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9 most interesting firefighting products of 2015

Of the new products introduced this year, these nine have to potential to greatly improve firefighting

One of the great things about fire service trade shows is the vast array of vendors with their existing and new products on display. This year I made it to two shows in person and a few others on-line; here are nine products that impressed me for their ability to have a positive impact on fire service operations.

1. Spartan Chassis’ mobile gateway
The mobile gateway provides a variety of connectivity features — even if the communications infrastructure is compromised or down — and provides the gateway architecture required to enable fleet management, prognostics/diagnostics and other capabilities. It’s the type of technology that’s going to let the emergency vehicle technician and fire truck talk to each other to diagnose and fix problems remotely.

The gateway boasts a maximum cellular range of up to 25 miles, providing it a better chance of finding an active cell tower, even within a disaster zone. The device can help detect and avoid overloaded cell towers and connect as needed even if the tower is farther away with minimal drop in connectivity speed.

The Wi-Fi range enables devices to connect up to 1,500 feet away. If a firefighter is on scene and away from the truck, they can still connect with and share information as needed.

Additionally, this system can serve as the gateway architecture providing access to additional features including wireless pump control, remote troubleshooting, smart device vehicle checklists, fleet management and other prognostics and diagnostics capabilities.

2. BullEx Class A training simulator
BullEx’s system includes a specially designed Class A chamber with a built-in gas ignition module that an instructor can operate from a distance. The instructor uses the gas module to ignite the wood in the chamber.

Once the fire has been extinguished, it can be lit again immediately — without having to load more wood into the burner. Although the wood remains wet after being extinguished, the gas flames and chamber design quickly dry and reignite the wood for the next live-fire training session.

To address the emission issues of traditional Class A burning, smoke and gas is drawn from the structure and burned a second time with propane gas. The after-burning process purifies the smoke before releasing it outside the training room as clean-air emissions.

Built-in water suppression systems and smart controls keep firefighters safe; when the emergency stop is pressed, the Class A fire is extinguished and the smoke is cleared automatically. The fire prop is equipped with a water-drench system and is supplied with a high-volume water line for rapid fire suppression. The ventilation automatically adjusts to 100 percent capacity to clear the smoke.

3. Code 3 message board
We all know that emergency operations on highways and roadways are becoming more dangerous and our traffic cones and road flares are proving to be inadequate. The optical design of Code 3’s message board improves legibility and reduces washout due to sunlight and thereby improve the probability that the message can be clearly seen by the driver of on-coming vehicles.

The user can create custom messages using the PC-based message programmer from a laptop computer on-scene or pre-program the board with up to 99 message. The message board is readable from 328 feet, giving motorists time to see the message and react accordingly.

The board is available with red or amber LEDs, is suitable for vehicle mounting as well as portable applications and is weatherproof.

4. GearGrid station wagons
Fire apparatus continues to get taller as manufacturers struggle to meet consumer demand for more space for personnel and equipment storage. Increasingly, equipment and fire hose are being mounted or stored topside on apparatus.

The Station Wagon Lift is a tool to move equipment like SCBA cylinders, rolls of hose and fire hose cross-lay trays around the fire station. The hydraulic cylinder powered scissor-lift enables the operator to raise the platform even with the top of the apparatus for safer loading and unloading. Optional electric controls are available.

The company also makes a station wagon without the lift for moving equipment around the fire station. The unit can also be used on site to for logistical support for operations such as hazmat, technical rescue and ground search. For example, one configuration of the removable storage baskets can accommodate eight SCBA cylinders and four 50-foot rolled sections of 2½-inch hose.

The station wagon is designed to work in conjunction with pull-out storage drawers on the fire apparatus, store the storage baskets and equipment in a compartment and remove and mount on the Station Wagon’s chassis once on scene.

5. Toyne Fire Apparatus slide out pump control panel
Toyne’s enclosed slide out and down pump panel takes up less space and allows you to choose your pump panel location. Storing it in a compartment provides better protection from weather and roadway debris. A department can locate the pump control panel on the non-driver side of the pumper so that the operator is no longer unprotected while working on highways and by-ways.

6. Scott firefighter locator system
The Pak-Tracker locator system makes the task of locating a trapped or downed firefighter within a single or multi-story structure quicker and safer. It is available as a stand-alone system that can be deployed with or without an SCBA or integrated into Scott’s Air-Pak Fifty or Air-Pak NxG2 SCBA.

The system functions on the principle of 2.4GHz radio frequency signal strength received and could become an invaluable tool for firefighter mayday situations.

7. Hale SmartCAFS
Naysayers about the use of compressed air foam systems for fire suppression often say that it’s difficult to get the proper foam-to-water ratio. SmartCAFS features a pre-programmed, push-button operation that produces the proper production of foam.

The visual display gives the operator the ability to adjust the foam ratio based on foam application needs. The SmartCAFS also features advanced safety interlocks to prevent dangerous conditions such as air only or air and water from occurring.

8. Power Hawk P-16 rescue system
Small, lightweight, yet powerful rescue tool systems like the P-16 are having a big impact on the rescue side of the house within fire and emergency services. The P-16 boasts features like no hydraulics, lightweight and portable, interchangeable spreaders and cutters, the ability to operate in oxygen-deficient atmospheres, and a compact footprint that helps conserve compartment space on apparatus.

Smaller all-electric rescue tools like the P-16 can provide big rescue capabilities for quick response vehicles, ambulances, smaller Type I engines and Type III engines.

9. In Our Gear JV tool
I always have a soft spot for products that come from the inspiration and hard work of firefighters who develop a new tool to help their brother and sister firefighters do the job better. The JV Tool, manufactured and sold by In Our Gear, makes forcible entry into commercial sliding doors faster and much less destructive than traditional means.

The tool is the brainchild of John Zour, a lieutenant with Howard County (Md.) Fire-Rescue.

The firefighter slides the JV Tool’s flexible neck (the J) into the gap between the door panels that either exists because of the weather stripping between the door panels or is created by the first responder using a prying tool. Then the firefighter uses the notched end (the V) of the flexible neck to operate the thumb key on the occupant side of the door resulting in little to no damage to the door and lock.

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an instructor for fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Beyond his writing for and, Avsec authors the blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS and has published his first book, “Successful Transformational Change in a Fire and EMS Department: How a Focused Team Created a Revenue Recovery Program in Six Months – From Scratch.” Connect with Avsec on LinkedIn or via email.