WFC News

Posted: Sep 6, 2013

Chevrons Revisited

By Robert Tutterow

During a conversation at the 2013 Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC), the subject of chevrons on the rear of fire apparatus came up. It remains a controversial and often misunderstood subject in the fire service. Through observations at FDIC, periodicals, news reports, and personal observations during my travels, I have noticed there are several units that are not compliant with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, especially as it relates to the colors. Somehow, there are departments that have managed to choose their own colors to match the overall paint scheme of the apparatus. Are the manufacturers doing this? If so, are they receiving a written liability waiver from the fire department? Or, is the manufacturer allowing the fire department to add chevrons after delivery?

Color Not an Option

NFPA 1901 standard started requiring chevron striping for all apparatus contracted on or after January 1, 2009. There is no requirement to retrofit apparatus contracted before that date. In addition, ambulances have the same requirement for all units contracted on or after January 1 of this year according to NFPA 1917, Standard for Automotive Ambulances.

The standard does not allow fire departments to choose their own colors. That seems to be the part of the requirement that causes the most controversy and misunderstanding. It was a subject that received a lot of discussion within the NFPA technical committee when the requirement was originally proposed. Letting fire departments choose their own color would have been an easy decision. However, the technical committee was also aware that a lot of work was being done to make emergency responders safer while working highway incidents. I have written before in this column, and still believe, that the "roadway" is the most dangerous environment in which today's fire service now works.

The technical committee discussion led to overall incident traffic management. It became familiar with a document called the "Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices" (MUTCD) that defines the standards used by road managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices on all public streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to public traffic. The MUTCD is published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) under 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 655, Subpart F. Part 6 of the MUTCD is an entire section on "Temporary Traffic Control." As the committee reviewed this section of the MUTCD it became apparent that the chevron striping was a form of supplemental highway signage.

Therefore, it seemed the proper language should specify the colors rather than leave it up to the buyer. For example, what if highway signage (especially warning signs) was left up to each individual jurisdiction? It is a good thing there is a standard shape and color for a stop sign and that a traffic signal has three colors-red, yellow, and green-with red at the top and green at the bottom. Imagine traveling around this country if every fire district chose the size, shape, and colors for its stop signs. Think about the last road trip you took. How many fire districts did you cross? As I write this column, I have just completed a two-hour road trip and I know I traveled through 25 to 30 different fire response districts.

I was amused when I read about a fire chief who said he wanted his chevrons to match the color of his apparatus (not red) because the people in his community were familiar with that color of apparatus. OK-I suppose that the only people that travel the roads of his community live in the community. With this background, the committee took a standardized safety position and specified that the chevrons shall be red and yellow.


Red and yellow were selected because they were the

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Posted: Sep 6, 2013

Stabilization Equipment for Vehicles with Start/Stop Technology

By Carl J. Haddon

Although great for the consumer, hybrid start/stop technology can be potentially deadly for the rescuer at the scene of a motor vehicle accident (MVA).


For those unfamiliar with start/stop technology, it is a fuel-saving feature that uses the hybrid electric motor to propel the vehicle from a standing stop until the gas-/fuel-powered engine takes over. When these vehicles come to a stop at a traffic signal, for example, the gas/fuel engine shuts down, and the vehicles sit silently (no traditional idling) until the accelerator is depressed and the electric motor initiates vehicle motion.

When these vehicles are involved in an accident, they often present a unique set of challenges for emergency personnel because we never really know if they are "silent live" or not. In conventionally powered vehicles, this question is a "no-brainer" because it is typically easy to tell if the engine is running or not.

The Cog Step

(1) The Cog Step is a reversible step chock. It can be used
conventionally as a standard step chock and it can be inverted to
use the cog system. (Photo courtesy of Turtle Plastics.)


This same scenario holds true for plug-in electric powered vehicles. Following an accident, the vehicle sits silently, but we never know for sure if it can still lurch forward or backward as we size up our scene. After an accident, it invariably seems that unconscious or stunned drivers come to their senses and naturally try to move their extremities. When that movement includes moving their right feet to the accelerator pedal, we can have a real problem.

Securing the Vehicle

What tools do we carry to safely secure the vehicle while we work to disable the electrical systems on these start/stop vehicles-wheel chocks, step chocks, a police patrol car? I actually like the patrol car idea the best; however, it's not always practical. One of my biggest concerns is a firefighter having to get down on the ground to apply these marginally effective adjuncts. Vehicle characteristics such as ground effects, lower ground clearance, and larger wheels make the initial stabilization of these types of vehicles all the more challenging.

Searching for a Solution

I went searching for an answer to this question. I found a couple of items that could do the trick. One of these is unfortunately still in its prototype stage. Simply stated, it's a cordless-drill-powered type of step chock that starts out flat, can be easily slid into position, and then activated to immobilize the vehicle.

