Some of the only pieces of fire apparatus outside of the City of New York with enhanced safety restraints designed for firefighters are in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The College Park Fire/EMS Station #812 has recently retrofitted an engine and ladder truck with ReadyReach seat belt systems. The identical seat belt system on board the entire fleet of FDNY apparatus is manufactured by IMMI, an industry leader in the design, testing and manufacturing of advanced safety systems.
One of the advantages to the ReadyReach seat belt system is the ease of use by firefighters to buckle up while wearing their personal protective gear. The buckle and d-loop are positioned for the ease of use by firefighters to easily apply. IMMI, the manufacturer states, “Because every second counts, ReadyReach gets you buckled up in an instant. Putting on a seat belt has never been easier for first responders. With its longer buckle length and bright orange belts, your seat belt is ready to reach at a moment’s notice.”
Prince George’s County Deputy Fire Chief Ben M. Barksdale visited the College Park Station to inspect the seat belts and made these observations, “While it is not an excuse but many firefighters do not wear the current seat belts because they are very restrictive and uncomfortable. The newly designed belt is not restrictive and provides added comfort. I like the florescent orange color which easily identifies personnel wearing the belt by the driver and officer.”
Bill Corrigan, College Park Volunteer Chief, stated, “We have been using the ReadyReach belts for about a month and have not heard any complaints or problems. Everyone is using the seat belts and describes the ease of buckling up and that they are less restrictive and comfortable to wear. I believe the biggest difference from other seat belts is the extender arm that places the seat belt D-loop closer in a easy to reach location.”
Is there a future for all apparatus in Prince George’s County to be retrofitted with ReadyReach? While the retrofit may be applicable to most apparatus models, different manufacturers’ apparatus would require extensive retrofitting. Deputy Chief Barksdale stated, “I can see a justification as these clearly are a better fit for firefighters which will result in higher utilization and increased firefighter safety.” With several new pieces of fire apparatus on order with Pierce Manufactures’ Barksdale has requested that the new rigs be equipped with ReadyReach.”
Why Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department and more specifically the College Park Volunteer Fire Department? It’s simple, Mike Wilbur.
According to Fire Engineering Magazine, Mike Wilbur, has been a volunteer firefighter for more than 37 years and a career firefighter with the Fire Department of New York for 30 years. He is a lieutenant in FDNY’s Ladder Company 27 in the Bronx. Previously, he was assigned to Ladder Company 56 for 15 years and for eight years as an apparatus operator. He served on the FDNY apparatus purchasing committee. He is a contributing author for fire service publications and served on the IFSTA validation committees for the Apparatus Operator and Aerial Operator manuals and the USFA’s Safe Operation of Fire Tankers and Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative committee. He specializes in emergency vehicle operations, apparatus placement, and apparatus purchasing.
Wilbur was the driving force behind all FDNY fire apparatus being retrofitted with Ready Reach and all new FDNY apparatus are being ordered with the belts already installed. Wilbur’s son, Nick, attends the University of Maryland in College Park and is a volunteer member at the College Park Fire/EMS Station located on Route 1 near the North Gate entrance to campus.
The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department looks forward to the expanding use of the ReadyReach seat belt system, increased usage by firefighters and an overall improvement in firefighter safety.
For additional information on the ReadyReach seat belts and IMMI, click here.