if it is positioned up high. Intec also makes the Video Sentinel, a pan-and-tilt camera with video functions including both color zoom and thermal imaging, used frequently in ARFF applications. “We’ve also installed the Video Sentinel on aerial platforms,” Nama adds.

4 This ARFF vehicle sports a Safety Vision PTZ forward-looking infrared (FLIR) thermal imagining camera (inset) mounted on its roof.
4 This ARFF vehicle sports a Safety Vision PTZ forward-looking infrared (FLIR) thermal imagining camera (inset) mounted on its roof. (Photo courtesy of Safety Vision.)

Safety Vision also offers the Pathfinder thermal imaging camera, McCleary says, which often is used on the front of a pumper or at the tip of an aerial. “It’s a fixed-lens camera used on a lot of first-response vehicles for vision enhancement,” he says. “The infrared camera measures heat instead of light, so it can see farther, typically 2,000 feet compared to 200 feet for a non-IR camera. Also, we have the Patrol IR camera that pans and tilts, where the operator can rotate the camera head up and down. The Patrol IR uses the same core as the Pathfinder, McCleary says, but is affixed in a metal housing.

Safety Vision also has the SV 810 shuttered camera that protects the lens and face of the camera from inclement weather and the SV 700 HDUW that uses an ultra-wide angle lens, giving a narrower camera angle but greater depth perception.

5 Roscoe Vision makes back- and side-viewing camera systems as well as units that mount in a vehicle's mirrors. This installation is a backup camera positioned at the top rear of a fire vehicle.
5 Roscoe Vision makes back- and side-viewing camera systems as well as units that mount in a vehicle’s mirrors. This installation is a backup camera positioned at the top rear of a fire vehicle. (Photo courtesy of Rosco Vision.)

Rosco Vision also offers a Dual-Vision device that attaches to a vehicle’s windshield. “It’s the size of the palm of your hand and has two cameras, one facing through the windshield and the other back through the vehicle, to record video and audio data,” Plate points out. “An accelerometer detects sudden movement and creates a video that’s saved. It records up to 160 hours of high-quality video to a SD card, is permanently attached to the vehicle, and is locked so it’s tamperproof.”

“Our forward-looking camera, the C1800HD, is designed so it doesn’t get an image washout effect when facing headlights coming at it,” Mabanta adds. “The driver can turn the infrared to high, medium, or off, and the unit has night vision in color. All of our cameras can be hooked up to a recording monitor or a DVR, and all have infrared capabilities.”

Camera Systems

“With TDAs (tractor-drawn aerials), some fire departments like to have two monitors for the vehicle’s cameras, one in the cab and one in the tiller, so both operators can view them,” Schechter says. “With aerial ladders and platforms, it’s common to have a backup camera on the vehicle and another camera, usually with infrared, at the tip of the ladder or platform.”

6 Convoy Technologies makes the C1200RF-S wireless camera system that can be used in either backup or side-viewing mountings.
6 Convoy Technologies makes the C1200RF-S wireless camera system that can be used in either backup or side-viewing mountings. (Photo courtesy of Convoy Technologies.)

Schechter notes that Rear View Safety offers a seven-inch digital LED monitor with a 123-degree field of view to go with its backup camera system, along with a multiplexer that gives a longer life span to the camera. “You also then can add side cameras or a dash camera to the system,” he adds. “The typical system has a backup camera and two side cameras, which can be viewed through a quad view monitor with 11 options for viewing whichever camera is most important at the time. If a directional is triggered, the camera on that side takes over the monitor. When the turn is finished, the monitor goes back to the split screen mode.”

7 Rear View Safety makes the RVS-7706133 camera system that can be used in a back, side, or front mount configuration. The camera is shown in the center, surrounded by the display and its mount.
7 Rear View Safety makes the RVS-7706133 camera system that can be used in a back, side, or front mount configuration. The camera is shown in the center, surrounded by the display and its mount. (Photo courtesy of Rear View Safety.)

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.

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