Everything Red

Firehouse Expo Report '99 by Michael J. Legeros


"Stairway to hell"
         - caption, framed photo of
           aerial ladder at fire


The 17th Annual Firehouse Magazine Fire and Emergency Services Expo
was held in Baltimore last week.  Five days of training, conference
sessions, and one gloriously gigantic exhibit floor, filled to the
gills with trucks, tools, toys, and tee-shirts.  (My first stop was
the same as last year's:  Code 3 Collectibles, makers of must-have
miniatures and where I went ahead and turned over my wallet.)  Other
Expo events included an apparatus parade and "firematic" flea mar-
ket, both on Sunday and both scheduled to start at the same time.
And not a single cloning machine in sight.  On Friday, my travel
companion and I spent eight hours on the road from Raleigh, logging
such side-adventures as nearly running out of gas, climbing an unoc-
cupied (forest) fire tower, visiting a state mental hospital, visit-
ing a shopping cart factory, driving through *two* outlet malls,
driving upon an airport runway taxiway, and eating dinner at a fam-
ily restaurant called Hooter's.  (You know, the one with the owls.)
We arrived at our lodging late Friday, in the Maryland town Bowie
(pronounced "Bouy").  By Saturday morning, we were at the Inner Har-
bor, parked across from the O's home (Camden Yards), and walking the
two blocks to the Baltimore Convention Center.  (Later at lunch, we
walked another three to the waterfront.)  The exhibit floor was our
lone destination and consumed nearly all our time, though my compan-
ion opted to shop for a stretch.  (Casual Corner, if you must know.)
I stayed behind and took a ton of pictures and bagged the requisite
freebies *and* jotted down a dozen-or-so "fire things" that even the
lay-est of lay people would probably find interesting.  They're re-
printed below and with accompanying contact info, where possible.


  o AUTOMATED ACCOUNTABILITY SYSTEM - Plastic tags that attach
    to protective gear.  Each has a bar code that's scanned
    when a firefighter enters or exits the "fire building."
    Connects to a (palm) computer that computes the number of
    personnel on scene, which ones are inside, and even whose
    air bottles are likely low.  Contact: www.xtrack.com

  o EMERGENCY AIR-PURIFYING FILTER - Simple, (larger) pocket-
    sized canister that attaches to a firefighter's face mask,
    for use when their self-contained breathing apparatus (AKA
    SCBA) bottle runs out of air.  Provides a "minimum of fif-
    teen minutes protection."  Fume about it.  Contact: www.
    evac-u8.com

  o HYDROCARBON CLEANING AGENT - Vegetable-based (!) compound
    that provides "bioremediation" (their word) for fuel spills
    and the like.  Can be applied from a simple pressurized ex-
    tinguisher and works by, get this: using *existing* envi-
    ronmental microbes to attack the offending molecules!  No
    more vapors; no more flammability!  Contact: www.fsinorth
    .com

  o ICE RESCUE VEHICLE - Think a giant pizza roller attached to
    a raft.  Or one-half of the Flintstonemobile.  The front,
    equipped with long metal blades, rolls on the ice while
    breaking it; the rear floats on the resulting water path.
    Not yet in production, however, or so I overheard.  Should
    make a big splash.

  o LANDING ZONE STROBE LIGHTS - Used by rescue crews to pre-
    pare for air-ambulance (helicopter) landings.  Small "jump
    kit" (bag o' stuff) contains several strobes, all weighted
    and providing three hours of continuous use on two AA bat-
    teries.  Plus various colored lenses, battery tester, etc.
    Contact: www.priority1lss.com

  o LATERAL G-FORCE ACCELERATION ALERT - Device that warns the
    driver of a fire truck when it's about to tip over.  See,
    among other things, water is damn heavy.  8.3333333 pounds
    per gallon.  So, your average 500-gallon pumper is actually
    toting over two *tons* of water.  Think about it.  Contact:
    www.lg-alert.com

  o REFLECTIVE, PHOTO LUMINESCENT TRIM - Plastic-like strips
    that affix to helmets, clothing, and equipment.  Glow-in-
    the-dark, too!  Ten seconds of light-- incandescent, natur-
    al, or fluorescent-- provides sixty *minutes* of potential-
    ly life-saving afterglow.  Also flame- and heat-resistant.
    Cool.  Contact: www.glo-flex.com

  o "RUGGEDIZED COMPUTER" - Think a Humvee-style laptop.  Big,
    bulky, and supposedly unbreakable.  I wonder if Arnold Sch-
    warzenegger owns one?  (Another neat thingie, this one a
    computer program, superimposes flames, soot, smoke, etc.
    upon user-scanned pictures of local buildings.  Or vehi-
    cles.  Or other stuff.  Contact: www.digitalcombustion.com
    for the latter.)

  o PORTABLE SONAR - See underwater, via vessel-towed device.
    Works best to 250 feet.  Displays sunken stuff on a laptop
    computer in a watertight case.  (And with near-photographic
    resolution, I'll add!)  Regrettably, the technology is more
    useful for body *recovery* than rescue, because of the in-
    herent time involved in response and deployment.  Contact:
    www.marinesonic.com

  o THERMAL IMAGING CAMERAS - Handy-dandy, many thousands-of-
    dollars device used to find hotspots within walls, locate
    people inside smoky rooms, or see through women's clothing
    at emergency services trade shows.  (Relax, ladies, only
    your underwear is visible.  That is, huh huh huh huh, un-
    less certain body parts are colder than the rest of you...)

  o THE WORLD'S LARGEST DIESEL-POWERED MOBILE FAN - John Deere-
    driven, twin axle trailer-mounted.  Heavy-duty steel and a-
    luminum construction.  High capacity air filter.  Anti-cor-
    rosion paint (red).  Designed to rapidly suck smoke out of
    buildings or blow equally large amounts of smoke up some-
    one's ass.  Contact: www.firefansystems.com


Copyright 2000 Michael J. Legeros

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