WFC News

Posted: Jun 4, 2013

Keeping It Safe The Future Ain't What It Used To Be, Part 2

By Robert Tutterow

In last month's column I discussed the 2013 Kill the Flashover (KTF) project conducted at the South Carolina Fire Academy. KTF, led by Chief Joe Starnes, looks at fire behavior through air track management. If we understand air track management, we can influence fire behavior in ways that make for much more effective and safer fire attack. The results of KTF go hand in glove with recent findings in a series of live fire burns by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) in Spartanburg, South Carolina. To highlight the findings, a well-respected fire chief asked one of the UL researchers if there is ever a situation when firefighters should go on a roof and open it for vertical ventilation. After a long pause, the answer was no. KTF confirmed this answer through its air track management study.

This month, I will review how the 2013 F.I.E.R.O. Biennial Fire Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Symposium complemented the findings of KTF. After observing KTF, Alan Bruancini, retired chief of the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department, said these recent findings will be difficult for the United States fire service to accept. His comment about the fire service's predictable reluctance to embrace a deeper understanding of fire behavior was underscored at the PPE Symposium on several fronts.


First, fire service attorney Jim Juneau gave an eye-opening presentation about how firefighters, company officers, and chief officers can be held accountable for their actions. Our actions are often grounded on indefensible traditions. Let me get your attention again: Juneau told the audience that leather helmets are not the best head protection. In fact, the European-style helmet is the optimal design available today. Many in the audience were quick to point out that leather helmets are National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) compliant. Juneau replied, "I can jump over that chair. An Olympic high jumper can also jump over that chair. Does that make us equal?"

The crusty old leather helmet, with its totally useless flip-down Bourke eye-shields, is symbolic of our defiance to scientific conclusions. Shhhh! Don't tell anyone, but the earth ain't flat. If the National Football League can take huge steps to improve the safety of its players, the fire service had better take heed. If we don't, someone else will do it for us.

The PPE Symposium was also the venue that Rich Duffy, retired assistant to the general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and veteran PPE expert, used to show photos of a new thermal imaging camera (TIC). The mini imager mounts on the SCBA face lens and reportedly produces an image quality so vivid that firefighters can identify the position of hose couplings on an attack line to lead them out of a structure if necessary. Speaking of the TIC, it is clearly the most underused tool in the fire service tool chest. TICs are absolutely critical in understanding air track management. Think of them as diagnostic tools.

Future Fire Service?

Imagine an American fire service learning from the European fire service. For decades, we've always dismissed the Europeans' approach by saying their building construction is different-and it is. However, fire behavior is the same across the planet. Imagine a fire service that rarely performs vertical ventilation; uses smaller hoselines; uses less water; uses foam or a wetting agent on every attack; "closes up" rather than "opens up" burning structures; equips every firefighter with a TIC mounted on his face mask or helmet; wears European- style helmets; often uses positive-pressure attack; and ensures every firefighter has a scientific baseline of knowledge about fire behavior-i.e. air track management. The idea could transform our training, our PPE, and our apparatus and change the makeup of our firefighting toolbox.

These are inte

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Posted: Jun 4, 2013

Protecting Firefighters

By Richard Marinucci

Today's fire service offers more personal protective equipment (PPE) than ever before. This should not be a revelation to anyone in this business. Besides having more options, the standard protective equipment has continued to improve to offer a higher level of safety while still allowing firefighters to do the job. For example, turnout gear is lighter and more resistant to heat and has a better moisture barrier. Having the right tools is only part of the equation. Firefighters must accept the responsibility to not only use the equipment but use it properly.

Required and Enforced

I recently was in the locker room of a professional football team and I noticed a large poster that demonstrated the proper way to wear the uniform and pads. I wondered why this was necessary since all of the players have been in football most of their lives. I realized that the players need a reminder and probably will look for a shortcut if they think it gives them an advantage. As such, the league does its best to educate the players so that they get the maximum protection. Of course, the requirement to wear the equipment properly is mandated and the players are subject to fines if they deviate from the standard. Players in the National Football League (NFL) have the best safety equipment available yet will not necessarily embrace all of it unless forced to do so. Although education is a part of the strategy, enforcement is necessary. This seems like a good plan to follow with firefighters to make sure they are operating as safely as possible.

Departments must continually educate personnel on the value and use of safety equipment. Education may not be the only word to use-it could be nagging! Regardless, the purpose is to minimize the chance that complacency becomes the root cause of a preventable injury. Firefighters must continually be reminded to use their chin straps, cover exposed skin, wear their hoods, and have their gloves on. Why is it the responsibility of the leadership to do this when the firefighters should see the obvious advantage to their well-being? It is for the same reason the NFL feels it is important to continually remind its players to use their equipment.

But, continual reminders can only go so far. There must be consequences when all else fails. Football players are to wear the equipment as prescribed by the league. If not, they are subject to penalties that can hurt their team's chances of winning and they can be fined, which hurts their pocketbooks. If an organization is really serious about an issue, it must be willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that its wishes are met.

Changing Mindsets

There are other things to consider. In previous occupations, I can recall workers disabling safety equipment-items designed to keep them from being injured. Occasionally someone would get hurt. Of course, it was never the worker's fault! Now, I am not here to accuse anyone else in the fire service of blatantly disregarding safe working practices. But, I can say that maybe in my younger days, along with some of my coworkers, we may have taken shortcuts. Because of my age, I can be reasonably sure that the statute of limitations has passed. Looking at this experience, I know shortcuts could only be taken if the culture of the organization allowed it to happen. I believe that to be the case and know that it takes great effort to undo this line of thinking. It is worth the effort for the leadership of an organization to change the mindset of its members so that this is not acceptable.

Always a Chance for Injury

Even if all the PPE is worn correctly and all safety devices are used, there is still a chance for an injury. This can be minimized if the equipment is used as intended and operators are properly trained. This can become more challenging to departments as they now have many more options when choosing

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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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