4 Primary Benefits of Helmet Cams for Your Fire Department

Will watching these videos make you a better firefighter?  Absolutely.

A view from the front lines.

THE FIRE SERVICE HAS BEEN QUIETLY DEBATING THE USE OF HELMET CAMS FOR YEARS. But this year, a single incident (the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Fransisco) moved the issue onto the radar of the national media.

The San Fransisco Fire Department’s ban on the use of helmet cams following the incident and somewhat fumbling attempts to defend the policy in the days after, gave the appearance that they hadn’t really thought this through very well.  And to be fair, neither have most other departments; however, maybe this should serve as notice that an informed conversation about helmet cams is overdue.

But in order to do that, we need to first identify exactly what their value is to our profession. Having had a cam on my helmet since 2008, I’m definitely sold on the utility of the technology.   For this article, I’ve organized the fire helmet cam’s most valuable uses into 4 major categories:

  1. Training
  2. Investigations
  3. Public Education
  4. Public Relations

Continue reading

Helmet Cams on the Fireground: Part 1

Intro

Flight 214 burning as firefighters scramble to control the fire in the cabin.

Asiana Airlines Flight 214 from the Battalion Chief’s helmet cam.

Recently, there’s been a lot of media attention on the role of helmet cams in the fire service.   The ban on helmet cams by the San Francisco Fire Department following an incident that occurred during the response to the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 has garnered national attention:  Helmet cams: Should they be banned? – CBS News Video.

After being interviewed by a couple different news agencies about the usefulness and prevalence of firefighter helmet cams, it became clear that for such a hot topic, there is very little useful information on the subject.  Most of us know they’re being used, but for what purposes, exactly?  What are the risks?  Are they worth it?  What are the best practices for their use?

With all this attention, now seems like a good time to have a much needed discussion on these cameras.  Over the next few months, helmetcamfirefighter.com will be posting a series of articles that explore the pros and cons of fireground video, along with some best practices for helmet cam use.  We’ll also take a look at how and when not to use your camera, and how to avoid getting yourself or your department into trouble.  We’ll finish off the series in December, with a review of some existing SOPs and a sample SOP for you or your department to consider.

Attitudes

I think when most firefighters think about helmet cams, Continue reading

FDCam Apple Tutorials: Adjusting the Settings On Your FDCam 720

Fire helmet cam mac tutorials.

In part two of our series on using your helmet cam with a Mac, we are going to change the settings on the camera.  Your FDCam-720 has user adjustable settings for SD card file overwriting (you tell the cam wether you want it to overwrite or turn off when SD is full), date/time stamping, and resolution / frame rate.

Adjusting the settings is optional and your helmet cam will work fine if you never change any of these.  In most cases, it will work better if you never change them.   However, like me, many of you don’t prefer the Timestamp on your videos, and you’ve asked for directions on how to change them on your Mac.  So here goes.

Really the process you will use is the same as it is on a PC, it just looks a little different:

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Step 1:  Connect your FDCam to your Mac via the supplied USB cable.

The removable disk will be called "No Name" unless you have changed the name.

You will see a device drive icon appear on your screen. If this is your first time connecting this helmet cam or SD card, or if you’ve never renamed your camera, the drive will be called No Name.

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Step 2:   Continue reading

FDCam Apple Tutorials: Setting the Date and Time on Your Fire Helmet Cam

Fire helmet cam mac tutorials.When you’re an Apple user, it sometimes seems like the whole world is against you.  Well, here at FDCam, we embrace the Mac.  But lately we’ve been getting a lot of requests for instructions specific for the Apple User.  FDCam’s Apple Tutorial Series will address the initial set-up of your helmet cam’s software.  Today’s installment will cover setting the time and date on your FDCam fire helmet cam.

Step 1:  Connect your FDCam to your Mac via the supplied USB cable.
Your Mac will automatically call your fire helmet cam No Name

You will see a device drive icon appear on your screen. If this is your first time connecting this helmet cam or SD card, or if you’ve never renamed your camera, the drive will be called No Name.  For the rest of the tutorial, we will refer to your device as No Name.

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Step 2:   Continue reading

FDCam Reviews: The CRKT Big Dog, M16-14Z Emergency Rescue

Blade reprofiled by Arin at FDCam

QUICK LOOK-

Price:

$54.99 – $89.99

Overall Dimensions:

  • Weight:  6.2oz (confirmed)
  • Open Length:  9.25″
  • Closed Length:  5.5″

Blade:

  • Style:  American Tanto
  • Primary Grind:  Hollow
  • Cutting Edge:  Combination Plain/Serrated   (V-Grind/Chisel Ground Serrations)
  • Length:  3.75″
  • Thickness:  .138″ (3.5mm)
  • Steel:  Aichi AUS-8

Other Features:

PROS-

  • Excellent value
  • Solid build quality, durable blade design, and rock solid lock-up
  • Carbide glass-breaker works effortlessly
  • Generous proportions make for easy handling with thick gloves
  • Fast blade deployment

CONS-

  • Large flipper and pointy carbide window breaker make this M16 a real pocket hog
  • Our test knife was not shaving sharp out of the box (though FDCam will pre-sharpen any knife we sell, free of charge)
  • While very sturdy, the Auto-LAWKS safety makes one-handed closing basically out of the question
  • Handles need more texture for better grip

BEST USES-

  • Duty knife for firefighters, EMTs, and police officers
  • Glove-box knife for self-rescue from vehicles
  • Light duty survival knife
  • Tactical/self-defense

COMPETITION-

If you don't have to use the knife with gloves, one of the smaller Emergency Rescue M16's would be easier to carry.Intro:  Formed in 1994 by two former Kershaw employees, Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT) has gained a reputation for Continue reading

FDCam Reviews: THE FOXFURY COMMAND 20-FIRE

A side view of the Command 20

STATS:

  • Weight:  8.4 oz stated (8.9 oz on our scale)Logo
  • Light Output:  60 Lumens
  • Beam Profile:  Flood (Wide, General Area Lighting)
  • Run Time on “High”:  16hr (rechargeable – 7hr)
  • Price:  $84.99 – $95.99

PROS:

  • Rugged, reliable, and heat resistant
  • Doesn’t interfere with operation of helmet visor
  • Hides its weight well, due to excellent balance
  • Lengthy runtime even on high
  • The two green LED’s in the array help with depth perception and color rendering in mild to moderate smoke conditions

CONS:

  • Not as bright as some others in its class (as it is a headlamp, this could just as easily go in the PRO column)
  • Unfocused beam not very useful outdoors
  • Long runtime comes at the cost of increased weight
  • Needs a helmet equipped with Bourke® shields or EZ-Flips® to really shine.
  • Can’t really be used as a regular headlamp without ordering additional straps

BEST FOR:

  • Providing general work lighting in mild to moderate smoke conditions
  • Overhaul
  • Helmet Cam Filming of Interior Operations

COMPETITORS:

  • Princeton Tec Apex
  • Streamlight Septor
  • Pelican 2640 HeadsUp Lite
  • Petzl Duo LED 14
  • Surefire Saint
Not enough spill beam for general work.

Lights like this Pelican Big Ed have a narrow beam angle. Great for cutting smoke, not so great at other illumination tasks.

INTRODUCTION:  As firefighters, we tend to look for lights with tight beams to help us see through thick smoke.  What we often fail to realize, Continue reading

Fire Helmet Cam User Manual – FDCam

FDCam – Fire Helmet Cam User Manual

The user manual will be a dynamic document.  As we grow and respond to feedback from our customers, the manual will get better and better.

If you have any suggestions or questions  that aren’t addressed in this version, please post a comment here.  Good or bad, we would love to hear from you.

Thanks, Your FDCam.com Team

FDCam Reviews: The Streamlight Survivor LED

Hanging on a coat on the engine

PROS:

  • Best-in-class beam
  • 4AA/LED configuration is lightweight while still retaining good runtime
  • Solid Ergos
  • Switching modes is simple and intuitive

CONS:

  • Not as water-proof as some of it’s competition
  • Cool tint to LED’s washes out color
  • Focused beam doesn’t provide much working light
  • Rechargeable version is pretty spendy

STATS:

  • 140 Max Lumens
  • 2.5-3.5 hr runtime on High
  • 13.1 oz (17.9 oz  for rechargeable)
  • $60-$70 ($120+ for rechargeable)

COMPETITION:

Overview:  90° or “right-angle” flashlights are a fire service staple, and for good reason:  They are perfect for providing hands-free forward illumination when clipped to your turnout coat.  And in the world of right-angle lights, the Streamlight Survivor is king (at least for now).  It’s a practical, well thought out light that just plain works.

Clip and spilt ring.

The texturing on the third gen Survivor LED is much more refined than past versions.

Body:  The Survivor is built with a tough but lightweight nylon case that Continue reading