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More than an outfit. More thought than one leg at a time. Putting on the uniform is not just an ordinary daily task, but a habitual part of preparing for the unexpected. Yes, a firefighter’s uniform is more than an outfit. Think about who is wearing it and the risks they are exposed to on a daily basis. The firefighter comes from a long line of heroes, a brotherhood and sisterhood, with traditions to uphold and a reputation to maintain. Their uniform is no different. Its historical navy-blue threads. Classic, professional appearance. Tactical features. Technology-driven fabric. Over time, the uniform’s engineering has needed to adapt with new designs and react to worsened exposures and more dangerous rescue missions. The 21st Century firefighter’s uniform is unique and specific to the job with current trends fixating on the best user experience while future plans focus on preventative and safety measures due to increased societal and architectural risks. Comfortable firefighter uniform So, what does the 21st Century firefighter want? Comfort. Beyond Personal Protective Equipment, it is an overwhelming plea for a more comfortable uniform to wear. This includes garments that are easy “wash and wear” materials that do not require additional ironing. Firefighters do not want to lose the professional appearance or tactical functionality of the uniform The trend calls for lightweight, breathable, cool-weather wear that is less restrictive and offers more give and more stretch so firefighters can perform their job responsibilities more efficiently. However, they do not want to lose the professional appearance or tactical functionality of the uniform. “We need something that looks presentable every time,” said Chief Robert Burdette of Grand Blanc Fire Department, Michigan. Additionally, more firefighters are also starting to wear polo shirts or mesh T-shirts under their Turnout gear, for a lighter weight, more breathable option from the traditional uniform shirt. The trend calls for lightweight, breathable, cool-weather wear that is less restrictive Risk of cancer Unfortunately, comfort is not the only concern firefighters have when it comes to uniforms, or their safety in general. As risky and demanding of a profession the fire service can be, the fires have proven not to be the most hazardous or life threatening. According to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, “Cancer is the most dangerous threat to firefighter health and safety today.” A study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) concluded that firefighters have a 9% increased chance of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14% increased chance to die from cancer compared to the general United States population. Chief Dennis Jenkerson of the St. Louis Fire Department in Missouri is one of many chiefs actively fighting these statistics. Responsible for 32 firehouses, Jenkerson has witnessed the reality of this threat with the loss of four of his own and understands the validity of the situation. For the last 18 months, the St. Louis Fire Department has made headway implementing a drastic culture change by evaluating everything from equipment, apparel, lifestyle and more. Cancer affecting firefighters “It is so prevalent that everything we do anymore has to do with some emphasis on protecting firefighters from getting cancer,” said Chief Mike Ramm of Sylvania Township Fire Department, Ohio. “Cancer is the most dangerous threat to firefighter health and safety today” According to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, the cancers that have mostly affected firefighters are respiratory (lung, mesothelioma), gastrointestinal (oral cavity, esophageal, large intestine) and kidney. “Testicular cancer is through the roof,” added Jenkerson, who has pushed his firefighters to get tested for cancers earlier than normally necessary. He also explained that the imagery of a firefighter drinking from a fire hydrant can no longer happen. He emphasized the importance of cleaning up instantly after every fire. Think of the simple act of removing grimy gloves after a call – at least one hand has been exposed to the cancerous contaminants if it was accidentally used to take off the other glove. If that unwashed, contaminated hand touches food that goes into the mouth of the firefighter, he/she is essentially eating what may cause esophageal, oral cavity or gastric cancers. Cancer is the most dangerous threat to firefighter health and safety today According to the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) via the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, cancer caused 61% of the career firefighter line-of-duty deaths from January 1, 2002 to March 31, 2017. Additionally, 70% of the line-of-duty deaths for career firefighters were because of cancer in 2016. Unfortunately, this hazard is not going away any time soon. The new building materials and new house furnishings have become the culprit for this major concern. These materials are man-made and are not of natural resources. When burned, they create deadly carcinogens that the firefighters are getting exposed to firsthand. Immediate decontamination process Jenkerson’s implementation