What would your dream apparatus feature?
From auto-pilot deployment and drones to “cow-pusher” mechanisms, fire service leaders imagine the apparatus of the future
If you could spec the perfect apparatus, what would it have that’s currently out of reach? Imagine your dream apparatus – within reason; it can’t fly for example. What might this apparatus of the future realistically feature 10, maybe 30, years from now – something you’d like to see in your lifetime or at least wish for a future generation of firefighters?
Yes, it’s a little pie-in-the-sky, but this is where great ideas are born.
We asked several FireRescue1 contributors for their thoughts – and we want to hear yours, too!
Chief Marc Bashoor: From cow-pushers to Bluetooth and beyond
Don’t we all dream like this? I know when I was growing up, the animated show “The Jetsons” showed us the world of the future with flying cars, robots and speaking gadgets – and now, in 2022, we’re almost there! But what about fire apparatus? What would they look like if we had “our way”?
- Cow-pushers: Now, this one might seem uncaring, but let’s face it, haven’t we all wished we had train-like cow-pushers on the front of our engines to move traffic out of the way? I know I’m not the only one who’s talked about it and, in fact, I know a few fire trucks and specialty vehicle that have been used that way, just without the formality of an attached cow-pusher mechanism.
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth technology at all levels of what we do exists today – pump panels, mobile data terminals, SCBA tracking, and more. Bluetooth and/or satellite technology immersed in what we do would help dispatchers and incident commanders track firefighters, apparatus and equipment; help locate downed firefighters on the X, Y, and Z axes; keep firefighters connected throughout their shift; and improve safety at various levels by providing hands-free capability for communications.
- Hybrids: A hybrid fire apparatus that uses wind, solar, electric AND diesel to maximize efficiency while working to reduce the overall carbon footprint.
I suspect some of you are screaming defiantly, “Wake up, Chief” while I others are thinking, “Dream on, Chief.” I’ll keep one eye open and let you know how it goes!
Deputy Chief Byron Kennedy: Firefighter safety in focus
Today’s apparatus are undisputedly safer, more efficient and comfortable than ever before. Capabilities have also increased over the year; however, this is the area where we may have some of the biggest opportunities.
- Low-profile/waterproofed drone compartment: Many fire departments/districts already have drone capabilities for tethered and untethered drones. Understanding that space is already limited for storage, I believe that super-fast deployment opportunities for these drones can be accomplished by creating a low-profile compartment on the top of the apparatus that allows for an apparatus-based drone deployment (tethered or untethered).
- Apparatus-specific personnel monitoring: Many departments enjoy the luxury of being able to monitor certain vitals of firefighters who are actively involved in fire suppression. Typically, the information goes to the IC’s vehicle, and the data is never shared with the unit’s personnel. With this added feature, personnel will have the ability to review their own data once they return to the station without worrying about being criticized for having a higher-than-expected heart rate or respiratory rate, for example.
- Mounted rehab misting nozzles: In many regions, firefighters endure the austere environments within structures and come outside of the structures to endure extreme heat and humidity. This simple setup would require an outlet on the intake side of the pump with retractable sturdy plumbing that extends a safe distance from the apparatus fuel exhaust. Of course, the unit would need to be connected to an appropriate water source to be careful of the fact that tank water can become extremely hot. The apparatus using the misting devices should be in the cool zone where rehab is more productive.
- Bullet-resistant glass: For years, our industry has enjoyed a non-threatening stance within the community. But today, we are seeing more and more instances in which firefighters and medics are having to retreat to their apparatus for cover during active gunfire. Current apparatus offer concealment rather than cover. We should have bullet-resistant glass.
Battalion Chief Vince Bettinazzi: Auto-pilot apparatus
I’d like to see an auto-piloted apparatus – one that receives the incident’s location and automatically takes the firefighters to the scene. The technology would be able to predict traffic patterns, identify road closures, and receive the fastest route time through GPS. The apparatus would allow the responding personnel to focus on preplanning and strategically prepare for their scene actions en route to the call. When the incident is over, this apparatus will safely return the crew to quarters and park itself inside the bay.
Captain Rom Duckworth: Auto-deployed drones
Situational awareness is a key factor at every emergency scene. Following current trends, down the road, I see non-aerial fire apparatus of the future equipped with top-mounted, automatically deployed drones. This technology would be the scene surveillance version of backup cameras. Yes, we got along without them for years, but look how much better we can now see exactly where we are in relation to our surroundings. Current technology is already leading drones to identify obstacles and, in many ways, operate independently. I see this as primarily “hands-off” technology rather than requiring a separate drone operations team. For future apparatus, it would just be a normal part of on-scene situational awareness, with screens available not only for the incident commander but for the apparatus driver-operator and others working in the area.
A natural extension of this would be thermal imager cameras or other optics, as well as possible tethered options to provide scene lighting from directly overhead.
Firefighter Aaron Zamzow: Compartments, cabs and alerts
My wish list for the perfect apparatus starts with compartments size and height. We need to lower the chassis and compartments to take the stress off our knees and shoulders when stepping up to the rig and reaching for heavy equipment in the compartments.
I would also love to see a cleaner-cab design that still gives quick access to SCBA and tools.
Finally, I believe there needs to be a better alarming system besides lights and sirens that alerts the surrounding traffic of an operating emergency vehicle. We need to utilize mapping apps and technology to control intersections and alert traffic to yield to our vehicles.