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Posted: Jan 10, 2014

The MegaMover®

By Raul A. Angulo

One year I had the privilege of moderating Brennan and Bruno "Unplugged" at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC).

I remember someone from the audience at an FDIC Big Room Session asked the late, great Tom Brennan, former editor in chief of Fire Engineering, about search and rescue techniques-specifically referring to which lifting technique he preferred when carrying a victim out of a building. Brennan looked at Chief (Ret.) Alan Brunacini, Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department, with that "What do you think" look and said something like, " I don't know, I think in the heat of the battle you just grab them and go and hope whatever you're holding onto (skin, clothes, or an arm) doesn't come off!" It's a graphic word picture, but the tongue-in-cheek comment was based on the reality of this job.

MegaMover
The MegaMover measures 40 by 80 inches and is made from
nonwoven, latex-free nylon. This provides a fluid barrier for
protection. Heavy duty reinforced nylon straps are set in a grid to
provide strength and support for the patient. Fourteen handles
evenly spaced are part of the grid system to provide a working
strength of 1,000 pounds with a maximum breaking strength of
1,500 pounds, yet the entire unit only weighs one pound. (Photos
by author.)

When you think about it, whether we're talking about firefighting, technical rescues, motor vehicle accidents, or emergency medical services (EMS), a lot of our job involves moving a person from point A to point B-from a hazardous area to an area of safety. Since the traditional fireman's carry, tools and techniques have been developed to make this task easier. As emergency medicine evolved, a whole new emphasis was placed on spinal stabilization during extrication procedures, which led to the development of specialized spinal stabilizing devices. But tools and ideas don't have to be complicated to work. One case in point is the MegaMover®.

Enhancing an Old Idea

The MegaMover is based on the old blanket drag rescue technique. Then someone thought, "You know what this blanket needs? Handles!" After a few blankets ripped and patients dropped, someone else thought, "You know, this blanket needs to be made of something stronger than cotton." And, so it went. Although firefighters were still using large, heavy canvas tarps for this evolution, the idea was seized and perfected by Graham Medical, a subsidiary of the Little Rapids Corporation in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The MegaMover is a portable patient transport unit used to transport, transfer, or rescue patients from areas inaccessible to stretchers and for transferring a patient from a gurney to a bed. It could be considered a lightweight tarp with handles. This 40- x 80-inch nonwoven, latex-free, nylon-constructed tarp provides a fluid barrier to protect personnel, equipment, chairs, and mattresses from blood and other bodily fluids. Additional heavy duty reinforced nylon straps are laid out in a vertical and horizontal grid, which gives it the strength to withstand 1,000 pounds. The actual weight capacity is 1,500 pounds, which gives the MegaMover an almost 2:1 safety factor, yet this compact unit weighs only one pound. The support grid incorporates 14 reinforced nylon handles, which are evenly spaced around the tarp.

There are various models of the MegaMover. In the Seattle (WA) Fire Department (SFD), we use the disposable basic 1500 model, named for the weight capacity of 1,500 pounds. The MegaMoverPlus has built-in pockets to accommodate standard backboards for spinal and neck injury transports, and the newest

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Posted: Jan 10, 2014

Personal Safety Equipment Broadens Its Reach Among Fire Departments

By Alan M. Petrillo

More and more departments, large and small, are moving toward providing firefighters with personal safety gear often referred to as bailout kits.

Some styles of this equipment are embedded in turnout pants, like internal harnesses, while others are separate units. But, each type of escape gear is there to give firefighters the ability to save themselves if it becomes necessary.

Growing Market

Matt Hunt, rescue safety market manager for Sterling Rope Co., says Sterling has seen a continued growth in the personal escape market for firefighters. Fire departments are getting used to the idea of issuing personal escape gear to firefighters doing high-rise work, Hunt says, especially those in residential structures like apartment buildings where there are no fire suppression systems like standpipes or sprinklers.

"A fall off of the third story of a structure can be as bad as a longer fall," Hunt says, "depending on what you land on. Realistically we think every interior firefighter should have access to a personal escape system."

Sterling Rope offers the component parts that go into a personal escape system as well as complete systems themselves. "We are now producing our own hook, the Lightning hook," he says, "made out of aluminum instead of steel, to cut the weight by a third, and with a gated hitching slot like a carabiner where you clip in instead of having to thread the rope through a slot."

Sterling Rope makes the F4 Escape Tech kit
Sterling Rope makes the F4 Escape Tech kit that includes its newly
developed Lightning hook, shown here being deployed. (Photo
courtesy of Sterling Rope Co.)

The Sterling-built F4 Escape Tech kit includes 50 feet of Escape Tech rope, an F4 escape device, a SAFE-D three-stage carabiner, and a Lightning hook enclosed in a low-profile bag that hangs below a firefighter's SCBA. Hunt notes that the system weighs 3.2 pounds, and each component is UL-certified to NFPA 1983, Standard on Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services. The F4 Escape Tech system also can be configured with a Crosby hook instead of the Lightning hook.

