SAN ANTONIO—One trend on the municipal side of the fire hose market has been toward lower-pressure nozzles to help fight such issues as firefighter fatigue.
And while much development work has been done on the nozzles, there hadn't been equivalent progress made in the development of hoses on this side of the business, according to Michael Aubuchon, president and CEO of North American Fire Hose Corp.
So the Santa Maria, Calif.-based manufacturer of fire hose recently introduced a highly kink resistant hose that will work at lower pressure.
"If a hose kinks, it creates friction loss," said Aubuchon, who discussed his business at the recent NAHAD annual convention in San Antonio. "Multiple kinks will significantly reduce flow."
NAFH's new hose is the D-BAK 800—or Dura Built Anti Kink-brand hose—which the firm claims is 35 percent more kink-resistant when compared to competitive brand fire hose products. The company said the new hose features:
- a Dura-Cord-brand advanced air-textured nylon 6–6 continuous filament warp yarns, resulting in superior toughness, abrasion resistance, cut resistance, tear strength and heat resistance;
- an Ultra-Shield-brand high-performance polyurethane coating that seals each fiber in the bundle, further improving the abrasion resistance, reducing moisture and chemical absorption, and providing vivid color-coded identification;
- an EPDM rubber lining the firm said is unaffected by ozone deterioration, and is one component in the Friction Fighter System, creating an extremely smooth waterway surface, thereby reducing friction loss and improving nozzle performance with improved hand line stability; and
- the Dura-Bond-brand vulcanized adhesion system, which creates both a mechanical and chemical molecular bond between the EPDM lining and the inner jacket, eliminating the possibility of delamination.
"The method of fighting fire is constantly evolving," Aubuchon said. "I've stood at the end of the nozzle, so I can appreciate firefighter fatigue. You're fighting the laws of physics, and you can't fight the laws of physics. As the water is projected out of the nozzle, it's pushing back on the firefighter, and they have to be firmly anchored. Sometimes they have to be backed up by another firefighter in order to keep control of the nozzle."
Lower staffing in municipal fire departments created the push toward lower-pressure nozzles, he said. Higher pressure nozzles keep hoses from kinking, but when the lower-pressure nozzles starting to come into favor, NAFH wanted to develop a new hose to better match the lower-pressure nozzles. "You can get tired very quickly at the higher pressure," he said. "If you have to maintain that flow of water for half-an-hour, I tell you what, I'd be whipped."
Tougher standards ahead
Aubuchon said the National Fire Protection Association is working on standards to develop more heat-resistance hose. Committees within the NFPA help develop building and electrical codes, along with standards on such items as fire hose and fire apparatus.
He sees this movement toward more heat-resistant hose as a significant change in the market, saying that current product offerings won't meet the higher requirement.
The real serious situation for firms that produce hose and other goods for fire departments is when there is a loss of life of firefighters. That's when the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health is required to conduct a study to determine the causes.
"There have been some cases in the last few years where the firefighters are wearing all this protective gear, but they've had some hose failures," Aubuchon said. "This trend is going to change the economics of at least attack fire hose in the foreseeable future."
The NAFH owner and CEO said this could be an advantage for his firm because of its commitment to research and development. The fire hose manufacturer even states in its company motto, "You'll see why the difference is your margin of safety."
"You've got to be constantly improving in this environment or you will be falling further and further behind the pack," he said. "If you're not dedicated to continuous improvement of your products and processes, then you will not continue to grow and progress as a corporation. At least that's my philosophy."