WFC News

Posted: Jun 4, 2013

Personal Protective Equipment Is Regularly Retooled

Alan M. Petrillo

Personal protective equipment (PPE) makers are regularly talking to firefighters and fire command personnel to determine what they want to see in their turnout gear and how it might be redesigned or modified to make it as functional as possible.

Lighter, Less Bulky

Globe Manufacturing Inc. introduced its latest embodiment of what firefighters have been asking for in their gear with its PBI Lightweight Gold System.

Mark Mordecai, Globe's director of business development, says Globe has heard from firefighters that they want less restrictive, lighter, less bulky turnout gear without sacrificing the breathability or thermal protection offered by current PPE. "This requires a garment design, its fit, and the material it is crafted from to work together the way the firefighter's body moves," Mordecai says. "For our G-Xtreme turnout gear, which is less restrictive because it has length in those areas where the body bends, we've introduced the dimension of shape through lighter and more flexible materials to fit the firefighter's body better."

Mordecai points out that Globe added shape to G-Xtreme last year to improve fit and reduce bulk, and with the new PBI materials the gear now is even more flexible and has superior break-open resistance, which allows for still greater thermal protection.

"The outer shell of gear made with a traditional fabric is pretty stiff," he notes, "but using the PBI Max with its lighter filament Kevlar® we get more flex yet still a very strong fabric, so it maximizes both strength and flexibility."

Gear lightness and extra flexibility is accomplished by adding the PBI fiber to the moisture substrate and thermal liner, Mordecai says. He adds that "restriction, bulk, inflexibility, and weight are the bad guys in PPE design, so you have to address those areas and shape the turnout gear to fit the firefighter's body."

G-Xtreme turnout gear
(1) Globe Manufacturing has given its G-Xtreme turnout gear more
strength and flexibility through use of a PBI Max fabric made from a
lighter filament Kevlar. (Photo courtesy of Globe Manufacturing.)

Component Interaction

Karen Lehtonen, director of products for Lion, says Lion has been retooling PPE as a result of firefighter feedback. "Our goal is to take an innovative approach to make turnout gear more functional and stress reducing and provide better mobility," she says. "Those goals are where we're focused with retooling our PPE."

Lehtonen says that key areas Lion is looking at are interfaces and interoperability with other PPE elements. "We want to make sure it's not harder to put gloves on after putting on the turnout coat or harder to put on a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) after being geared up," she says. "We're also looking at how the helmet interacts with the turnout coat, hood, and SCBA face piece."

Lion's recent redesign of its V-Force turnout gear that uses PBI Max fabric outer shells and Glide liners has resulted in a balance of comfort, mobility, and protection, Lehtonen maintains. "These fabrics have higher lubricity levels so they improve mobility of the firefighter and the fit of the garment," she says. "And, we've incorporated greater venting and stretch into our turnout gear. We took the concept from athletic wear of allowing interior heat to vent out to the exterior, while preventing exterior heat from coming in, and are adding stretch panels in areas where greater stretch mobility is needed."

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Posted: Jun 4, 2013

SCBA Makers Expect NFPA Compliancy for New Systems

Alan M. Petrillo

Five manufacturers of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) have introduced new firefighting SCBA lines that address issues of weight management, comfort, and voice intelligibility as well as meet changes necessitated by the 2013 versions of two National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards: NFPA 1981, Standard on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for Emergency Services, and NFPA 1852, Standard on Selection, Care and Maintenance of Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).

Standards Revisions

The 2013 versions of NFPA 1981 and 1852 require a number of new tests and changes to several subsystems found in SCBA. These include lens radiant heat and lens convective heat tests on SCBA mask lenses.

In the lens radiant heat test, the lens is tested to 15 kw per square meter for five minutes and must maintain positive pressure during that time while the cylinder must last 80 percent of its rated duration. The lens convective heat test subjects the lens to 500 degrees of preconditioning, instead of the previously required 203 degrees, during which the lens must maintain positive pressure while the cylinder must last 80 percent of its rated duration.

MSA Fire M7 XT SCBA system
(1) The XT designation in the MSA Fire M7 XT
SCBA system stands for extreme temperature.
(Photo courtesy of MSA Fire.)

NFPA 1981 also standardized the personal alert safety system (PASS) alarm sound and pattern and moved the low-air alarm activation from 25 percent of air remaining to 33 percent. Other changes include a new communications test protocol changing to a speech transmission index (STI) where the speaking diaphragm has to pass the criterion of 0.45 on the STI and optional voice amplification must pass the criterion of 0.50 on the STI. The standard also has emergency buddy breathing system (EBBS) performance requirements, but these are still being worked out with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The five companies that have recently released new SCBA designs that expect to be compliant with the 2013 versions of NFPA 1981 and 1852 are Scott Safety, Avon Protection, MSA Fire, Draeger, and Honeywell First Responder Products. Currently, all five are awaiting notification of compliancy. All SCBA manufacturers must stop selling SCBA manufactured to the 2007 standards on August 31, 2013. There is no set timeframe for hearing about compliancy.