of a culture change includes an immediate decontamination process following a fire, which involves getting hosed with water, cleansing wipes for all soft tissue areas of the body and an immediate shower back at the station. “Any place you can get a five degree rise in skin temperature, the absorption level goes up 10 times,” Jenkerson warned. His firefighters are instructed to remove their bunker gear, uniform, helmet and all other equipment right away that get immediately washed once they have returned to the station. Hems, collars, cuffs and cargo pockets are areas of the uniform where toxins get caught He also restricts all firefighters and EMTs from going on a second run until they have showered and have put on a new, clean set of clothes, all the way down to their underwear. “There are no two-runs. We have to get this stuff off [of them].” Uniform manufacturers are tasked with finding a solution to help facilitate Jenkerson’s and other Fire Chiefs’ visions by designing a uniform with as little gaps and fold-over materials as possible. “Everything needs to be sealed tight,” Jenkerson explained. Hems, collars, cuffs and cargo pockets are all areas of the uniform where toxins get caught. A lightweight shirt option that offers a crew collar with a two to three button placket and a lightweight, ventilated hidden cargo pant could be the future of fire uniforms. “There isn’t another profession that has the thousands of dangers that we have every day,” Ramm explained. Additional and ongoing efforts currently underway according to the NFPA Journal, include those by the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, the Congressional Firefighter Cancer Registry, the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the FPRF Campaign for Fire Service Contamination Control, and the International Association of Firefighters. Active shooter emergency response Firefighters and EMTs increasingly need to wear bullet proof vests with the surge in active shooter calls An additional and unfortunate trend that is also sweeping the nation is the need for firefighters and EMTs to wear bullet proof vests. Departments are trying their best to arm their men and women with this protection along with ballistic helmets in certain regions due to the surge in active shooter calls. “In areas that have a lot of gang-related activity, [bullet proof vests] would be beneficial,” said Jason Reyes of Allen Fire Department, Texas. “Sometimes you go on calls when the city doesn’t have enough police to respond to calls, which creates a situation that leaves firefighters unprotected and vulnerable.” Currently the market has ballistic vests available that can either be worn over or under a firefighter’s uniform and under their bunker gear. Uniform manufacturers also offer an external vest carrier option that is worn over a firefighter’s uniform to look like part of the uniform shirt to maintain a professional appearance. Distinguishing firefighters from law enforcement “Firefighters find themselves becoming targets more and more these days,” added Deputy Chief of Operations Dwayne Jamison of Bartow County Fire Department, Georgia. “Many departments, including my own, are looking to outfit their firefighters with bullet proof vests.” Although this trend has not affected every region, industry experts can see the need becoming more widespread if threats continue to increase the way they have been. Along the same lines, firefighters want to be identified as firefighters and not mistaken for law enforcement. “We don’t want to look like police,” Jenkerson said. “We want to be identified as firefighters. Even if it takes a different stripe.” When it comes to uniform trends for firefighters, it is clear there is more to focus on than the technical details. For many fire departments, future trends could serve as a tool to prevent deadly toxins from being absorbed and from lethal bullets puncturing unprotected firefighters and EMTs. The uniform is more than an outfit. With a larger purpose than to shield a body, the uniform goes beyond the navy-blue threads, professional appearance and tactical features to one day supporting what could be a lifesaving concept. Sources Firefighter Cancer Support Network, Preventing Cancer in the Fire Service National Fire Protection Association, Firefighters and Cancer NFPA Journal, Fast Track: Some of the national efforts underway to fight cancer in the fire service; Roman, Jesse; 2017
Airport firefighters operate very differently to their municipal fire and rescue colleagues For the thousands of firefighters covering over 80 major commercial airports throughout Europe, life is very different from that experienced by their municipal fire and rescue service colleagues. The differences range from the type of regime they experience to the types of emergency they are called upon to deal with on a daily basis. Richard Cranham, Business Development Manager at Bristol Uniforms Ltd, explains more. Airports with scheduled passenger services range from the largest international airports such as Heathrow, Gatwick, Paris, Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt, to some of the smallest, which include those serving smaller communities in Scandinavia and the Highlands & Islands Airports