|Many firefighters turn to the retractable Mic Keeper® from Hammerhead Industries|
After a string of firefighter injuries and deaths related to radio communication in the 2000s, the International Association of Fire Chiefs formed a special subcommittee to look into the issues. The result was a series of portable radio best practices that among other things recommended firefighters place radio microphones one to two inches from the mouth to avoid audio distortion problems when operating in environments with high levels of background noise.
In fact, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program*, lack of effective communications is one of the leading causes of non-cardiac line of duty deaths among firefighters. Many firefighters are turning to the retractable Mic Keeper® from Hammerhead Industries to effectively secure their radio equipment to their lapels and be in compliance with the new IAFC directives.
“By using a Mic Keeper firefighters not only ensure their radio will always be where they expect it, but it also can help a firefighter meet the IAFC recommendations for maintaining a proper speaking distance,” says John Salentine, Vice President and co-founder of Hammerhead Industries, which manufactures the full range of Gear Keeper products including the Mic Keeper. “The device has been used by firefighters for years for comfort and convenience. It keeps the mic close to the body which prevents it from becoming entangled or damaged if they have to crawl on the ground or squeeze through tight spaces.
“It can also help avoid major problems caused by an untethered mic dangling on the ground or a melted mic cord that was wrapped around the neck over the reflective material on turnout coats,” he added.
IAFC says that firefighters should “ensure that the microphone is placed one to two inches from the mouth or SCBA voice port with the microphone positioned directly in front of the audio source.” A Mic Keeper device is designed to keep the mic securely in the proper position to operate the microphone appropriately when in use. When released after use, the mic will automatically retract to a secure position leaving the hands free to use other critical firefighting tools.
Not a lot of attention is paid to how firefighters wear their portable radios or where they clip their microphones, according to Raul A. Angulo, a 27-year veteran of the Seattle Fire Department and captain of Ladder Company 6 who teaches classes on firefighter entrapment. Angulo, writing in Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Magazine**, said that he prefers the Mic Keeper to ensure he always knows where his mic is located and have easy access to it in an entrapment situation.
“As for the mic, your lifeline to safety and survival, I have found no better accessory than the retractable tether system of Gear Keeper,” he wrote. “When I need it, I reach to my left shoulder and there it is, every time. I grab it, pull it to the voice amplifier of my SCBA, transmit my message and let it go. It smoothly retracts with a 12-ounce force.”
The Mic Keeper is a rugged, retractable system designed to utilize and protect gear in severe environments with maximum break strength and durability. To easily attach a Mic Keeper or another Gear Keeper device developed for other popular firefighter tools like flashlights, seatbelt cutters and thermal imaging cameras to a firefighter’s turnout gear, the company developed the innovative Add-A-Clip® product line. These sturdy clips enable users to attach a Mic Keeper or Gear Keeper without the need for special sewn-on alterations. Add-A-Clips come with a variety of end types such as snap clips, bolt clips, split rings and glove holders.
“The issue of properly securing a radio and microphone to a turnout coat has become a vital part of firefighter safety,” says Salentine. “There have been far too many tragic cases that have brought to light the importance of properly fastening a portable radio.”