Reducing Weight

John Dinning, Scott Safety's North American product line manager, fire service, says Scott's new SCBA platform is the Air-Pak X3, a sleeker and more durable SCBA than prior models that makes better use of weight management and addresses comfort issues. "We look at this platform in a new way in that it's sleeker than SCBAs in the past," Denning points out. "And, it's available in both the snap change connection and compressed gas connection."

Honeywell First Responder Products introduced its new BA8013 SCBA platform, which Jeff Shipley, Honeywell's senior product manager, says improves the system's ergonomics and functionality and provides a savings in weight. "We shaved the weight of the new system from our Warrior product," Shipley says, "and enhanced the ergonomics by better distribution of the weight. With the BA8013, the weight sits more on the firefighter's hips because of a swivel pivot mechanism on the back of the unit that has a knuckle attached to the frame so the firefighter can move more freely without having the frame limit his motions." Shipley notes the shoulder straps also were modified so they don't pinch when a

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Posted: Jun 4, 2013

Responsible Fleet Management for Emergency Response Vehicles

By Christian P. Koop

I recently had the good fortune of attending two premier trade shows: the National Truck and Equipment (NTEA) Work Truck Show and the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC), which are both held at the same venue, the relatively new convention center in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. I say good fortune because I had never been to the NTEA show and it had been many years since I had been to FDIC. Both shows were very impressive in their own right and by the obvious fact that they were well organized and sponsored. Both offered a wide array of training classes and symposiums. They were well attended and both ran like well-oiled machines. Kudos are in order to the folks behind the scenes who prepare and organize these huge events.

Fleet Management

One of the conference sessions I attended at the NTEA show was a two-day fleet management symposium. The symposium was presented by Kelley Walker and was very informative. The main focus was about managing the modern shop with an emphasis on reducing capital and operating budgets in the fleet and on improving technician productivity both in the shop and field while incorporating the latest technologies such as vehicle GPS and telematics. Long-haul trucking is at least 10 years ahead of most other fleet operations in this area.

Walker pointed out that for a fleet vehicle to be efficient, it must be "matched to the application, productive, efficient to operate, cost-effective, safe, user-friendly, regulatory-compliant, and reasonably priced." This brings me to what this article is about-responsible fleet management is a philosophy that needs to start when new apparatus are specified with the idea that if the units are matched properly to the applications, they will be more cost-effective to operate. It is about constantly looking for ways to cut costs and improving efficiency in the modern shop. It needs to involve everyone in the organization, and if everyone buys into it, you can ultimately reduce operating cost, improve quality, and still make gains in overall organization efficiency-including the shop. Although Walker was not speaking directly about emergency response vehicles, this rationale can be applied to these vehicles as well.

Matching Applications

If you have been around this field for a while, you can probably think of some vehicles you've had or possibly still have in your fleet that don't meet some or even any of these vital requirements. If your fleet is not matched properly to the application, it is overloaded, or the duty cycle is too severe for its design, it will require extremely high levels of maintenance and repairs to keep it operational. I have seen this happen, and sometimes critics blame the vehicle and manufacturer. But, the reality is that it may not have been specified properly for the application.

To further express my point, here is an analogy by Alan Brunacini, retired chief of the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department: "Sending a fire apparatus on a medical call is like delivering flowers with a cement truck." Unfortunately, most of us can relate or recall having some of these vehicles in our fleet. Some of these units are labeled lemons, and although some of them may very well have been true lemons, others were just not properly specified for the application. I attribute some of my gray hair to vehicles that fall into this category.

Simplicity Saves Money

I sometimes affectionately reference an old acronym, KISS, which stands for "Keep It Simple, Stupid." However, I have slightly modified it to help us get by in this tougher economy to KISSSM, pronounced kisum, which simply means "Keep It Simple, Stupid, and Save Money." Responsible fleet management will help today's fleet managers and maintenance supervisors meet the objectives and goals of those faced with today's tight budgets and still

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Posted: Jun 4, 2013

Personal Escape Systems Offer Simplified Use and Designs

Alan M. Petrillo

When a firefighter has to use his personal escape system, there's no time for fiddling around with its component parts, so manufacturers of such systems have refined their products to make them intuitive for firefighters and simple to use.


Matt Hunt, rescue safety market manager for Sterling Rope Company Inc., says his company has developed two new escape system hooks-the Lightning and the Lightning GT-that allow firefighters to bail out of a tenuous situation as fast as possible.

The hooks are precision-machined of aerospace grade 7075-T6 aluminum and heat-treated for maximum strength, Hunt says. "The Lightning and Lightning GT combine a hook device with a hitching slot that can attach onto a windowsill or can quickly be fastened around an anchor in a room," he says. "The GT model has a wire gate for easily connecting to a remote anchor, eliminating the challenge of threading the rope through a hitching slot in a low-visibility situation."

Lightning GT
(1) Sterling Rope Company introduced two new escape system hooks-
the Lighting and the Lightning GT (shown here). The Lightning GT
has a wire gate over a hitching slot that allows the hook to be quickly
fastened around an anchor in a room.
(Photo courtesy of Sterling Rope Co.)