group in Scotland with 10 locations spread across some of the most inaccessible parts of the country. BAA (formerly The British Airports Authority) is the largest airport operator in the UK with 7 locations and employing over 450 firefighters at their sites at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. An airport firefighter's typical day Unlike their municipal counterparts, airport firefighters are required to cover all types of emergencies within the airport boundaries with many of the incidents unrelated to aircraft accidents or fires. Major aircraft accidents are very rare thanks to strict safety regulations and major improvements in aircraft design and build. Airport firefighters must cover all emergencies within airport boundaries - including incidents unrelated to aircraft accidents or fires In many locations the fire services work closely with the ambulance and other emergency services dealing with all types of accidents including traffic incidents, vehicle fires, and fire alarms across the sites as well as being placed on standby whenever a pilot alerts traffic control to any type of malfunction which could present a safety hazard on landing. The most frequent incidents affecting jet aircraft involve overheating of undercarriages, wheels, tyres and brakes as well as engine problems, which although uncommon, nevertheless require putting into action major emergency standby routines. Station Officer at Bristol International Airport, Rich Lynn, who has 48 firefighters on station explained that his team is required to cover all emergencies on site including those involving buildings, vehicles and aircraft-related incidents. "We provide emergency cover for all 11 buildings on the airport site as well as dealing with aircraft-related emergencies. Although we have very few aircraft fires the main potential areas for fire are overheating sub-assemblies, wheels and brakes and any ruptures in hydraulic lines which work at high pressure and could easily cause a fire in contact with hot metal. Carbon fibre braking systems and fans on wheels on modern aircraft have greatly reduced the fire hazard." A plane coming in to land at Schiphol airport, Amsterdam Chief Fire Officer at Schiphol Airport, Michel Wendel, explained that his firefighters are called upon to deal not only with aviation related incidents, but many others in and around the Schiphol area which are more closely related to normal fire duty callouts. On average there are in the region of 50 aviation related incidents annually with several hundred other callouts for various fire and other related hazards during the year around the large Schiphol site. Although the airport only has one terminal building, this is split into three large departure halls serving the 6 runways which range in length from over 2km to 3.8km. The most recent runway to be built was completed in 2003 and there are already plans to add a seventh in the near future. Schiphol is the world's lowest major airport being 3 metres below sea level. Schiphol has a good air traffic accident record. The last major fire was in October 2005 and was non-aviation related. A fire broke out at the airport's detention centre, killing 11 people and injuring 15. The complex was holding 350 people at the time of the incident. The last aviation accident occurred over 12 years ago when a Saab 340 operated by KLM Cityhopper returned to Schiphol because the crew mistakenly believed that the engine suffered from low oil pressure because of a faulty warning light. On final approach, at a height of 90 feet, the plane stalled and hit the ground. Of the twenty-four people on board, three were killed including the captain. Nine others were seriously injured. Fires caused by burning aviation fuel require special skills - training is a regular part of the airport firefighter's working life Airport firefighter training Even though the call to action to fight fires may come infrequently, the special characteristics of hot fires caused by burning aviation fuel need special skills. Training is a regular and frequent part of the firefighter's working life. At Schiphol, training is carried out on a daily basis. There are 125 full time firefighters on station who all work shifts of 3 teams over 24 hours. The size of the airport complex is such that the firefighters operate out of 3 fire stations - Rijk, Sloten and Vijfhuizen - which are located around the site. A Manchester airport firefighter training in the cab of a plane Michel Wendel gave details saying, "Firefighter training is carried out at the main station, Sloten, on a daily basis. Firefighters are on rotational duty at Sloten and their training is undertaken when they are on main station duty. Normally training sessions last about 4 hours. A range of training is carried out including simulated fire fighting on a Boeing 747 test rig with a computer-controlled gas fire." Gerard Montgomery, Senior Airport Fire Officer at Gatwick, has 80 firefighters on location including himself and a deputy. His team is responsible for dealing with all site emergencies and shares daytime callouts with the ambulance service. With responding to all fire alarms and traffic accidents at Gatwick his crew handle around 2,500 callouts annually. On training