Some departments prefer to build their own kits depending on their needs assessments, Hunt points out, and many of them pick and choose specific pieces of equipment from different manufacturers to develop their own customized personal escape kit. "Most personal escape kits are aftermarket solutions," Hunt adds, "but over time, we will see more integrated solutions where the entire system is designed as a unit to work together. We're also seeing a trend toward integration with some self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) companies offering escape systems built onto their SCBA."

SCBA Integrated System

Mark Williamson, global product manager for supplied air products at Avon Protection Systems Inc., says his company makes a personal escape system that attaches to its Deltair SCBA lumbar pad with two straps. "If it's needed, you could drop the SCBA, hold the release straps (which keep the rescue belt on), anchor yourself, and use the descending device," Williamson says.

The Avon system is custom built through a Fire Innovations design, he notes, to include 50 feet of Sterling TSafe Technora 7.5-millimeter rope attached to a carabiner, anchor hook, and descending device. "The system can be used as a standalone rescue belt too," Williamson points out.

Integrated Class II HarnessRead more
Posted: Jan 10, 2014

Highway Incident Safety: One Department's Solution

By Robert Tutterow

This column has a personal connection because it is about my former volunteer fire department-the Center Volunteer Fire Department (CVFD) in the Piedmont of North Carolina. I was an active member and chief officer with the department in the late 1970s through the late 1980s before my employment with the Charlotte (NC) Fire Department. My father was a charter member of the CVFD, which was organized in 1958.

The department is located 25 miles southwest of Winston Salem, North Carolina, along the Interstate 40 (I-40) corridor. It serves a primarily rural environment, with a commercial area on the outskirts of the response district.

I-40 runs through the middle of the district, and the department is first due to several miles (east and west) of the interstate. This portion of I-40 carries light to moderate traffic, and the posted speed limit is 70 miles per hour (mph). Because of its rural setting, motorists are often "numbed"-i.e., not paying close attention while driving. This "numbing" effect can be very hazardous to emergency responders.

This pumper was retrofitted for safety on interstate incidents.
This pumper was retrofitted for safety on interstate incidents. (Photo
by author.)

Struck Apparatus

This setting has been the scene of two major crashes during the past five years involving motorists striking CVFD vehicles. In August 2009, its new tanker-pumper, in service for just a couple of months, was struck in the rear while tending to a motor vehicle accident. The impact caused a whiplash injury to the driver/operator. And in December 2010, its Ford F-350 crew cab "quick response" vehicle was demolished by a tractor trailer. The crew was arriving on the scene of a four-vehicle accident and had slowed to about five mph while positioning to render aid. The impact of the collision flipped the CVFD vehicle 2½ times, and it came to rest on its roof. After impact, the tractor trailer proceeded to take out 465 feet of guardrail. The two CVFD firefighters inside the vehicle were injured. One suffered a concussion and knee injury, and the other suffered a broken collarbone. Both firefighters were buckled; if they had not been, they could have easily been killed.

The department has experienced several other close calls. On one occasion, charges were filed against a motorist who ran through traffic cones into an incident zone. Fortunately, there was no collision or any emergency responders struck.

This new pumper had been in service only two months when it was rear-ended
This new pumper had been in service only two months when it was
rear-ended. The driver/operator suffered minor injuries. (Photo
courtesy of the Center Volunteer Fire Department.)

Apparatus for Highway Safety

Based on the two accidents and other close calls, the department recognized it was time to reexamine its fleet and response protocol. Since its founding, the department had purchased two-door commercial cabs for its apparatus. Typically, for interstate response, only the driver/operator would be in the apparatus and everyone else responded in their privately owned vehicles (POVs). This served the department well during its first 50 years. I personally responded to this stretch of interstate in my POV or as driver/operator dozens of times.

After careful examination, the department decided it needed a crashworth

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Posted: Jan 10, 2014

Clearwater, Florida, New Heavy Duty Rescue Squad

By Ricky Riley

The Clearwater (FL) Fire & Rescue Department (CFR) is pleased to announce the arrival of its new 2014 Pierce Velocity heavy duty rescue squad.

The purchase came under the direction of Chief Robert Weiss, and the unit serves as a front-line response vehicle to all structure fires, gas leaks, water rescues, technical rescues, and vehicle accidents with entrapment.

CFR is located on the west coast of Florida and is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. The department consists of eight fire stations and protects nearly 41 square miles of homes, industry, retirement communities, beaches, and a large tourist population. The more than 130,000 residents of Clearwater are protected by 201 personnel who operate eight engine companies, two truck companies, one heavy rescue squad, five advanced life support (ALS) rescue units, and two district chiefs.

