Control systems that operate essentially all electronics on a fire apparatus are making engines, trucks, and rescues easier to use and safer to operate. From smart aerial controls and joysticks to wireless pump controls and touch screen technology, fire apparatus are undergoing a sea of change through the use of technological advancements.
SAM CONTROL SYSTEM
Pete Lauffenburger, director of product management for IDEX Fire & Safety, says apparatus manufacturers are installing IDEX’s newly-introduced SAM Control System on their pumpers and quints. “The SAM system makes complex pump operations simple by managing the water flow so the operator can focus on the fireground and the safety of the crew, not the side of the truck,” Lauffenburger says. “SAM is an integrated total water flow control system that manages the vehicle’s pump, tank, intakes, and discharges.”
1 IDEX Fire & Safety makes the SAM Control System, an integrated water flow management system that controls the vehicle’s pump, tank, intakes, and discharges. (Photos 1-2 courtesy of IDEX Fire & Safety.)
2 The SAM Control System can be operated from a touch screen display affixed to a pumper or aerial quint or from a wireless touch screen tablet.
With SAM, pump operators can use saved presets to set discharge pressures with a single swipe on a 10-inch display. “Even before the pump operator charges lines, the system automatically opens the tank-to-pump valve, so water is in the pump and ready to go,” Lauffenburger points out. He notes that SAM helps with common fireground challenges like interrupted water flow from operator error, pressure spikes on handlines, water pressure problems because of loss of hydrant pressure or cavitation, miscommunication or excessive radio traffic issues, not enough crew to respond to calls, and rotating pump operators who might not be familiar with the vehicle.
Jason Anibus, senior chief engineer for Pierce Manufacturing Inc., says Pierce recently made enhancements to its Command Zone™ advanced electronics system that offers expanded capabilities that benefit the driver, officer, and maintenance personnel and features technologies such as integrated GPS and WiFi connectivity. The Command Zone system displays real-time data and diagnostic information through a seven-inch industrial-grade color touch screen monitor, Anibus points out. The system’s touch screen gives drivers at-a-glance views of initial diagnostics to ensure that all systems are go before departure, he says. Screen views include safety information such as “do not move truck” warnings and seat belt system usage, while optional capabilities include an integrated GPS mapping system, tire pressure monitoring, collision mitigation, and outrigger placement if operating an aerial.
3 Pierce Manufacturing Inc. makes the Command Zone™ advanced electronics system that uses a seven-inch industrial-grade color touch screen monitor. (Photos 3-5 courtesy of Pierce Manufacturing Inc.)
4 Pierce offers Command Zone on all its Ascendant aerial devices along with Advanced Collision and Avoidance, Level Assist, and Wireless Aerial Control.
5 The Situational Awareness System offered by Pierce Manufacturing is a tethered drone with on-scene capability of tracking personnel for an incident commander.
The Command Zone system operates as its own mobile WiFi network and can connect and share data among five smartphones or tablets, Anibus says. Service technicians can use the system to run and view diagnostic codes and troubleshooting procedures from the touch screen display or on a tablet using a WiFi, cell, or USB interface. Datalogging capabilities enable the system to maintain a history of each vehicle’s fault codes, warnings, and cautions.
Pierce offers multiplexed Command Zone on all its Ascendant aerial devices, Anibus notes, which also offer advanced collision and avoidance to prevent the aerial from contacting any portion of the cab or body, level assist that automatically levels the aerial chassis once the operator has four stabilizers planted, and a wireless aerial control system by Hetronic that allows an operator to fully control the aerial device wirelessly. “We’ve also introduced the Situational Awareness System, a tethered drone that has the on-scene capability of tracking personnel for an incident commander,” he adds.
Dave Reichman, national sales manager for Rosenbauer, points out that Rosenbauer has been using its aerial SMART technology on aerial ladders and platforms for a number of years. “SMART technology allows enhanced performance and keeps firefighters safe,” Reichman says. “It takes a lot of split second decision making away from the human brain and allows for better performance. Through the vehicle’s CAN Bus programming, the system knows the position of the aerial’s outriggers and determines what is safe and unsafe, then keeps the aerial in a safe position at all times. The system will stop the aerial before it becomes unsafe.”
