10/20/07 133 W, 1 I - + 15 - 9 Tradition and Helmets

In the September issue of Fire Chief magazine, Alan Tresemer makes some interesting points about change and innovation. On the subject of helmets, he says "today's firefighters use the same basic design that their great-grandfathers used." The American fire service, he continues, seems "married" to these traditional tops. "Firefighters burn their ears and these helmets look for any excuse to fall off." But yet when MSA produced a safer fighter-style helmet in the 1980s, no chiefs would buy them. They... looked funny, he recalls one observer. Today, such helmets are becoming a standard in Europe, but are not available in the United States. "If we don't buy them," he says of innovative products such as the fighter-style helmet, "they won't build them for us."

I guess I am different, in that I like the Cairns 660 and the Phenix 1500. I have a Cairns 1044 that was given to me, and it looks like a firefighting helmet, but I cannot get into the places I need to without taking it off. I know of one person around here that bought one of the helmets pictured, and he really liked it, but he got tired of everyone laughing at it.
DJ (Email) - 10/20/07 - 17:29

We had a German kid come stay with us at our voli department and brought one of the Euro helmets. Yeah it is a lot different but it does offer better protection. Also if you notice the full face shield that pulls down with most of them has been somewhat worked into the newer Cairns 1010 helmets with the flip down goggles/visor.
Coop - 10/20/07 - 20:39

I’ll keep my leather…..
Silver - 10/20/07 - 21:00

Kind of like the discussions about vehicle color and decoration. Tradition or safety?
SK - 10/21/07 - 08:39

^Why? There are no advantages to your old helmet over the new style. The new style offers MORE PROTECTION! But I forgot, it’s better to look cool than to be safer. Maybe us vollies need to learn from European firefighters.
Henry P. - 10/21/07 - 08:50

It has been several years since I was ‘across the big ponds’, but I remember some strange comparisons that were valid at the time, but may not be valid now-

1. I remember smaller fleets of older trucks with smaller pumps. After converting lpm to gpm there was one large Charlotte siz city with a fleet less-than-1000 gpm pumpers.
2. I remember fewer fire stations. They were bigger, with more trucks, and they had the narrow streets.
3. I remember lots of older buildings in the cities.
4. I remember talking with fire officers and learning that their fire loss rates and call volumes were a lot less than ours
5. I remember reading about a building fire in SE Asia that resulted in loss of property and life, was described as an ‘accident’, and the person responsible went to jail for 6 months (grease fire on the stove in an apartment building).
6. From what I read now their fire fighter death and injury rates are a lot lower than ours, even after you adjust for lower call volumes and fire incidents. Maybe they have something with those funny looking helmets and such.
7. From what I read now their fire losses are much lower than ours. Of course, when you have entire cities set on fire by hundreds of bombers every night for a couple of years you learn about such things.

For whatever reason, we never seem to pay attention to the lessons others have already learned.

“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” Douglas Adams
DJ (Email) - 10/21/07 - 11:42

Henry P, Not really about looking cool, I can do that in whatever I wear, hahahahahaha. I guess I like the tradition….even though that might not be right.

Let me ask this; do you have any red lights in your POV? I mean, if we’re going to play safety, how many of our Brothers and Sisters died while responding in their POV’s last year while en-route to a call/firehouse? And yet, we still see tons of people with the lights in there vehicles. I did it, but I guess with age comes wisdom. I see now how freakin’ dangerous it is to be in a “insert any POV here”, with red light on the dash, and more than likely exceeding the speed limit, weaving through traffic.

My point is, we see the danger in it, but we still do it. Yes, I realize John Q. Citizen is usually clueless when we’re behind them in a mid-mount ALF with “Q” screaming and lights flashing, but it’s even more dangerous when you’re in a “insert POV here”.

When I was a vollie in Apex, I gave a guy (we’ll just call J.R.) hell for not using a red light. Now, I realize he was so right in his statements, and I wish I wouldn’t have given him crap like I did. Go ahead and fire away now and see my disclosure on thewatchdesk.com if I hurt anyone’s feelings, but seriously, it’s nothing personal against vollies, I’m just showing how our minds work. Yes, we all know this job is dangerous, but we bring certain risks upon ourselves, knowing that it might not be the safest thing in the world. Don’t worry guys, if I see you in my mirror I’ll move to the right and let you by, because I know “the deal”.

DJ, I see most of your points. It’s been known that “over there” has made some major advancements in their fire service technology. But, I think it goes a little further than just a helmet when you compare numbers (building construction, namely truss, firefighter health and fitness, operating apparatus, and yes, firefighter safety).

Stay safe, no matter what kind lid you wear….
Silver - 10/21/07 - 13:18

Oops, supposed to say : “Stay safe, no matter what kind OF lid you wear”....
Silver - 10/21/07 - 13:19

Yeah, it is further than the kind of helmet. That is just one example. And they do pay a lot more attention to fitness than we do, and they definitely spend more effort on building contruction. I doubt if they even use the light weight truss over there, because they do apply the ‘what if…’ to a lot more than we do.

I know we caught a lot of stuff when we put the chevrons on the back of our rides. I have heard everything from they are distracting, they draw people to them, they cause seizures, etc. And I can see the day in the not-so-distant future when we have some sort of pattern on the sides of our units, as well. Funny looking? No doubt (although now an ambulance looks kind of silly to me without them). Tacky looking? All in the eyes of the beholder, but hey, I was a teenager and twenty-something during the disco era, so I can tell you about tacky (and I have worn stuff that makes Mike’s t-shirts and Hawaiian shirts look pretty, well, normal). But if it makes me safer, go for it. I would like to see a comparison of their emergency vehicle crashes vs ours.