The other product I found is a new release by Turtle Plastics. Known as its Cog Step, it is a new variation on the company's stalwart plastic step chocks. The Cog Step concept is based on the old cog railway systems still in use in some parts of this country. The Cog Step is a reversible step chock. It can be used conventionally as a standard step chock and it can be inverted to use the cog system. Basically, the Cog Step is used with a single integral wedge, whereby it can eliminate the need for other cribbing in many circumstances. The user positions the Cog Step as needed, with the cog wedge in close proximity to where it is needed to effect stabilization. As rescuers unweight the side of the vehicle, as they would to place a standard step chock, they introduce the Cog Step in much the same way. The exception is that the cog wedge is already in place. A flathead ax can be used to strike the backside of the cog wedge to advance it higher.

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Posted: Sep 6, 2013

CAFS Units Find Homes on Variety of Apparatus

Alan M. Petrillo

It's not unusual these days to see a rescue vehicle carrying water and a pump, often called a rescue-pumper or a wet rescue. But frequently, such rescues have begun to be outfitted with compressed air foam systems (CAFS). It's part of a developing trend that is seeing wider use of CAFS not only on rescue-pumpers but on traditional pumpers, urban interface vehicles, and wildland units.

Dan White, national sales manager for Spartan ERV's Classic series, says that although most of the growth in CAFS use has been on wildland style units, it also is growing on the structural side of the fire apparatus industry. "CAFS is becoming more and more popular," White says. "We're seeing CAFS on about 40 percent of our wildland units, when three years ago that figure was about 25 percent. CAFS is becoming a required tool instead of something that's simply a 'want to have.' "

EMBC, a two-stage 2,000-gpm pump with a 220-cfm air compressor

(1) Darley's family of CAFS products includes the EMBC, a two-
stage 2,000-gpm pump with a 220-cfm air compressor. (Photo
courtesy of Darley.)


Spartan ERV has built traditional pumpers, rescue-pumpers, and even tankers with CAFS units, White maintains, and has a version of CAFS for its traditional rescues. "We built a compressor with a 100-gallon per minute (gpm) PTO-driven pump that can run one handline off of a 100-gallon water tank and a five-gallon foam tank. It doesn't take up a lot of room on the truck body and if the rescue is first on the scene of a vehicle fire, for instance, it can do a quick knockdown on the fire if necessary."

White points out that the typical Rapid CAFS unit that Spartan ERV builds is set up to handle any discharge that is plumbed as foam-capable. "Our standard 140-cubic feet per minute (cfm) compressor can generally handle two 1¾-inch discharges," he notes. "We also make 200-cfm and 250-cfm CAFS units. You essentially can add one 1¾-inch line for each step up in a typical setup."

The Rapid CAFS unit was developed, White says, to make the system easy to use. "We wanted it to be as simple as possible and not complicated at all," he says. "Once you're pumping water through a handline on the truck, it truly is a one-touch system."

Effects on Design

Chad Trinkner, director of product development for aerials, pumpers, and fire suppression at Pierce Manufacturing Inc., says that between 20 and 25 percent of the various types of pumpers Pierce makes-traditional, rescue, and industrial-have a CAFS unit on them. "There's a pretty good mix of the kinds of CAFS units going onto the vehicles," Trinkner points out. "It's about 50-50 of PTO to hydraulically driven units."

EMBC, a two-stage 2,000-gpm pump with a 220-cfm air compressor

(2) Hale Products has introduced its Smart
CAFS with a 210-cfm compressor on its
midship DSD, shown here, and Q-MAX
pumps. (Photo courtesy of Hale Products.)


Pierce first started installing Hercules CAFS units on pumpers in 1999, Trinkner notes, with a 200-cfm PTO-driven unit located in the pump house. In 2002, Pierce developed a 140-cfm hydraulically driven CAFS unit located in the pumper's dunnage area over the pump house, and in 2011 it came out with a 165-cfm PTO-driven unit located in the pump house. Locating a CAFS unit in the pump house, Trinkner points out, has one drawback. "A P

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Posted: Sep 6, 2013

Firefighter Head Protection Embraces Technology

Alan M. Petrillo

Safety starts at the top-the top of the firefighter's head, that is. The firefighter's helmet has long protected him from heat, falling objects, and other hazards. Today, manufacturers of structural firefighting helmets are putting added protection into their products in an effort to give firefighters the best safeguard against hazards while providing the most comfortable fit possible.

Tradition vs. Modern

Matt DeLorenzo, MSA's product line manager for Cairns helmets, says that firefighters tend to be very traditional but have embraced different forms of helmets over the years. "The two main styles of fire helmets in North America are the traditional look and the modern style, which has a more rounded shape," DeLorenzo says. "The modern style started to overtake the traditional in usage in the 1990s, and at that time Cairns was selling 60 percent modern helmets to 40 percent traditional. But after September 11, 2001, there was a big switch back to the traditional style helmet so that now Cairns is selling 65 percent traditional helmets to 35 percent modern."