CFR Rescue Squad 51 is built on a Pierce Velocity cab and chassis
CFR Rescue Squad 51 is built on a Pierce Velocity cab and
chassis, the standard for CFR engine company apparatus
purchases for the past four years. This ensures standardization
for all cab equipment, radio, and computer placement, along with
a common wiring and layout for the fleet services mechanics. The
heavy duty rescue body is constructed of aluminum and is a
nonwalk-in style. It is 100 inches wide to provide additional
storage capacity and is 23½ feet long. (Photos by author.)

Spec Development

In early 2012, an employee-based apparatus committee began to develop the specifications for a new rescue vehicle. The committee used the expertise and assistance of its Pierce salesperson as well as an apparatus engineer. CFR designed the requirements and desired capabilities including using a single vs. tandem axle, body compartments, engine size, onboard generator, and breathing air system needs. This approach allowed CFR to have working specifications to present to the city's fleet manager and Weiss for a streamlined approval process.

After the Clearwater mayor and city council approved the purchase, the fire department placed the order in October 2012. Pierce delivered the new apparatus in June 2013. From there, the unit was turned over to the apparatus committee for the compartment design and layout for equipment placement.

The truck features a vehicle-mounted toolbox
The truck features a vehicle-mounted
toolbox with a mechanic-grade tool
complement along with transportable tool
sets for mobile operations.

The Chassis

The unit has a Pierce Velocity cab, the standard for CFR engine company apparatus purchases for the past four years. This ensures standardization for all cab equipment, radio, and computer placement, along with a common wiring and layout for fleet services mechanics. The unit also features:

  • Cummins ISL 450-hp engine
  • Allison 3000 EVS transmission
  • Jacobs engine brake
  • Exhaust routed vertically through body to top of vehicle
  • 259-inch wheelbase
  • 56,300-pound GVWR
  • Three-person seating arrangement
  • Will Burt Night Scan Light-tower mounted on roof of cab
A Warn 9,000-pound portable winch is stored in a front bumper extensionRead more
Posted: Jan 10, 2014

Protecting Firefighters

By Richard Marinucci

During the past few years, firefighter safety awareness has become a priority for the fire service. The goal is to significantly reduce unnecessary and preventable deaths and injuries in a job that has some inherent risks.

To be most successful at this while still providing the service that is expected requires a comprehensive approach to firefighter safety. Protecting firefighters does not guarantee that they will not suffer from a preventable event. To provide the best possible protection requires firefighters' commitment, great training, and the best equipment available.

Taking Risks

As a rule, firefighters are generally considered risk takers. I don't think any fire chief would like to hire meek or passive firefighters. It is this characteristic that allows fire departments to provide services that benefit the community. Even with this natural tendency to take risks, I don't believe for a second that any firefighters would do anything to intentionally harm themselves. If they do harm themselves, they either are not as competent as they should be because they weren't trained adequately, they got complacent, or they thought that nothing bad could happen to them. There is one more factor that occasionally comes into play, and that is blind luck. Firefighters know that sometimes they are lucky to not get hurt. Conversely, there are times when some things go as well as possible and bad things still happen.

For an organization to protect firefighters, its personnel must take ownership of the issue and do what they can to promote their best self-interests. By this, I mean they need to do the things that allow them to be physically and mentally prepared to do the job. Firefighters have to accept the personal responsibility to be in the proper physical condition to do the job. Although departments can offer opportunities by having fitness rooms, they should also encourage better diets and require routine physical examinations. The individuals have the duty to stay in shape or get in shape and stay there. They need to realize that by being in good physical condition they can do the job better and reduce their risk of injury. They also can withstand injuries better and recover faster if they are unfortunate enough to get injured.

Training Commitment

Firefighters also have a responsibility in other areas that affect firefighter well-being. For example, they need to commit to training. Although training improves service, it also gives firefighters more tools to make better decisions and perform tasks at a more proficient level.

Training is the key to protecting firefighters. Properly trained firefighters will make good decisions and have great techniques. Unfortunately for the majority of firefighters, there is not enough opportunity to gain experience to be as competent as possible. To compensate, organizations need to invest more in preparing their personnel. This involves a comprehensive approach that includes the basics learned in recruit school all the way to incident command. It also involves constantly studying the profession to learn from previous errors and learning new developments that affect operations.

Firefighters often get bored and don't want to commit the necessary time and energy to repeat a skill often enough to establish and maintain the highest possible level of competence and skill. Another possibility is that they are getting busier all the time and may not have the time to do what is necessary. But, like many skills, failure to master the skill and maintain that mastery could lead to problems on the fireground. Although everyone can perform the basics, there may be cases where that is not good enough. Firefighters need to be true masters of their skills. The only way to do this is to repeat training and refresh frequently. Perhaps organizations should realistically assess how often each of t

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