Gerard explained, "We carry out training on a weekly basis on an LPG Boeing 747 aircraft simulator. This would involve a number of fire scenarios and also provides training for breathing apparatus, hose management and ladder work. We are also acquiring a fire behaviour simulator which will provide carbonaceous fire scenarios. The new unit was installed in the summer of 2006." Firefighter clothing: emphasis on lighter weight, wearer comfort Most, if not all, airports use a selection procedure for purchasing firefighter Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which routinely involves trialling samples of kit from several manufacturers. The alternatives are inspected and supplied to firefighters to carry out wearer trials. Selection is based on a number of criteria including wearer comfort, durability, price, sizing and availability of stock. A number of airport fire teams are being, or have been, re-equipped over the past 2-3 years giving them the opportunity to take advantage of the new lighter weight firefighter clothing being introduced to the market which provide greater wearer comfort and reduce heat stress associated with prolonged periods of wear. There is also growing interest in adopting managed care services as a means of providing regular inspection, washing and repair. Richard Cranham - Business Development Manager, Bristol Uniforms Ltd
Through the acquisition, the innovative fire extinguishing system for container fires is fully integrated into VIKING's one-stop product range of maritime security solutions. VIKING Life-Saving Equipment has acquired HydroPen, the company behind the unique HydroPen fire-fighting equipment for container fires, which has been delivered to hundreds of ships. Hydropen HydroPen's rapid spread is due to the system's combination of innovation, efficiency, and ease of use. The system is mounted on one of the ship's fire hoses and hoisted up by means of a telescopic arm by just a single crew member. The water pressure alone drives the system's drilling and spray nozzle, which pierces the container door, after which it switches to spray function and extinguishes the fire with water, foam, or CO2 directly at the source. HydroPen was founded in 2016 by Martin Winkel, CEO, and Jesper Rosenfeldt Hansen, CTO and system inventor. The goal was to revolutionize firefighting work on board container ships using innovative, safe, and user-friendly technology. Acquisition HydroPen has aroused interest among land-based firefighters who have been quick to see the value of the system Around the same time, there was a growing need for solutions in the industry. In 2019, nine major container ship fires were reported, followed by 10 incidents in 2020, and the foremost insurance company in transport and logistics, TT Club, estimates that, on average, a container fire occurs every 60 days. The International Union of Marine Insurance has called for improvements in ship design and firefighting equipment on board ULC ships. The acquisition also follows in the wake of a fire aboard a 4,200 TEU container ship off Malaysia in April, in which 50 local firefighters were deployed after the ship returned to the port of departure and anchored. Hydropen's worth in firefighting situation "This is an important acquisition for VIKING and for the safety of the container ship industry," says Lasse Boesen, Senior Product Manager at VIKING. "We contacted the men behind HydroPen shortly after the system won the Danish Tech Challenge Entrepreneurship Award in 2017. From the system's official launch at SMM in 2018, VIKING became the sole distributor of HydroPen, which was to support orders from some of the industry's biggest names." "Once a crew has become acquainted with HydroPen, there is no going back - and since its introduction, the system has already shown its worth in real firefighting situations. Recently, HydroPen has also aroused interest among land-based firefighters who have been quick to see the value of the system," adds Lasse Boesen. Best Firefighting safety product "We are integrating HydroPen into our product range as a further development of our comprehensive strategy for maritime safety," says Henrik Uhd Christensen, VIKING's CEO. "The HydroPen system addresses a specific challenge and a widespread safety problem in the industry, while harmonizing with VIKING's role as an innovation leader and trusted safety partner, further underlined by the fact that the system has won the Safety at Sea award for best fire fighting safety product." The two people behind HydroPen, Martin Winkel and Jesper Rosenfeldt Hansen, are both delighted to see VIKING carry the baton further in the marketing of HydroPen. Most innovative Technology "VIKING and HydroPen have had a completely exceptional collaboration from the outset," says Martin Winkel. "Creating innovation with the aim of saving human lives is the very core of what we wanted to achieve with HydroPen, and we are convinced that our invention is in good hands at VIKING. Together we have succeeded in positioning the HydroPen system as the industry's most innovative technology for extinguishing container fires, and we look forward to following the further journey, both as active stakeholders in the transition period and in the future."
