Rescue Equipment’s Evolution

Chris Mc Loone

The theme of this month’s issue is rescue. Rescue trucks have experienced an interesting evolution. Walk-in and walk-through units aren’t as prevalent as they once were, with departments opting for more equipment storage and transitioning to more walk-around units. This isn’t to say that walk-ins or walk-throughs are disappearing altogether, but the pendulum has swung toward walk-around bodies with room for six to eight in the crew cab areas. Also interesting is that many departments are now including pumps on their rescue apparatus. As trade show season got underway this year, it was hard not to notice this trend-not only on rescues but on aerials as well. Adding fire suppression abilities to all apparatus is getting easier because of smaller pumps that don’t sacrifice gallons per minute (gpm) as well as more widespread use of foam systems that require less water. Take a look at Al Petrillo’s article covering these trends this month.

In terms of rescue tools, the focus of most extrication tool manufacturers is to address vehicle construction. Many of today’s vehicles are built with high-strength steel members, making it imperative that the tools we use to complete an extrication do not snap when trying to cut through some of these parts. To that end, manufacturers are challenged to come up with blades that will handle the high-strength steel components, all the while keeping the weight of the tool down, which is no easy task.

Turnout Gear

It goes without saying that extrication is not firefighting, but for most of us, responding to vehicle rescues means donning the same personal protective equipment (PPE) we use when we respond to fires. There are options that are lighter weight and allow more freedom to move around. In this month’s “To the Rescue,” Carl Haddon recounts his experience looking into alternative turnout gear for vehicle rescue responses and what he found that fits the bill as a technical rescue turnout as well as serving for wildland fire responses.

Haddon raises a valid point regarding alternative PPE for wildland fire or technical rescue incidents-that providing firefighters with job-specific gear could keep our firefighting PPE in service longer. Naturally, there are financial implications here, and many departments have trouble keeping up with current standards for their firefighting gear, but it’s worth considering.

Speaking of keeping up with current firefighting PPE standards, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1971, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting (2012 ed.) became effective August 29, and manufacturers will have one year from that effective date to comply with the new edition. Some of the changes to the standard deal with how PPE is tested-particularly regarding stored energy. The intent is to reduce burn injuries from material in PPE where heat builds up and is subsequently released when the material becomes compressed.

More Travels

I recently returned from a visit to Lawrenceville, Georgia, where representatives from Avon-ISI gave me an opportunity to learn more about the company; to tour its factory floor; and to try out its current self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) offering, the Viking Z Seven. I also got a sneak peak at some of the company’s future products, including its next SCBA evolution, which will be compliant with NFPA 1981, Standard on Open-Circuit SCBA for Emergency Services (2013 ed.).

One of the most important takeaways from the company backgrounder is ISI’s relationship with Avon Protection Systems, which acquired ISI in 2005. Slowly the company has been rebranding itself to reflect the Avon Protection Systems acquisition. Ultimately, “ISI” will be retired and the entire company will be rebranded as Avon Protection.

My trip culminated with a visit to the Douglas County (GA) Fire Department’s training facility, where I donned an ISI Viking Z Seven SCBA to navigate through an obstacle course originally designed and built by ISI and donated to the department. Getting a chance to participate in hands-on evolutions with equipment is one privilege of this job that I truly appreciate, and I thank Avon-ISI for inviting me.


We’re received good feedback regarding engine regens stemming from the Editor’s Opinion and “Aftertreatment Regeneration and the Fire Service,” by Brian Chaput (both in the July 2012 issue). Chaput agreed to sit down with me to discuss this topic in more depth on my radio show “Talking Trucks & Equipment” recently. Find a link to this episode and others at

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