6 Rosenbauer’s SMART technology is included on all of its aerial products. (Photos 6-7 courtesy of Rosenbauer.)
7 This view shows one of the many screens that can be accessed on the Rosenbauer SMART technology system.
Each operator station on a Rosenbauer aerial is equipped with a seven-inch all-weather LED backlit screen to visually convey SMART technology information, Reichman says, including information about the aerial’s height, reach, and extension; its aerial stability and side-to-side leveling; an aerial operations chart; aerial load capabilities; lighting controls; and chassis engine data. SMART technology uses an intuitive joystick to control the aerial device, Reichman adds, “where pulling the joystick back raises the aerial, pushing forward brings it down, and moving the joystick left or right moves the aerial in those respective directions.” SMART technology also includes collision avoidance, auto bedding, and all-jacks-up features along with a built-in flow meter and hydraulic filter minder.
Doug Kelley, engineering director for KME, says REV Group, which owns KME, E-ONE, and Ferrara Fire Apparatus, partnered with IDEX to build REV Group’s AXIS™ Smart Truck Technology, an intelligent truck system engineered specifically for REV’s emergency response vehicles. Kelley says AXIS connects to the components used on emergency vehicles to allow streamlined operations and improved vehicle health. “AXIS monitors the chassis status and its multiplexing systems and water flow components,” he says. AXIS also allows electronics troubleshooting and support through real-time notifications, run-log recording, remote diagnostics, and secure over-the-air device updates, Kelley adds.
8 KME offers electronic control of its aerial ladders and platforms as shown on this aerial pedestal. (Photo courtesy of KME.)
9 E-ONE ‘s Advanced Aerial Control System (AACS) on its aerial devices includes adjustable ramping, auto bedding, and variable speed control as some of its many features. (Photos 9-11 courtesy of E-ONE.)
10 The wireless aerial control unit, which is part of E-ONE’s AACS.
11 The AACS made by E-ONE has thermal and digital color video cameras at the end of the aerial that transmit to a monitor at the aerial control station and inside the truck’s cab.
AXIS can be accessed from a computer, laptop, or mobile device, allowing a viewer to get vehicle information through a Web-based dashboard, according to Kelley. The user also has the ability to check specific truck data and diagnostics, monitor up to five vehicle networks, and send remote updates to multiple components and real-time vehicle notification via text or e-mail to mobile devices.
Joe Hedges, product manager for chassis and aerials at E-ONE, notes that E-ONE has refined the technology at the heart of its Advanced Aerial Control System (AACS), an electric over hydraulic system for controlling aerial devices. “Technology changes rapidly in the world of electronics, and with our new AACS we have a user-selectable switch for aerial ramping, allowing the user to make it softer or real firm by pushing a button to reduce or increase the amount of ramping,” Hedges says. “Variable speed control is built into AACS, so depending on where the platform is relative to the center of rotation, it can speed up if the aerial is fully extended and rotating or, if the aerial is retracted, slow it down so the platform movement stays the same, making for a smoother ride in the platform.”
Hedges points out that wireless aerial controls can be added into the AACS to allow full aerial movement from a remote control panel. “Auto leveling can be accomplished through either a wired/tethered controller or a wireless control,” he says, “and AACS can start and stop the vehicle’s chassis engine from either the platform or the turntable. AACS also has dual cameras, thermal and digital color video, at the end of the aerial that transmit to a monitor at the aerial control and inside the back of the cab.”
Bill Doebler, vice president of sales for HME Ahrens-Fox, says the company’s smart aerial electronic control console “is all fly-by-wire control, where no hydraulics are at the console because it’s wired to the hydraulics down below at the rear of the truck. The console raises and lowers at the touch of a button to the height of the operator and has a joystick for the operator to control the three main functions of extend/retract, rotation, and raise/lower,” Doebler points out. “We have complete envelope control in all our aerials where the system constantly communicates with the down jacks around the vehicle, and the control screen shows where the jacks are located and the aerial is positioned. As you rotate the aerial, the screen shows green, yellow, or red zones around an image of the aerial.”
