The skills and capabilities of an industrial fire brigade can run the gamut from a well trained and equipped fire suppression force to a small group with limited resources and skills. Whatever the skill level of members, all brigades can benefit from the Aqua Blaster fire hose carrier.
Time is of essence in every fire, but particularly in industrial fires, which can burner faster, hotter, and even explode. These incidents result in an estimated $1 billion in direct property damage every year, but worse, they can cause loss of life. The NFPA reports an average of 18 deaths and 279 injuries happen in the estimated 37,000 industrial and manufacturing fires that occur annually.
Jerry Johnson, owner of Future Firefighter Distributor LLC and a former Navy firefighter, finds the Aqua Blaster ups the safety of fire brigades, and helps their members respond earlier with fewer people.
“You can put one or two people on an Aqua Blaster and control the fire,” Johnson says. “They don’t have to be certified firefighters to use it. We can train industrial workers to use the Aqua Blaster in 20-30 minutes.”
With the Aqua Blaster, industrial brigades can douse a blaze before local fire departments respond. “They don’t have to wait for the fire department to arrive to battle the fire. They can use the Aqua Blaster to douse the fire before it gets out of control. This device acts as an industrial facility’s first line of defense,” he says.
Industrial teams also can benefit from Johnson’s help. Johnson holds a master’s degree in disaster preparedness to evaluate industrial facilities’ fire risks and develop responses using the Aqua Blaster. “I can write preplans for fire scenarios in any industry,” he says.
What is the Aqua Blaster?
Retired firefighter Ken Blocker invented the Aqua Blaster to make fighting fires safer and easier for those on the front line. “Using a fire hose is like wrestling with someone,” he says. “Early in my career, I wondered why there wasn’t anything to take stress off firefighters using a hose.”
“Then, as a cadet trainee, I had an epiphany. There had to be an easier way to manage a charged fire hose,” Blocker adds.
This revelation led to the Aqua Blaster, which is a harness frame that incorporates a fire hose and nozzle to allow the wearer to operate a charged fire hose and fire nozzle with minimal or zero strain on the back and joints.
Blocker used off-the-shelf products in its design to keep its cost affordable. For example, Custom Elite Mfg, modified a drum carrier harness produced for marching bands for fire service use. The ruggedized harness system now employs:
- A 1.5 NPT double nipple (for elbow swivel attachments) that attaches to the belly plate of the harness frame.
- Two continuous rotating fire department elbow swivels (a double female rocker lug swivel and fire nozzle attachments).
- A 1.5 double female rocker swivel (elbow swivel and fire hose attachments).
- A variety of 1.5 firefighting nozzles, including nozzles made to deploy other agents besides water.
- A vertical push/pull locking clamp to allow the wearer to clamp down the fire nozzle or pivot the fire nozzle up or down when not using the clamp.
Blocker says the system accommodates and adapts to existing 1.5- and 1.7-inch fire nozzles, making the product a perfect multipurpose tool for scenarios where firefighters use fire hoses and nozzles.
“It compliments a lot of products already used in fire service. This will allow one person to use a fire hose, hands free, and without the stress and strain you’d normally have,” Blocker says. “It’s a no brainer.”
Blocker made the device easy to don and doff. Just slip it over the shoulders while wearing full turnout gear, attach it to a fire hose and it’s ready for action. “There are no straps to secure it,” Blocker says. “You just put it over your shoulder, and it automatically secures on your shoulders and torso. The pressure works with your upper and lower body, so it won’t come off.”
Blocker evaluated the device against all applicable NFTA tests, including pressure and temperature tests, to secure a listing in the Darley catalog.Custom Elite Mfg. did all the standards testing of the production Aqua Blaster.
Firefighters can affix the versatile device to rails on ships and tie it down to other structures to use it without manpower. When not in use, they can anchor it to a fire truck ready for the next call out.
Benefit to the Back
The International Association of Fire Fighters’ annual Death and Injury Survey reveals that sprains and strains account for around 29% of all line-of duty injuries and back injuries account for about 50% of all line-of-duty injury retirements each year. These injuries also lead to time off duty, a tremendous burden for labor- and cash-strapped operations.
“You don’t have to look far to find statistics on firefighter back and joint injuries,” says Blocker. “Firefighters who have used fire hoses for many years often suffer chronic back and joint injuries. Using the Aqua Blaster just 30% of the time might eliminate those injuries.”
Johnson agrees, noting that most career firefighters develop back problems. “The Aqua Blaster relieves them completely,” he says. “It acts like an attachment to your body, so when you move around with it, the entire body carries its weight. Without the Aqua Blaster, it can take three to five people to use the hose.”
Blocker says the 14-pound device feels much lighter when worn because the harness redistributes weight throughout the body. “It’s the same harness that allows a drummer to carry a 60-pound bass drum,” he says.
It also lowers fatigue, which is common when operating a hose, says Blocker. He explains, “If you’re using a hose between 120 and 150 psi, and you try to hold it yourself, you might last 15-20 minutes. With the Aqua Blaster, you could hold it three times as long. You don’t even have to hold the hose. You can lock it in place and use it hands free.”
A fire truck might roll up to a fire with five or six firefighters. Those firefighters set up the hose and put five or six people on it to douse the fire.
“With the Aqua Blaster, one person can enter the building with the harness on his body. When he gets close enough to the fire, those outside can turn on the water,” Johnson says. “Quicker response will save many people and structures.”
The device also boosts safety, Johnson says. Teams can put the Aqua Blaster on one firefighter, who gets help from a second, while the remaining ones perform other work to put out the fire. Because the harness sprays water up to 60 feet, firefighters can use it from a safe distance away.
“They improve initial safety through quicker response with less manpower,” Johnson says. “Long-term safety improves by reducing pressure on the back and knees.”
Fire departments in Singapore and Japan already use the Aqua Blaster. But while Blocker designed the Aqua Blaster for fire service, it also has made its way into other industries.
Aviation ground support members, for example, don the harness when using hoses to clean runways and other airfield surfaces, says Johnson. Homeowners use it to pull water out of their pools to put out house fires.
Click the following links to watch the Aqua Blaster in action: