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Smarter Solutions with MSA Safety

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Ben Mauti, Director of MSA Safety‘s US & Canada Fire Segment, discusses the evolution of firefighter equipment and the crucial role of data and connectivity in modern firefighting

In the dynamic world of firefighting and safety equipment, staying ahead of technological advancements and evolving needs is crucial.

MSA Safety, a global leader in this arena, has been at the forefront of introducing innovative solutions designed to enhance the efficiency and safety of firefighters.

At the helm of MSA Safety’s efforts in the US & Canada is Ben Mauti, who leads their segment marketing team.

Under Mauti’s guidance, MSA Safety has made significant strides in supporting firefighters.

The company’s journey has been marked by a commitment to new technologies and solutions that cater to the unique challenges faced by fire service professionals.

IFSJ Editor Iain Hoey sat down with Ben Mauti, Director of MSA Safety’s US & Canada Fire Segment, to delve into the intricacies of MSA Safety’s latest offerings, the impact of connected technologies in the fire service, and a glimpse into the future of firefighting equipment under Mauti’s guidance.

What are the core components of the Connected Firefighter Platform and how has it evolved?

The essence of the Connected Firefighter Platform is leveraging technology for the firefighter’s benefit, with a focus on safety rather than technology for its own sake.

It begins with prioritising the firefighter’s safety and ability to concentrate on their job.

At the heart of this platform is the firefighter.

The next element is our products, notably the G1 SCBA for NFPA markets and the M1 SCBA in EN markets, coupled with our Connected solutions like the LUNAR search and rescue device and telemetry systems.

These innovations transmit data to the cloud and integrate with our FireGrid software, enabling remote monitoring.

Additionally, the platform facilitates automated data reporting, aiding fire departments in compliance and preparedness.

The final component is process efficiency, which encompasses both the people and the products.

It’s about simplifying tasks, akin to how connected devices in our daily lives indicate when a vehicle needs maintenance or when your phone requires a software update.

We’ve incorporated similar functionalities, like over-the-air updates with LUNAR, to simplify and enhance the firefighters’ experience.

How do the simplified reporting and tracking equipment maintenance features enhance the daily operations of a fire department?

Our products are designed for simplicity and efficacy, with features like rechargeable batteries to ease usage.

For a firefighter, these products are straightforward and user-friendly.

In terms of data, as soon as you activate your SCBA, the data flow begins automatically.

Many fire departments have systems set up to capture this data effortlessly; simply turning on a computer can provide access to this information.

The LUNAR device, for instance, connects directly to the cloud upon activation.

When it comes to remote or live monitoring, features like alarm status, air status, and our Map View with LUNAR, which offers GPS location tracking when outside of buildings, prove invaluable, especially in high-pressure situations.

On the administrative side, the benefits are equally significant.

For decision-makers and fleet managers, our system simplifies tasks like compliance checks, flow tests, hydro tests, and inspection schedules.

Instead of sifting through paperwork, they can access all necessary information via their FireGrid account.

This makes their job easier and ensures that first responders are always prepared and ready to respond.

What challenges is the introduction of FireGrid for inventory management aimed at solving?

FireGrid addresses several challenges, particularly in automated compliance and reporting.

An innovative aspect is monitoring the usage of specific products.

For instance, by tracking total time connected, we can identify discrepancies in equipment usage – like one SCBA being used for 100 hours and another for just 10 hours.

This insight allows for strategic swapping of equipment to ensure more even usage across busy and slower stations, enhancing equipment longevity.

Our customers are particularly appreciative of the simplicity FireGrid brings to their safety programmes.

It confirms equipment compliance and tracks its location, simplifying management and adding value to their partnership with MSA, ultimately making the execution of safety programmes more efficient and effective.

Can you talk about how the MSA G1 SCBA’s real-time reporting benefits incident commanders and fire chiefs on the scene?

The G1 SCBA is integral to our platform, offering multiple approaches for data management.

Firstly, even without real-time telemetry, the G1 SCBA collects valuable data such as usage time, air consumption, and operational patterns, which can be analysed post-event to enhance safety and decision-making.

The second approach involves telemetry, allowing for local data collection from SCBAs.

This makes key information like alarm and air status immediately accessible to incident commanders, using simple color-coded indicators or almost instant alarm notifications.

This level of technology, though common in the industry, significantly aids on-scene management.

The third level incorporates LUNAR, which can be Bluetooth-paired with any G1 SCBA.

LUNAR connects to cellular networks, including AT&T’s FirstNet in the US, enabling real-time data access from anywhere, be it a dispatch center or remotely without a local hub.

This adds GPS location tracking to the mix, offering an additional layer of situational awareness, despite the known limitations of GPS.

Our focus with LUNAR has been on automation and ease of use, ensuring that engaging with the system requires minimal extra steps.

What is MSA’s approach to collecting and utilising data?

Data analytics is vital.

We adhere to GDPR data standards and use Amazon Web Services for secure data handling, which is crucial for fire departments to know.