Cairns Defender visor

(1) MSA makes the Cairns Defender
visor for its line of helmets, shown
here on a traditional style helmet. The
Defender visor retracts up inside the
helmet shell, protecting it from
damage when stowed and putting it
closer to the eye for greater
protection when deployed. (Photo
courtesy of MSA.)


Eye Protection

MSA acquired Cairns in 2000 and in succeeding years launched a number of new helmets and innovations, including the Defender visor for traditional helmets, DeLorenzo points out. "We took the idea from European style helmets," he says. "The Defender visor retracts up inside the helmet shell where it stays cleaner; is less likely to become damaged; and, when deployed, puts its protection closer to the eye." The Defender is available on all fiberglass models of Cairns traditional and modern helmets.

Thomas Stachler, product manager for helmets at Honeywell First Responder Products, says his company's new EV1 structural helmet features a self-deploying spring-loaded lens and eye protection that's internal to the helmet's shell. "The eye protection sits in between the helmet's suspension ring system and its shell," Stachler says. "It is deployed by pushing up on it where a drag wheel lowers it so it doesn't bang down onto the nose. It also has a safety latch on the right side to lock the shield in the up position, which keeps it from accidentally opening up or for when it's in storage."

The EV1 also has a leather brow pad and three hook-and-loop tabs to allow easy adjustment of the headband height. "There's an optional goggle strap attachment for single- or two-strap goggles to be locked in," Stachler notes. "If you remove the helmet, the goggles stay with it. The straps are in line above the ears so they are pulling parallel and back toward the face instead of being attached to the helmet's brim where there's a pull on the bottom of the goggles."

EV1 structural firefighting helmet

(2) Honeywell First Responder Products makes the EV1 structural
firefighting helmet that has a self-deploying spring-loaded lens and
eye protection internal to the helmet's shell. (Photo courtesy of
Honeywell First Responder Products.)


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Posted: Sep 5, 2013

Is This How You Treat Your Chainsaw at Home?

By Raul A. Angulo

Take a good look at the face in photo 1 and memorize that expression. Make sure it leaves an imprint on your mind. This is Stan Wainscott. He is the 22-year veteran and fire service specialist (master repair technician) in the Seattle (WA) Fire Department's (SFD) Services Division. Every fire department has a Stan Wainscott. These are the guys who fix all the equipment we break. When Wainscott is wearing this face, it's usually accompanied by one of the following remarks:

• What were you knuckleheads cutting with this saw, battleships?
• The city actually pays you guys for destroying this equipment?
• Do you know how much this costs?
• This is destroyed! It doesn't need fixing, it needs to be replaced!
• Is this how you treat your power equipment at home?

It's not good when that face is matched with one of the above remarks. The company officer will have some explaining to do, and it's usually through a letter to the fire chief. Equipment repair costs are extremely expensive and siphon money away from the budget that could be used to purchase additional specialized equipment, like a new thermal imaging camera with the latest technology.

Stan Wainscott

(1) Stan Wainscott is the 22-year veteran of the Seattle (WA)
Fire Department Services Division who fixes all the stuff we
break. You don't want Wainscott to look at you like this.
(Photos by author.)


It's hard to attach a figure to the money that is wasted to repair damaged equipment because of a lack of regular maintenance, poor maintenance, or no maintenance. The core issue could be laziness, lack of pride and ownership, or ignorance. Either way, it boils down to a lack of professionalism.

Core Equipment

The chainsaw is one tool that gets a lot of use by firefighters. It's the work horse for truck company operations. It's also one of the tools that needs to be cleaned and fueled after every use, but sometimes that doesn't get done. There are lots of makes and models out there, so the first thing you need to do is read and follow the owner's manual, especially the instructions for recommended maintenance. It's a good guess that firefighters don't read the owner's manual on power tools they're familiar with. Many of us own chainsaws, so we sometimes assume everyone knows how to use one and clean one. Not so. When senior firefighters show the new guy the saws, some might give the "quick start" version and take shortcuts to proper orientation. The result is new firefighters don't get properly trained because important information was left out. As they train newer firefighters, they pass on only the information they know, which was incomplete to start with. Then when equipment gets damaged, you get the proverbial excuse, "Well no one ever showed me that."

damaged cylinder heads

(2) Here's an example of damaged cylinder heads from cutting
tar roofs. When cutting wood, debris flies right through the
cooling fins. However, the chainsaw's running temperature is
110°F. That is hot enough to melt tar debris right to the fins.


Unlike the circular rescue saws, which use a flat-edged carbide tip blade (not a tearing tooth), the chainsaw carbide tip blades are alternately set at 45 degrees so they make a jagged cut. This ripping saw is the most dangerous tool in the fire service. Without proper training and handling, it can ruin your career in five sec

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