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7 firefighting products that made me say 'wow' in 2016, and my 2017 wish list

Here's a look at the game-changing products that rolled out in 2016 and an eye toward those hoped for in the coming year


Well, it’s that time of year again. Time to look back at some of the most interesting fire and rescue products that came on the market in 2016. I pretty much have one criteria for how I selected the following tools and technology: the "wow" factor.

Here are seven that wowed me.

1. Scott Sight
In April 2016, Scott Safety launched what I believe is going to be a game changer for firefighters. Scott Sight puts thermal imaging technology right in the SCBA facepiece.

This is the first product to emerge from Scott Safety’s firefighter of the future initiative, an internal team responsible for research and development. The group brought Scott Sight from concept to reality in only 12 months.

I’m not the only one who’s impressed with this ground-breaking technology. Each year, the editorial team of Popular Science magazine reviews thousands of new products and innovations and chooses the top 100 winners across 11 categories for inclusion in their annual “Best of What's New” issue.

Scott Sight, the first in-mask, hands-free thermal imaging camera, was recognized in the security category.

2. Life Guard hood
Designed to replace the traditional knit hood, Honeywell’s Life Guard hood delivers laboratory-proven levels of particulate-blocking protection with a lighter, more roomy fit that integrates with self-contained breathing apparatus and turnout gear.

We know the lethal gases and toxins released when the newer building materials and synthetics found in modern structures burn are a threat to firefighters’ long-term health.  

Cancer is the most dangerous and largely unrecognized threat to the health and safety of our nation’s firefighters, according to Cindy Ell, founder and president of International Firefighter Cancer Foundation. Specifically at risk are the face, the angle of the jaw and the neck and throat — yet the most permeable piece of personal protective equipment is presently the protective hood.

3. Cold Fire extinguisher
The Cold Fire extinguisher from Unique Safety works on a different principal than most fire extinguishers. Cold Fire extinguishers remove the heat from the fire, breaking the chemical chain reaction, as well as by encapsulating the fuel source to prevent re-ignition.

Some of the benefits of the Cold Fire extinguisher include:

  • Quickly removes heat from fires and hot surfaces.
  • Works as a protective thermal barrier when sprayed on people or objects.
  • Requires considerably less extinguishing agent, leaving a cleaner scene and less run off.
  • Refill your own extinguishers using concentrated formula and an air pump.
  • Available in several sizes from home use to professional fire response.

The Cold Fire extinguisher works on all classes of fire, A, B, D and K, making it effective at grease, oil, gasoline and even flammable metals like magnesium, which is heavily used in vehicles and wheels.

The same agent used in the Cold Fire extinguisher is also available in bulk concentrate for fire departments to add to pumpers to replace current foams. It’s non-corrosive to tanks and equipment and has a long shelf life.

4. Little Giant ladder
Little Giant Ladder Systems’ overhaul ladder was designed by firefighters and solves one of the biggest safety and operational issues that firefighters encounter during overhaul: having the right ladder for working inside a burned structure.

Small enough to fit in an elevator, it gives firefighters a ladder that can work in confined spaces like a penthouse cockloft.

When retracted, the ladder is just 4 feet 7 inches tall; it fully extends to 17 feet. It is compact enough to carry into an elevator, up a flight of stairs or around tight corners.

The large solid aluminum carrying handle makes it easy to grip, even while wearing firefighting gloves. Its heavy-duty caster wheels enable quick and easy transport.

5. Data link adapter
This one’s for the men and women who keep the apparatus running. Cummins’ Inline 7 data link adapter has a faster processor, more robust algorithms, larger memory buffers and more sophisticated filtering than previous models while simultaneously accessing multiple vehicle data channels.

The Inline 7 is compatible with a wide array of Cummins, OEM and third-party services for electronic control module downloads and uploads. The Inline 7 supports USB, WiFi and Bluetooth technologies.

It communicates with your personal computer and is designed for future capability with mobile products.

6. Leader Scan
The Leader Scan is the only patented Ultra Wide Band device capable of detecting and locating the slightest of chest movements produced by a human breathing.

Leader Scan is designed to detect and locate live victims trapped, buried or entombed, following events such as earthquakes, structural collapses and landslides. It uses a stabilized UWB technology that interrogates the sub-surface of rubble and detects a victim’s movement at up to 100 feet in free space.

