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DEFSEC Media is New Zealand's defence, security and fire B2B/B2G publishing group. Our leading magazines, Line of DefenceNZ Security and Fire NZ are read by key business, government and military decision makers and influencers. This website is the online home of cutting-edge content from each of our titles.

Innovation Central

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The Future of Firefighting Equipment

FireNZ Magazine, September 2017

An Aerone firefighting droneAn Aerone firefighting drone

 

With the daily dangers faced by fire fighters recognised as a harsh reality of the job, Paul North of UK-based Fire & Water Supplies believes that the development and continual improvement to equipment should be consistently monitored. In this article, he identifies a number of key developments.

 

Keeping up to date with the latest technologies and inventions is important, and improvements to safety in the field, however small, should be welcomed with open arms. So, what does the future hold for firefighting equipment?

 

Drones

Drones, although originally developed primarily for military use, are becoming more popular for a variety of uses in different industries, including surveillance, photography, agriculture, policing, and potentially firefighting. In Latvia, manufacturer Aerones Ltd. has partnered with the search and rescue team of a town called Aizkraukle, to experiment on the use of drones and their future potential for fighting fires.

The benefit of using a drone is that as it is aerial, it has the potential to reach much larger heights than fire truck ladders, and can get to dangerous spots far more easily than a person could without the additional risk to human life. The experiments conducted proved that drones could be a viable option for extinguishing fires from heights of up to 300-400 metres, and Aerones is currently in the process of patenting drones for this specific use and conducting further development.

 

Talking Alarms

We can now converse with our phones, our cars and our music systems, so why not fire safety equipment too? Well, we can’t quite converse yet, but there have been various developments that allow certain pieces of equipment to talk to us.

In 2006, a piece of equipment known as the ‘Vocal Smoke Alarm’ was produced by SignalONE. This innovative piece of equipment allowed parents to record their own message directly onto the alarm that would then play in the event of the alarm being triggered, alongside a loud beeping.

The theory behind this was that a familiar voice might be more likely to wake a sleeping child in the event of a fire than a standard alarm. One appealing idea behind this is that the recorded message can say whatever you want, including giving directions for any children to get safely out in case their parents cannot reach them. 

Despite its potential benefits, the alarm is no longer for sale and there is nothing similar currently on the market

There are, however, alarms available that utilise pre-recorded voice messages rather than just the standard alarm sound, and these also have the benefit of being able to give clear and concise instructions in the event of a fire. The Integrated Voice Evacuation and Messaging System by Fike, for example, can be customised to emit a chosen voice message in the event of an emergency.

 

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Fire Extinguishers

An integral piece of fire safety equipment, fire extinguishers come in many different varieties that are tailored toward specific fires, and are constantly being refined. Amongst the newly developed offerings are Cold Fire extinguishers, which remove the heat and fuel source from a fire, effectively preventing it from igniting again by removing two of its main components.

Not only are they environmentally friendly, but Cold Fire extinguishers also work on all classes of fire, making them incredibly versatile and reducing the need to have several different types of extinguisher present. They are non-hazardous to people, meaning they can be used on people if needed, and they are also non-corrosive, which means fire departments can add the Cold Fire agent to tanks or hoses safely.

This development is an immense step forward for the firefighting industry as it is not only effective but is also non-harmful to firefighters, their surroundings and any fire victims.

Although it is more of an idea at the moment, another example of pushing the boundaries with fire extinguishers comes from two students at George Mason University in Virginia. Developing chemical and water free extinguishers, they have harnessed the power of sound to put out a fire by emitting sound waves at it.

The sound waves work to separate the fuel and oxygen, killing the fire. At the moment, this method is only suitable for use on small fires and there is no product in production, just a prototype – but the idea is certainly promising and one that merits further research.

 

Visibility Masks

If firefighters need to enter a building that is already heavily fire damaged and filled with smoke, visibility can be an issue. The C-Thru Smoke Diving Helmet, designed by Omer Haciomeroglu, works to combat this by providing a wire frame vision of the interior which allows firefighters to identify their surroundings – and any victims still inside – more easily.

The helmet allows for full visibility during rescue missions and simplifies the different heat layers. It also reduces the need for firefighters to carry heavy equipment for air support and should minimise the time they need to be in the building as they can see and move far more easily.

The helmets also include a voice communication system that allows firefighters to talk to each other and communicate their movements, which allows for a far more efficient search and rescue in a dangerous situation. Those inside can be reliably kept track of and a far better understanding of the building interior can be obtained.

Another exciting development is the Scott Sight mask launched this year by Scott Safety. This groundbreaking mask features a thermal imaging system within the mask’s display that will enable firefighters to see clearly. It is lightweight and can be configured to individual needs with different hot spot and ambient temperature settings.

As with the C-Thru Smoke Diving Helmet, the increased visibility that this provides the wearer enables them to remain entirely focused on the situation, able to move swiftly and locate potential victims in the shortest amount of time possible.

 

Light

It may sound slightly odd, but having the correct lighting at the scene of a fire can make a huge amount of difference. A company known as Streamlight has developed a portable scene light that offers optimum illumination options.

The light has three levels of light intensity and can swivel 90 degrees in order to get the perfect angle and cast light where it is needed most. With lighting options ranging from a powerful flood beam to a much softer low setting that can be maintained for longer, the portable scene light could become a tool employed by more firefighters in the future.

 

Technology

As we continue to make huge technological advances, the implications for the firefighting industry are potentially huge. There are a huge variety of ways in which technology can aid and improve firefighting equipment, a big one being communication.

Most breathing masks now used by firefighters have contained radio communications systems since the 1990s. With improvements in technology, however, these devices can be improved to include more reliable ways of communicating on the scene as well as being able to transmit data back to a base.

This is essential for incident commanders who can quickly assess the scene and decide whether a situation demands more resources, or whether firefighters on the scene need to be evacuated if the situation becomes too dangerous. All additional data that can be gathered is precious, and only contributes to firefighters being able to work more efficiently and safely.

 

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