New Year, New Ride: Apparatus Trends for 2018
We’ve all seen car ads boasting of the latest features in comfort, safety, and technology – automatic brakes, WiFi hotspots, and so on. By and large, these are nice things that make car travel a safer, more comfortable experience. While fire apparatus aren’t necessarily concerned with comfort, there are some interesting innovations and trends coming in the next year that will enhance safety and operational efficiency.
I remember the days when the pump operator couldn’t move more than a few feet from the pumping station because he (the old days… likely a dude) was tethered to the rig. His ears, encased in that relic of a headset, did a lot to dampen the constant grumbling from the engine and kept him in contact with the interior crew and commander. But it was an uncomfortable beast. Even during the slow moments with everyone safely outside, he was still bound to that few feet of comm cord.
And don’t forget the amount of abuse this equipment took, potentially compromising the gear’s reliability and efficiency.
In this new age – wireless comms. Think of it. Pump operators and aerial operators no longer have to cater their movements to an extension cord threatening to choke them or bind them up somehow.
There are fewer working parts and components exposed to the elements and human abuse. This increases durability and, ultimately, reliability.
Given the ubiquity of Bluetooth and other hands-free services, it’s a bit surprising that this is still trending in the emergency response community. Goes to show you how stretched budgets are.
THE BLACK BOX
Everyone’s heard of the black box in airline cockpits. These recording devices are recovered from crashes so data can be mined and those concerned can learn from the incident.
Fire apparatus are now being installed with the same type of recording system, which can do more than report on crashes. Much like the monitoring system in advanced passenger cars that report on tire pressure and fluid levels, these devices keep track of apparatus “health.” It should prove useful and cost effective, since preventative steps can be taken to address looming issues reported by these data recorders.
They can also track operator performance, making them a useful training tool and an indisputable measure to cut down on abuse and negligence. And this should ultimately aid in legal matters, as operators of emergency vehicles involved in accidents can refer to these data recorders and protect themselves from liability. Now, if the driver of the rig is at fault… well… Hopefully for their sakes these recorders aren’t indestructible.
Expect this feature to become more prominent, since vehicle data recorders are now a requirement for new fire apparatus.
WiFi hotspots are all the rage everywhere you go. Even a mobile device can be hotspot, so it stands to reason that emergency vehicles would eventually catch up to the trend. Many police departments already have these in play in their patrol cars, and now fire apparatus are adopting the technology as well.
Well, applications for this benefit are still being explored, but for now, imagine that each piece of apparatus at an incident can communicate, store, and receive all the same information instantaneously. This is the sort of technology that could eventually make radio coms obsolete.
Also, incident commanders will know precisely where each vehicle is at any given time. For purposes of ETAs, the advantage is that inbound units can be staged or deployed according to real-time information. Vehicles directly involved with a scene can relay status updates without needing to confer with the operator. If commanding officers are comfortable and well versed in the technology, they can anticipate needs such as a recharge for tools or low water tanks and react accordingly.
In this age of potential mass casualty incidences and violent scenarios, it’s imperative for command units to have flexibility and mobility. Should an incident warrant the command center to relocate, especially in a hurry, this means any vehicle can be converted to the flagship should the need arise and simply moving the vehicle is impractical.
A more common or simpler use is that a commanding officer can move around the scene and put eyes directly on a situation, using the closest WiFi equipped vehicle to direct the scene instead of remaining confined to one unit for overall communication.
Integrated Hydraulic Technology (IHT) is improving the performance of just about every fire suppression unit out there by elevating efficiency and reducing maintenance.
With IHT, smaller units can bring large unit capability to bear on scene, whether it’s GPMs, generator power, or more tools for extrication.
Since the power from the motor is converted to hydraulic power, each unit conserves enormous amounts of gas or diesel. This brings numerous benefits, such as significant savings at the pump and a less environmentally hostile footprint.
These are just a few of the trends we’re picking up on in the coming year. It wouldn’t be surprising if in the next 10-15 years, emergency apparatus were nearly unrecognizable to previous generations of firefighters. Except for maybe the color.