VIKING Life-Saving Equipment has acquired HydroPen, the company behind the unique HydroPenTM container firefighting solution supplied to hundreds of ships. HydroPen's rapid uptake has been due to its combination of innovation, efficiency and ease of use. Attached to a ship’s hose and raised on a telescopic arm by a single crew member, water pressure alone powers its ‘drill and spray’ nozzle to penetrate a container door before switching to spray mode to extinguish a fire with water, foam or CO2 – directly at its source.HydroPen was founded in 2016 by Martin Winkel, CEO and Jesper Rosenfelt Hansen, CTO and system inventor. Their inspiration was to apply innovative, safe and user-friendly technology, to revolutionize firefighting on board container vessels. fire-fighting equipment improvements Around the same time, the need for new solutions was on the rise across the industry. Nine major container ship fires were reported in 2019, followed by ten incidents in 2020, while the leading transports and logistics insurer, TT Club estimates that a container fire occurs on average once every 60 days. The International Union of Marine Insurance has called for ship design and fire-fighting equipment improvements on Ultra Large Container Ships. The acquisition also follows a fire in April onboard a 4,200TEU container ship off Malaysia, which called 50 local firefighters into action after the vessel returned to anchorage. “This is a significant acquisition for VIKING and for safety in the container shipping industry,” says Lasse Boesen, Senior Product Manager, VIKING. “We approached the HydroPen originators shortly after the system won the 2017 Danish Tech Challenge accelerator prize. From its official launch at SMM 2018, VIKING became HydroPen’s exclusive distributor, going on to support orders from some of the industry’s biggest names.” integrating HydroPen We are integrating HydroPen into our portfolio, in another evolution of our full scope strategy for marine safety: “Once crews familiarize themselves with HydroPen, there is no going back - and since its introduction, the system has already proven itself in live firefighting situations. Recently, HydroPen has also generated interest among land-based fire-fighting operators who have been quick to recognize its value," adds Boesen. “We are integrating HydroPen into our portfolio, in another evolution of our full scope strategy for marine safety,” says Henrik Uhd Christensen, CEO, VIKING. “The HydroPen system meets a specific and widespread industry challenge and safety concern while aligning with VIKING’s role as an innovation leader and trusted safety partner, as also demonstrated by the system winning the Safety at Sea Award for Best Safety Product, Fire-fighting.” container firefighting technology Both HydroPen’s Martin Winkel and Jesper Rosenfelt Hansen are happy to see VIKING carry the baton forward on bringing the HydroPen system to market. “VIKING and HydroPen have enjoyed an exceptional spell of cooperation from day one” says Mr. Winkel and continues: “Driving innovation at the service of saving lives is at the core of what we’ve wanted to achieve with HydroPen and we are confident that our innovation will be safe with VIKING. Together we have successfully positioned the HydroPen system as the most innovative container firefighting technology in the industry and we can’t wait to follow the journey ahead, both as active stakeholders in the transition period and beyond.”