12 HME Ahrens-Fox makes a smart aerial electronic control console for its aerial products that features complete envelope control of the aerial. (Photos 12-14 courtesy of HME Ahrens-Fox.)
13 The Glass Screen Technology that HME Ahrens-Fox uses in its AF-1 cab can show four different dash arrangements: analog, bar graph, modern sweep, and metric.
14 The center console in the Glass Screen Technology cab has touch screens on the driver’s right side and on the officer’s left side to control sirens, warning lights, and HVAC.
Doebler says that HME Ahrens-Fox commercialized Glass Screen Technology in its new AF-1 cab. “Glass Screen Technology is an electronic cockpit in front of the driver, who can view four different dash arrangements: analog, bar graph, modern sweep, and metric displays,” he notes. “All mission-critical functions are in that screen arrangement, and backup camera views are incorporated into a large screen in front of the driver. In the center console stack at the driver’s right hand is another touch screen display that controls sirens, warning controls, and HVAC controls. On the officer’s left side is another touch screen for the officer’s functions, but which can display the driver’s screen if necessary.”
Bill McCain, fire apparatus salesman for Boise Mobile Equipment (BME), says BME “has been using a lot of Class 1 multiplexing nodes and equipment, as well as electronic valve controllers on our wildland vehicles. We also are seeing a lot more redundant controls for pumping, usually at two locations, in the cab and at the pump panel,” he says. “We also see a lot more electronic operation from the cab for pump-and-roll operations, as well as for electronic turret monitors on front bumpers.”
15 This Boise Mobile Equipment built pump panel features electronic valve controllers. (Photos 15-16 courtesy of Boise Mobile Equipment.)
16 Many of Boise Mobile Equipment’s wildland pumpers use electronic operation from the cab for pump-and-roll operations and for electronic turret monitors on front bumpers.
Joe Messmer, president of Summit Fire Apparatus, says Summit has been using Class 1 and Weldon’s V-MUX systems on the apparatus it builds. “We still make all our own wiring harnesses to complement the vehicle’s multiplex system,” Messmer notes, “and we never have had a wiring harness problem.” Messmer says that about 30 percent of the pumpers Summit builds have electronic valves on them, and most use electronic pressure governors instead of pressure relief valves. “We’re also seeing more video screens to show views from cameras because people have a concern about what’s happening on the other side of the truck,” he adds.
17 Summit Fire Apparatus installed a Hale electronic pressure governor in an enclosed pump panel on this pumper for Anderson Township (OH) Fire Rescue. (Photos 17-18 courtesy of Summit Fire Apparatus.)
18 This pump panel built by Summit for the Green Township (OH) Fire Department has both a Hale electronic pressure governor and a manual pressure relief valve.
Bob Faidley, electrical department manager for 4 Guys Fire Trucks, says 4 Guys often uses Weldon’s V-MUX systems on its apparatus. “Customers like the full color touch screen display that gives them many different options,” Faidley observes, “and we also use Navistar Diamond Logic, the proprietary multiplexing system on various International chassis. In addition, we have seen wireless intercom systems take off, with about 80 percent of the intercoms we install being wireless. Most often we use those made by Firecom.”
19 Spartan Emergency Response installed this OMNI pump control system on an aerial quint built for the St. Louis (MO) Fire Department. (Photos 19-20 courtesy of Spartan Emergency Response.)
20 The OMNI system has a plug-and-play version that can be located anywhere on a vehicle.
Wyatt Compton, fleet sales application engineer for Spartan Emergency Response, says Spartan ER has installed the OMNI system on pumpers and aerial quints. “The OMNI control panel weighs less than five pounds and can be placed anywhere on the truck,” Compton says. “It’s easy to remove and place in a location that keeps the pump operator in a safe location while enabling him to fully view the scene. In addition to controlling the pump and valves, it also can control the monitor, scene lights, truck-mounted cameras, generator, and air horn and check on water and foam levels.”
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and 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.