Firefighter’s device will save lives at sea

Pete Broomfield's invention.

Pete Broomfield’s invention.

A pioneering invention of a Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) firefighter will soon be helping to save lives on the high seas. The ground-breaking anti-tangle strap was designed to protect fire crews from getting caught in falling cables and trapped while tackling a blaze.

This device, which bridges the space between the back of the pack and the cylinder on breathing apparatus, will now also be rolled out in its hundreds to all Royal Navy vessels during the next two years.

Colonel Mike Tanner, Captain of Portsmouth Naval Base, said, “The Naval Base is always keen to review ways to improve fire safety. The anti-snag Extended Duration Breathing Apparatus devices suggested by Dave Smith of HFRS appear to offer a common sense way to better protect our people when fighting a fire inside ships and we’re excited about this opportunity.

“We’ve already trialled the equipment with RN fire experts in our Phoenix Fire Fighting facility with very positive results. This demonstrates just one of the many ways in which we closely work with HFRS, as well as the many joint training exercise held on ships and within the base and, of course, preparations ahead of the arrival of the Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers”.

Fareham acting Crew Manager Pete Broomfield created the device. Defence contractor, BAE, who make warships for the Royal Navy and work closely with the fire and rescue service, already use the strap on all their breathing apparatus.

Emergency Response Team Leader at Portsmouth Naval Base, Chris Eastland, said, “The simplest designs are often the best and this is fantastic. It seems obvious but nobody had thought of it before. It definitely saves lives and helps us deal with incidents more quickly whether carrying out a rescue or locating a fire. Nobody would go to an incident without this strap now. We got them after being introduced to them during our work with HFRS.”

Crew manager Broomfield was involved in tackling the fatal fire in Shirley Towers, Southampton, in 2010, in which two firefighters died. An investigation identified falling cables as a factor in the tragedy.

HFRS’s Royal Navy Port Liaison Officer David Smith said, “It is extremely gratifying that something positive could be learnt from this that can now be saving others. This device highlights how innovative HFRS is as an organisation and the fact that it has been picked up by bodies as health and safety conscious as BAE and the Royal Navy shows how effective the device itself is.”

Firefighter Broomfield said, “It is fantastic news that this is being rolled out to the military. It is extremely gratifying to think that something I created off the cuff will be making lives safer in other services.

“I feel fortunate that Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service listened to my idea. I mentioned it and the next day I had people down to work out how best to get it out there and putting me in touch with people who could make it happen.”

He added that the device, which he designed based on his wife’s hair clip, had now got interest from fire crews as far afield as Canada and the US. He is also hoping to talk to breathing apparatus manufacturers about getting the device put on all sets of equipment before they leave the factory.