Red lights? I can’t count how many times I nearly went airborne crossing the railroad tracks on Old Apex Rd back in the day. And in those days there were no flashing lights or gates at that crossing (they were only at Academy St). I just knew that red lights made my vehicle invincible (as well as added 100 hp). Doing a doughnut in the roadway at 0200 one night crossing those tracks at 80 mph, in the rain, barely missing the train, and I STILL ran off the road into the Sycamore Plastics yard (before the trees were there) sort of showed me the error of my ways. I am just glad no one ever noticed the tire marks right away. And no, I did not go to the call (fire alarm at Austin Foods). I just went back home.

As to looking cool, I was born that way (LOL). Nobody has me beat in a white and blue E450 with chevrons and a pair of RayBans.

As to helmets, you have to wear what the boss man provides, unless he lets you wear something else. And if it meets the safety rules in effect, well, there you have it.
DJ (Email) - 10/21/07 - 14:42

It’s Syracuse Plastics Dale… that was the best set of RR tracks to jump in Cary. Always thought that if I hit them fast enough, I could just land on E Durham Rd. It was just that the magnet on the tear drop was not strong enough to hold to my steel dash when I landed.
Olson - 10/21/07 - 16:01

Syracuse, Sycamore, Stradivarius…those were the days.

Dashboard light?!?!? Nah…genuine Federal FB11 out on the roof. Still got it, too. Original bulb and cover.
DJ (Email) - 10/21/07 - 17:35

Speaking of jumping tracks, Tingen Rd. near Salem St. in Apex ranks right up there.
Silver - 10/21/07 - 19:08

Did that one on the original Cary 571.
DJ (Email) - 10/21/07 - 19:26

I noticed tonight on the news that Long Beach, Ca. FD wears similar helmets. So much for tradition for them. I guess they decided safety was much better.
Henry P. - 10/22/07 - 19:17

Red lights?
Silver - 10/22/07 - 20:19

Yeah, you know…red lights. Those blinking things affixed so that they are visible to the front of a personally owned motor vehicle that typically belongs to a member of a volunteer fire department, rescue squad, or EMS. They are unique in their ability to add horsepower and performance ability to an otherwise ordinary vehicle. They also work better than tequila to increase your level of confidence and invulnerability.

Nowadays, they have corner strobes, LEDs, and more. In my day, you weren’t cool unless you had a genuine Federal FB11 Super Fireball, along with four (4) grill lights. And if two of those grill lights were clear, then you were above all others…
DJ (Email) - 10/23/07 - 07:48

I agree with DJ. I don’t even have a light in my truck anymore. Think about it, now a days there are stop lights everywhere….even in the rural areas. Having a “red light” in your vehicle does not mean that you can break the LAW as some people think.(such as running stop lights and speeding) Even still, you are not getting there any faster by running other tax payers off the road so you can get to the station to catch the engine for that fire alarm. Not only that you are putting yourself at risk of being involved in a accident.

Now on to the helmet subject,

We use the Cairns 1010, and so far none of us have any complaints about them.(that ive heard) To me they are light as a feather. Does anybody have those helmets that so heavy after wearing them for a while you have to pop your neck once you take them off???

Just my two cents…............
Beach - 10/23/07 - 10:42

I have a Cairns 660 for the EMS stuff, and a Cairns 1044 for the hot stuff. I like them both, although the 1044 is top-heavy. I can get my big a** in a lot of tight places and keep the 660 on. I bought a Sam Houston several years ago in Anne Arundel, but sold it quickly thereafter, because it was way too heavy. Many many years ago, I had a Morning Pride composite (it sits on my shelf now) that felt like it wieghed a ton. It was a sturdy helmet, but it felt like it was made out of cast iron.

A co-worker of mine once bought one of the Brigade helmets when they were first marketed here. I tried it and it was really comfortable. It was light, and it just made you feel ‘secure’. I was going to buy one, and then they stopped selling them.

As to the red lights, they serve two purposes right now. First, I can park in front of EMS station 1 now for meetings and quick visits. In other areas of the state, particularly those that are a little more rural, there is still a certain status attributable to them. A park ranger down at Hatteras was about to write me a ticket for sleeping on the beach until he saw the light.

But it does seem like it was a lot more fun back then. Fireball on the dash, big old red Minitor I parked on your belt…I can hear it now- “Cary to Raleigh. Dispatch Yrac for a house fire…”
DJ (Email) - 10/23/07 - 10:59

Yes DJ, I know what red lights are. However, “Henry P” seems to dig about my lid, so I dug back about his “show of lights”, and if he has one/many or not. Perhaps I should’ve directed the question to him to eliminate confusion…

I can top that one. At Apex Station 1 there used to be a white phone that hung on the wall in the radio room. That phone was the “911 line” from Raleigh to Apex. Back in the good ol’ days, when we’d hang in the radio room and the phone would ring, if you had “a set”, you’d pick it up and eavesdrop. Ninety nine percent of the time, it was a Raleigh dispatcher talking to an Apex dispatcher about a dispatch request or transferring a live 911 call. Sort of like a pre-alert, when someone would call 911 and the call would go to Raleigh because Apex lacked a “911 system” and the call would have to be transferred for dispatch, we’d then all scramble out of the radio room with chairs flying to grab a seat on the rig…good times.
Silver - 10/23/07 - 12:58

Remember personal info?

/ Textile

Comment moderation is enabled on this site. This means that your comment will not be visible on this site until it has been approved by an editor.

To prevent spam we require you to answer this silly question

  (Register your username / Log in)

Hide email:

Small print: All html tags except <b> and <i> will be removed from your comment. You can make links by just typing the url or mail-address.