Its high sensitivity will indicate the victim’s location by detecting irregular movements, such as hand or finger movement, or regular movements, such as chest movements from breathing.

7. Portable scene light
Streamlight’s portable light uses six C4 LED bulbs and wide-pattern parabolic reflectors to provide two selectable beam widths and three levels of light intensity, ranging from a super-bright flood beam to a low setting with ultra-long run times.

The light features a rotating head that can be extended on a telescoping pole to an overall height of 72 inches, supported by legs that can be quickly deployed and locked to provide balance on uneven surfaces. The light also features a 90-degree swivel neck, enabling users to aim the light beam precisely where it is needed.

On the high setting, the light delivers 5,300 lumens and a four-hour run time, with beam distance of 410 meters. On medium, it provides 2,500 lumens, nine hours of run time and a beam distance of 292 meters. On low, the light runs for 18 hours and offers 1,300 lumens, and a beam distance of 215 meters.

A selectable diffuser permits users to choose between the two beam widths, which are available with all three lighting modes. 

4 for the future
These are some products or technologies that I’d like to see come to fruition in 2017.

1. Firefighting drones
The drones are coming, and not just for observation and recon. Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have been conducting tests for the use of drones that could eventually help in fighting wildland fires.

The research team has been flying unmanned aircraft over prairie land dropping ping pong-like balls filled with a chemical mixture to ignite brush-clearing grass fires. Local and federal officials are interested in the technology because it could help clear overgrown vegetation in rugged, hard-to-reach terrain.

The balls are filled with potassium permanganate before they're loaded into the drone. During flight, the aircraft pierces the ball with a needle and injects it with another chemical, glycol, before releasing it. The mixture ignites one to two minutes later.

The technology is already used by helicopters to start controlled burns, but researchers note that the drone is cheaper and more portable.

2. Piercing stream
Concorde-Corodex Group, a UAE-based provider of a wide range of services including fire-fighting equipment, has unveiled a firefighting tool that blasts liquid through solid structures to tackle interior fires.

The PyroLance is a handset that can propel an ultra-high-pressure stream of water or foam through materials including brick, marble, concrete and steel plate, allowing fire crews to safely control fires before entering a burning structure, the company says.

The niche technology is being tested by fire experts and civil defense teams throughout the UAE, and will undergo live demonstrations January at Intersec 2016, the region’s largest fire safety exhibition.

3. Smarter firefighting
The goal of the smart fire department is to integrate the wellspring of available data into firefighting operations.

In a report issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, co-author Casey Grant, executive director of NFPA’s Research Foundation, wrote, “It [smart firefighting] will revolutionize firefighting by collecting data globally, processing the information centrally and distributing the results locally.”

The report goes on to say that all of the most promising smart firefighting technologies fall into one of three categories: environmental, operational and personal.

The first grouping includes smart building and robotic sensor technologies. The second concerns the technologies that will allow for departments to work more cohesively and to make better decisions. And the third relates to smart firefighters.

4. Home safety system
The “Fully Involved” Home Safe Teaching System from PCI is not futuristic by any means. It’s been on the market for about seven years, but many fire departments may not be aware of this fire and life safety education gem.

The fire service has some significant challenges when it comes to delivering impactful fire and life safety education programs to children. There is a consistent pattern of common issues.

  • A lack of the financial resources to develop effective teaching tools. 
  • A lack of available staffing to deliver the programs that they may have.
  • A lack of community awareness for the scope and magnitude of their fire problem.
  • A lack of community involvement in developing strategies, plans and programs to reduce preventable fires and the resulting deaths and injuries. 

Billy D. Hayes addressed the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives. In doing so, he looked at the fourth initiative to provide public education more resources and champion it as a critical fire and life safety program.

Hayes wrote, “I'll begin by asking you how many fire safety educators do you have in your department/organization? If you immediately begin to answer this question by trying to think how many are assigned to prevention, then you have already headed down the wrong path.

”If you respond by saying everyone in the department, then you have the idea. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. That includes the fire chief to the newest recruit.”

The “Fully Involved” Home Safe Teaching System is an “out of the box” solution that can give any sized fire department an easy-to-use teaching tool that can be used by every member of the department to implement a fire and life safety education program or significantly improve their existing program.

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