DES MOINES, Iowa -- Des Moines firefighters are making a fashion statement, "It'll put the city of Des Moines at the top level in the nation," said Bob Sandry of Sandry Fire Supply in DeWitt.
As of Tuesday all of the nearly 300 fire fighters were equipped with state of the art Self Contained Breathing Apparatuses. "If you have more confidence you have more situational awareness," said Des Moines Fire Department Spokesperson Brian O'Keefe.
Bob and his wife Mary Sandry won over the department for the contract with the ease of the equipment. "When they are switching bottles out they can do a quick release." said Bob. He added, "They lift up, take the bottle out and put a new cylinder in. The fire fighter is back in service."
The device includes a fully Integrated Thermal Imaging Camera. It switches from white hot, to black hot, to red hot. Making Des Moines the first capital city in the nation to equip every firefighter with it. O'Keefe said, "Most importantly to find that victim that's disoriented or unconscious and that can't verbalize."
It's also taking communication devices off the mask. Sandry said, "It used to be up here on the face piece so we took weight off the head and neck. Electronics used to be on this side and this side. Now, all gone."
Another vital advancement, the Personal Alert Safety System that can be manually pressed or automatically sounds when someone stops moving for thirty seconds. Color coded lights will alert the firefighters mask when they are low on oxygen. O'Keefe said, "Knowing the progression of it, you can dictate how much longer to stay in the fight to distinguish a fire."
Each Des Moines firefighter will be equipped with their own mask and each apparatus will have five SCBA's ready to go when duty calls. "This is your last breath through here and if you don't have the confidence to go into an oxygen deprived location, if you have doubt, you won`t be effective," said O'Keefe.
The new technology costs $1.7M but an Assistance to Firefighters Grant covers $1.2M. Dubuque was the first fire department in Iowa to fully integrate the new technology. They also purchased through Sandry Fire Supply.