The Best Of Interschutz: Part I WRITTEN BY : Pat West E-Mail: email@example.com , DATE POSTED: 10/10/00 The Best of Interschutz: Part I Interschutz, the world’s largest fire and emergency services expo erupted, in a rare Bavarian heat wave in Augsburg, Germany, June 20-25. It was indeed the promised “Disneyland” of emergency services products and technology, with some 1,100 exhibitors from 38 countries displaying “what’s new.” Although Germans dominated the 140,000 visitors, personnel wore T-shirts and uniforms with the word “firefighter” or “fire department” in 31 different languages at this show. Literally from a mile away from the Augsburg fairgrounds, it’s evident Interschutz is unlike any fire service trade show in the United States. Aerial devices from around the world, some 40 or so, extend high above the treeline, raising and lowering firefighters from long waiting lines for a ride in the sky. Bronto SkyLift proclaims a “new world record” in aerial reach with the F88 HLA, an articulating metal monster reaching 290 feet above ground level. As you try to tackle the miles of exhibits in 12 buildings and five football field sized outdoor exhibit areas, your conceptions of fire apparatus and other equipment is quickly challenged. An emergency vehicle barely bigger than a bumper car buzzes by your knees, filled to capacity by one smiling firefighter. A full-size pumper rises up off the ground—wheels and all--and revolves in place, demonstrating its ability to do a complete rotation in a tunnel. Another fire apparatus deploys a robotic fire extinguishing device encased in a stainless steel pod. Adding to this other-worldly, off-kilter sensation is the beer. Beer is consumed here not after the show, as is the American custom, but at the show-- in quantities that would make a frat boy blush. It’s served in an Olympic-sized beer garden that is the first building you come to entering through the main gate; it’s poured at the schnitzel and sausage stands around every corner; it’s even in the vendor’s booths. The more established manufacturers have beer on tap and bistro seating. Foot traffic in these booths is often reckoned by the liters of beer served. By closing time, around 6 p.m., the boisterous bacchanal in the beer garden is loud enough to be heard from the far end of the parking lot. Burned indelibly into my memory is the sound of several hundred firefighters waving half-gallon-sized mugs of various Bavarian brews, singing along with an oom-pah band in a sloshy stew of various European accents: “A little bit of Monica in my life…A little bit of Rita’s all I need…” The challenge of finding the 10 best innovations from exhibitors around the world at this show was daunting. Fortunately, some of the brightest minds of America’s fire service in the American Pavilion were on hand to provide mutual aid. Kindly allowing me to “puppy dog” or interview them (read “pick their brains”) about the products they found most interesting at Interschutz were Ken Burris, Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Fire Administration; Gene Carlson, IFSTA’s International Marketing Director; Ron Coleman, President of FETN and former California State Fire Marshal; and Louis Klein and Richard Patrick, VFIS’s Assistant to the President and Director of EMS Training Programs, respectively. Based on their input, we’ve selected 10 innovations from around the world with significant interest to America’s fire and rescue market. Some of these products were introduced at Interschutz for the first time, but not all. One of the products on this list has been out for 25 years in the Netherlands and is already used in 50 other nations. Others are still in prototype phase and provide an exciting glimpse of things to come in 2001. Products from European manufacturers dominate our list, but we did not exclude American manufacturers. U.S. vendors stood tall at Interschutz, not only in the quality of technology displayed but also in quantity. The number of U.S. companies buying booth space at Interschutz nearly doubled over the last show, with 84 American companies at the show. The U.S. was second only Germany in the number of exhibitors, showing strong interest in expanding their foothold in the increasingly global market. Without further ado, here are the first two of the “Best of Interschutz”: F8 Xtreme You arrive on the scene of a house fire and a mother is frantic. Her babies are inside! In this scenario, even the most practiced at the ritual of donning headgear for battle curse the time it takes to don hood, pull on the face piece, adjust chinstraps, open the regulator and don the helmet. Why hasn’t someone simplified that process so firefighters can get into action more quickly? David Bennett, president of Pacific Helmets Ltd. of New Zealand, is one of those working on it. At Interschutz, he introduced a prototype that integrates all headgear into one sleekly styled Darth Vader- esque helmet: The F8 Xtreme. Push a button on the controls on your chest and your face shield snaps shut, the SCBA mask mounted in the helmet’s chin bar automatically fits itself to your face and begins supplying on-demand compressed air. You’re ready to rock. When you emerge from the fire, another push button flips up the face shield and simultaneously retracks the facemask into the chin bar so you can breathe normally. One size fits all heads. The interior of the helmet pneumatically adjusts to the size of your head, as do the chin straps and earpieces. Also featured in the prototype helmet is built in flashlights, providing hands-free scene lighting. Although the system does require some battery power, the power for its pneumatic systems comes straight out of the air bottle. “It’s a very simple system,” says Bennett. “It’s novel in the sense that nobody has thought of using microscopic amounts of air out of the SCBA cylinder before to make all of these functions automatic.” That’s important because in a totally encapsulated helmet, as you know, “you don’t have a lot of access to get your hands in. And you want to have the flexibility to not necessarily have every subcomponent in place all of the time. You don’t always need your face shield down; you don’t always need your breathing mask on. And to be able to always adjust that with the touch of a button is a feature of this design.” Surround sound audio link to radio communications, integrated thermal imaging, automatic ANR hearing protection, an internal cooling system and neck protector are listed as optional equipment. The prototype weighs less than the combined weight of standard helmet, SCBA mask, hood and helmet, Bennett says. The next step will be to work with a SCBA manufacturer to integrate the prototype with their specific components. That process began at Interschutz. “We’ve got three breathing apparatus manufacturers interested in talking to us about it,” Bennett says. The prototype will be field tested in the U.K. later this year. Bennett hopes the product will be ready for market in early 2001 and plans to show it at the Fire Department Instructor’s Conference in Indianapolis in March. For more information, visit Pacific Helmets on the Web at www.pacifichelmets.com. The Cobra Strikes The Cobra Cold Cut System was developed in Sweden to provide firefighters with a means to ventilate the roof without leaving the safety of an aerial basket. Using a cutting system that combines a fine water stream and abrasives at pressures powerful enough to laser through almost any type of building construction, the Swedes have discovered that their new cutter has an exciting bonus: it helps extinguish fires, too. IFSTA’s Gene Carlson was impressed by the product demonstration at Interschutz. “It can cut through hardened steel and stainless steel, concrete, and stone. Consequently, it could easily cut through wooden and noncombustible materials typically used in U.S. building constructions,” Carlson said. The high-pressure water it cuts with, once inside the hole, sprays the environment with a fine mist, which expands and has the secondary beneficial effect of cooling the environment and aiding in extinguishing the fire, Carlson notes. By cooling the heated atmosphere, it helps prevent the ignition of hot gases and reduces the risk of flashover or backdraft, making interior operations safer for firefighters. Cutting takes place with “no appreciable temperature rise,” the manufacturer says, making it a safer option for cutting in hazmat situations involving flammables, such as gas line or propane storage tank incidents, and air crash-rescue and firefighting. Actually, the Cobra evolved out of technology developed to safely cut into charged pipelines and storage tanks for the petroleum industry 15 years ago. The project to adapt the technology for fire and rescue applications began in 1996 under the oversight of the Swedish Rescue Services Agency, the country’s top government agency for fire and rescue training and research. Two prototypes of the system were mounted on Bronto Skylift aerials and tested by fire brigades in Lulea and Helsingborg, Sweden, in 1996/1997. The product shown today consists of a long stainless steel nozzle that resembles the wand of a high- pressure washer, a cylinder where a fine metal-based sand is stored, a high pressure pump, a small tank for holding a the pressurized water-sand slurry and a control panel. The pump charges the 10-gallon tank with the slurry at 4,000 psi and delivers from the nozzle tip at about 10 gpm. A bead about 1/16 of an inch in diameter does the cutting. The aerial-mounted cutter is controlled by firefighters inside the basket. The device has a reach of about 7 feet out and 3 feet down. Bronto’s aerial-mounted Cobra Cold Cut System is available in the U.S. from E-One. A 118-foot Bronto with the Cobra Cold Cut System is currently making the show circuit and touring the United States. According to Dave McAlice, aerial sales specialist for E-One/Bronto, people are very impressed with its cutting speed at demonstrations. “In about 45 seconds, it can cut a 30-inch hole in typical wood roof construction with two layers of asphalt shingles” McAlice says. A Cobra Cold Cut System with a hand-held cutting wand was introduced in late 1999, making the system mountable to all kinds of fire apparatus. Even a JEEP can carry a Cobra now. After conducting extensive testing in fire extinguishment with the tool at the Swedish Rescue Services Agency, Bo Andersson, project leader, believes it will revolutionize the way fires are extinguished in Sweden. “From the beginning, the purpose was to create a safe working environment for the firefighter working on roofs,” says Andersson. “It started as a new method to cut holes, we but today it is being used to extinguish fires.” Using this tool, firefighters can effectively conduct an interior fire attack safely from the exterior of the building, he says, by cutting a small hole in the building and the injecting high- pressure mist. Limiting the size of the hole cut with the device prevents the fire from getting oxygen and the injection of high-pressure water finishes the job. “In situations where the fire is still in the building and all windows and doors are intact, the CCS-Cobra will kill the fire in a few minutes,” says Andersson. For more information, visit http://www.ccs-cobra.com on the Web or send e-mail to Lars Larsson, firstname.lastname@example.org. The results of full-scale tests conducted in Oslow in late 1999 are available in an Adobe Acrobat report at the company’s Web site. Details on the aerial cutter/extinguisher are also available from E-One’s Dave McAlice, Aerial Sales/ E- One & Bronto, at (352) 861-3404. Bo Andersson can be contacted at email@example.com. Pat West is content director for FireFighting.com, a new-media resource for the fire, rescue and emergency services scheduled to open in October. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For the complete online version of this story, visit the Special Events area at FireFighting.com.
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