VIKING Life-Saving Equipment A/S has now been operating for a full year in market conditions dictated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenging situation, VIKING maintained a high level of activity and achieved satisfactory earnings in 2020. Turnover of nearly 2.6 billion DKK represents a decline of 185 million DKK year over year, yet it is still the second-highest figure ever recorded by the company. Profit before tax of 168.9 million DKK is also lower than the record result in 2019. VIKING CEO Henrik Uhd Christensen is satisfied with the company’s ability to withstand difficult market conditions, which have simultaneously impacted the most important customer groups and triggered a perfect storm. “We made great efforts to prepare and to understand how COVID-19 would impact our business. The extreme fluctuations in demand have greatly impacted our production and service apparatus, but our strong global structure with a worldwide presence has enabled us to service customers despite the far-reaching restrictions. We have demonstrated our ability to adapt. Dedicated employees throughout our organization deserve the highest praise for successfully maintaining and expanding our market position,” says Henrik Uhd Christensen. Struggling Industries Poised For A Rebound The passenger ship market saw a meltdown of the cruise industry from the outset of the pandemic The largest customer segment, the cargo vessel market, benefited during the financial year from high freight rates in container shipping. The cargo market as a whole is volatile, particularly in the subsegments tank and dry bulk, as seen when tankers were used to store oil due to a slump in sales. Global freight transport by sea is expected to continue growing, albeit at lower freight rates. The passenger ship market, which consists of cruise vessels and ferries, saw a meltdown of the cruise industry from the outset of the pandemic. The reduced mobility between countries and regions also severely impacted ferry traffic due to closed routes and ships taken out of service. “I am certain that cruises will bounce back, but the industry probably won’t approach normalization until 2022. The large operators normally receive prepayments, which provides some crisis resiliency. The current situation is quite extraordinary, but we believe that most of our customers will make it through to the other side. Ferry services are a part of critical infrastructure and will also survive,” says Henrik Uhd Christensen. Transition In The Offshore Industry The offshore market reached a historic low with negative oil prices in the spring of 2020 as demand cratered due to the declines in transport. The oil and gas industry is dominated by large publicly-traded corporations that react severely to market declines, which means that an investment backlog will need to be addressed as the market recuperates. But this sector will also need a year of transition before the turnaround takes root. Sales to smaller, more specialized segments have been impacted by the barriers to in-person sales. Segments impacted include sales to military customers (Defense segment) and sales of fire suits and other personal protective equipment (PPE segment). Digital meeting procedures, which were quickly implemented on very short notice, have proven to be a good alternative given the circumstances. Customers Buy The Full Package “With the uncertainty about what framework Covid-19 will offer us, we are off to a good start in 2021. The continued integration of the companies we have acquired in recent years, combined with an organizational adjustment, has resulted in a well-functioning foundation for future business development. The process has been complicated by the limitations on our ability to meet, but we have managed to make things work.” “The strong rationale underlying these acquisitions has been confirmed by our customers. When purchasing products for newbuilds and when entering into multi-year service agreements, customers increasingly place full-scope orders that span our entire product and service program,” Says Henrik Uhd Christensen. Acquiring Other Companies VIKING has dedicated resources during the pandemic to further developing its product range and digital infrastructure The service area is seeing increasing demand for fixed price agreements in the rental and service of liferafts, as well as in Life Boat Service (LBS) and Marine Fire Service (MFS). VIKING acquired the Norwegian lifeboat manufacturer Norsafe in the autumn of 2018, followed in 2019 by the purchase of Rotterdam-based Drew Marine FSR and its global service network for fire-fighting equipment. In addition to integration efforts, VIKING has dedicated resources during the pandemic to further developing its product range and digital infrastructure – and the company feels well-equipped for the future. Financial Resiliency In Uncertain Times VIKING expects business activity this year at levels similar to 2020 and with a higher profit. “We have done really well in the past year, also when compared to other players in our industry. We have improved our debtor portfolio, reduced inventories, and reduced costs without compromising on our high-quality standards. The financial year saw a record-high cash flow by far, which provides resilience in times like these,” says Henrik Uhd Christensen. The declining demand for maritime safety equipment has had unfortunate consequences for a significant number of employees at VIKING’s factories, especially in Asia.
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