Initially, the data we collect might seem limited, but as it grows, we can analyse historical trends, compliance, and readiness of the fleet.

We track various details like serial numbers, equipment locations, assignment to fire stations or personnel, and even specific riding positions, if the fire department opts for that level of detail.

This extends to turnout gear too, though it isn’t directly connected; we monitor aspects like serial numbers, sizes, and asset locations.

Looking ahead, our aim is to enhance automated status reporting and readiness assessments to predict and plan better.

This includes managing the availability of SCBAs and tracking compliance for turnout gear, especially in departments with multiple sets.

Emphasising ease of use is key for us.

We understand that there’s a perception that technology is complex, but as a 110-year-old company, we prioritise simplicity.

Our goal is to enable firefighters, quartermasters, safety officers, chiefs, and budget managers to use our products effortlessly, without needing to be tech experts.

Can you talk about the new Cairns 1836 Traditional-Style Fire Helmet?

We’re incredibly excited about the Cairns 1836. This helmet, named after Cairns Helmets’ founding year, embodies our extensive engineering knowledge and tradition.

It’s more than just gear; it’s a cherished item for firefighters, often displayed upon retirement or promotion.

Firstly, there’s a growing preference for helmets that are low-profile and comfortable.

Our goal was to create a helmet that excels in these areas.

Cleanliness was another critical aspect.

MSA has led the way in producing cleanable safety equipment.

We were the pioneers in introducing removable SCBA shoulder straps and soft goods, a feature now becoming a standard requirement.

Our new helmet follows this trend, designed for easy disassembly, cleaning, and replacement of soft goods.

This ease of maintenance is crucial – it’s one thing to offer cleanable components, but they must be practically manageable for firefighters.

Recognising that our previous helmets did not fit all users, the Cairns 1836 accommodates a wider range of head sizes, covering 95% of male and female firefighters.

This inclusivity was a direct response to customer feedback and a significant step towards meeting the diverse needs of today’s fire service.

Why are helmet cleanliness important and how do they contribute to firefighter safety?

Firefighters should be able to concentrate on their core duties, not be preoccupied with their safety equipment.

The ideal scenario is for the safety gear to function seamlessly in the background, reducing the need for excessive interaction or thought.

We aim for simple, effective user interfaces in our products to support this.

When we consider features like comfort, a lower profile, and ease of cleaning, it’s all about enabling firefighters to excel in their roles.

If their gear is comfortable and reliable, it allows them to devote full attention to the task at hand without distractions about their equipment.

Our objective is to empower firefighters to be the best they can be, focusing solely on their crucial work.

This might sound a bit cliché, but it’s at the heart of what we do – ensuring that our firefighters are safe and can concentrate on their responsibilities without being hindered by their equipment.

How does MSA integrate feedback from customers into the design and enhancement of its products?

We understand that no matter how innovative a product is, if it’s not used, it doesn’t fulfill our mission of enhancing safety.

Our approach involves several key steps:

Firstly, we actively engage with the firefighting community.

This includes conducting ride-alongs with fire departments and participating in training activities.

This hands-on experience is vital for our design, engineering, and marketing teams to understand the firefighters’ roles and challenges.

Secondly, we have direct dialogues with firefighters to identify their pain points and needs.

This involves examining our products and those of competitors to deeply understand these requirements.

Additionally, we involve firefighters in the prototyping process.

We form councils and committees to ensure their input is incorporated.

Our development process includes alpha evaluations with early prototypes, like rough 3D printed models, to gauge if we’re on the right track.

This is followed by beta evaluations with products that have undergone some regulatory approvals, ensuring they’re safe for real-world scenarios.

This phase helps us confirm if we’ve met the mark or if further modifications are needed.

If at any point we find that we’re not meeting the necessary standards or fulfilling firefighter needs, we’re prepared to pause and iterate the product.

It’s a thorough and responsive process, underscoring the importance of collaboration in our product development.

How does MSA Safety plan to continue innovating and responding to the evolving needs of the fire service?

As part of our global strategy team, I’m involved in shaping our future direction, especially in key markets like the US and Canada.

Our focus is on integrating safety technology across our entire portfolio to enhance safety, efficiency, and readiness.

In terms of product innovation, we’re constantly updating our hard goods, including our turnout gear line, in response to customer feedback.

For instance, our SCBA range, like the G1, has seen significant advancements with integrated technology, and the M1 offers various technology-integrated options.

The development of helmets, like the Cairns 1836, also reflects this commitment to innovation.

Data and connectivity are also areas where we’re particularly excited.

Having embarked on the ‘Connected Firefighter’ journey, we have robust ideas for expanding in this realm.

Expect to see a continued blend of advancements in physical products that firefighters use daily, combined with safety technology and digitisation.

This approach is about simplifying processes, providing deeper insights, and fundamentally, ensuring that we fulfil our mission of enhancing safety.

This article was originally published in the April 2024 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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