Hunt notes that the new hooks can be paired with any approved harness and used with Sterling's escape kit, consisting of an F4 descent device, a choice of three escape customized ropes (FireTech, SafeTech, and EscapeTech) in a variety of lengths, and either a lumbar or hip-mounted bag to hold the equipment.

Petzl USA also has developed a new hook for use in personal escape systems-a forged aluminum model that incorporates a slot in the spine so a rescue rope can be hitched off. "Our new hook is designed to be tied off with a simple clove hitch," says John Evans, Petzl's marketing director. "If a firefighter has a suitable anchor in a room, say a radiator or a pipe like you'd find in an industrial setting, then he could tie off to that instead of using the hook on a windowsill or other location."

Evans says the new hook is designed to be used in conjunction with Petzl's EXO personal rescue system that includes the EXO descent device and a length of 7.5-millimeter Technora® aramid fiber rope.

Petzl's EXO personal rescue system
(2) A firefighter uses Petzl's EXO personal
rescue system to bail out of a building. The
system includes an EXO descent device,
Technora® aramid fiber rope, and a forged
aluminum hook with a slotted spine.
(Photo courtesy of Petzl USA.)


RIT Safety Solutions makes the Pre-Rigged Escape Safety System (PRESS) for firefighters in need of personal rescue, says Omar Jordan, RIT's owner. "Every egress system should be 100 percent prerigged, integrated, fire-resistant, and lightweight," Jordan says. "We're the only manufacturer that makes the complete system itself-all the equipment in the system and the life safety harness."

The PRESS includes a fully rigged Class II harness; an escape line of either 3/8-inch tubular webbing or eight-millimeter Kevlar® rope; and RIT's AL2 or AL descender device and an anchor, where RIT offers a choice of its autolocking carabiner or a Crosby, Flash, or NARS hook.

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Posted: Jun 4, 2013

Deeply Rooted

By Andrew J. Olson,
Corporate Vice President of the
OEM Division, Whelen Engineering

More than 60 years of serving the public with lifesaving products designed, manufactured, and supported by American employees has not changed Whelen Engineering's commitment to grow its business in the United States. Two Whelen plants totaling more than 783,000 square feet create the myriad parts and processes that distinguish a Whelen product. Two thousand actively-used injection molding tools manufacture the thousands of component parts needed daily. The electronics department builds all the circuit boards and electronic assemblies. Machined parts are produced in state-of-the-art automated machine shops located in Connecticut and New Hampshire.

Finishing processes include hard coating of lenses, powder coating, and metallizing. Quality control is maintained throughout the entire manufacturing and assembly process, and certified test labs on site facilitate product development and shorten lead times. This unique manufacturing initiative allows Whelen to respond to the needs of its customers, many of whom require "just in time" delivery in these challenging economic times. Walk through the Whelen plant, and you see in action the commitment of a company dedicated to strong and steady growth, strictly on American soil.

Design Team

With the largest staff of design engineers in the industry, Whelen has maintained a reputation of innovation, responsiveness to customer needs, and commitment to quality. A strong partnership with OEMs on new vehicle design and product integration plus stringent control across the manufacturing floor means products built for the long haul. Support continues with sales and service departments here in the United States and around the world and extensive factory training at the Whelen facility.

LED Evolution

The introduction of LED technology in 1996 may have caused the greatest impact on emergency lighting in recent years, although it was also quickly accepted. Solid state LED technology was suitable for the rough, day-to-day environs of emergency vehicles but it posed many challenges, even to Whelen's team of engineers to capture the intense bright light and harness it to satisfy the infinite sizes, requirements, and applications of the LED product line.

Four years ago, Whelen brought the benefits of LED technology to the white light market, replacing quartz halogen and HID lighting products. Along with compartment lighting, aviation landing lighting, and a full line of illuminating products, this led to developing the Pioneer™ and Pioneer Plus™ Series super-LED floodlights, spotlights, and work lights. With models from the tiny Nano™ three-diode work/scene light, up to Model PCP3 20,000-lumen combination flood and spotlight, Whelen offers a wide range of models to suit the needs of its customers.

There are also mounting options and pole assemblies to support them. Using the Pioneer Pole configurator, customers design the exact Pioneer product they require, including the mounting bracket and pole necessary. This built-to-order light is assembled at the plant, shipped complete, and ready to mount to the vehicle.

"Rotating" LED Lightbar

At the 2013 Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC), Whelen introduced the Rota-Beam™ family of products, including the Delta RS "rotating" solid state lightbar. These individual beacons and lightbars were developed in response to the fire market's continuing loyalty to the longer dwell time of the rotating beacon. Rota-Beam offers the sweep of the rotator but also provides all the long lasting, state-of-the-art benefits of LED lighting. There are no motors to wear out, no moving parts, and no noise.

From the original Rota-Beam invented by George Whelen more than 50 years ago, this product exemplifies the passion of a co

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