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Unsung Heroes in Fire Safety

Often we don’t sit back and think about our industry, what journey have we been on to be where we are today? I scan through this magazine and look at all the new high tech equipment now available to fire fighters, the public and for building fire protection and I wonder who the unsung heroes are that thought of, researched, developed and trialled all this high tech gear.

Don’t let anyone tell you that the good old days were a time to be rejoiced. When I was a young fire fighter in the 1970s our uniforms didn’t protect us, our helmets were flimsy and even the hose branches we used had no controls, they were also less effective than today’s. I could go on and compare ladders, breathing apparatus, rescue tools etc. then and now, but I don’t have the space. Building protection in the 70s was mainly designed around passive protection and domestic smoke alarms (if you could find a supplier) cost $280 in today’s dollar terms, they were also less effective. Sprinkler systems were designed mainly for asset protection unlike the fast response life safety heads of today, alarm systems were a simple open and closed circuit unlike the addressable ones now in use.

Who are these people that have innovated, who improve on the existing hardware, develop new tools and products to make fire fighters and civilian’s lives safer as well as protecting our homes and national infrastructure?

I know there is a commercial element in all of this but the fire/emergency industries, in my view, innovate way above their weight. More importantly each of these innovations assist society whether it be life safety, asset or business protection.

There are two groups that we should recognise, the first being the corporates who develop their own in-house innovations, either from first principles or adopting and adapting technology from other industry sectors completely different to ours. USAR tools are a good example of this, a large number of the tools being used now come from the mining industry, and another one that stands out is the lighting systems used in rescue that originated in the film industry.

The second group are those individuals that not only have a good idea and develop them themselves, they set up new businesses to market a product that the customers don’t even realise they need. This is the hard way to do it but they are there by the hundreds – just look at the number of social media applications now being offered to agencies and the public.

Do a simple test, read all the advertisements in this edition not to look at the product but to look at the innovation that has taken place over the past two decades with each product and if it wasn’t there twenty years ago think about who came up with the idea and be proud of our industry.

Do the users of all these improvements, fire agencies, building owners, engineers, the public etc. appreciate all the innovation with its proven benefits or is it like the frog not noticing the water is getting hotter when the water is being heated slowly?

These innovators save lives and have been saving lives for years. Isn’t it time we started recognising them not just through small industry awards that only their peers see but on the international stage. Give me your thoughts and ideas neil.bibby@mdmpublishing.com. Think about it. The equivalent of the Nobel Prize for Fire Safety (is this too much to ask for).

Image courtesy of Neil Bibby

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Asia Pacific Fire, Editor