Mark Bosse, chief of Poland (Maine) Fire and Rescue, recalls a dark night when his men repeatedly broke through the ice while trying to reach a victim 1,500 feet from shore. The rescuers, dressed in heavy gear, were physically drained from pulling themselves out of the icy lake time and again. Visibility was nil, and communications failed as radios became waterlogged.
After successfully pulling the victim from the frigid waters, the men still had a long haul back to shore through the same crumbling ice. If not for the Game Warden’s air boat meeting them part way, the outcome could have been very bad. “I feared my men might not make it back alive,” recalls Bosse.
Despite an extensive search, it wasn’t until Bosse attended the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) a few months later that he became acquainted with WISE Technology and the Amphibious Ice Rescue Responder (AIR Responder), a vehicle capable of carrying multiple people, up to 900 pounds combined, across solid and broken ice and open water. The vehicle virtually eliminates the risk to rescue personnel who, using traditional methods may otherwise become victims themselves.
Bosse arranged to have WISE Technology demonstrate the versatility of the AIR Responder over the course of months in a variety of cold water conditions. Meanwhile, the rescuers who would eventually be using the vehicle were able to offer valuable input. WISE made improvements to the prototype, and the end result was delivered to the Poland (ME) Fire Department in July 2014.
“We are very excited to be the first in the world to have this valuable lifesaving vehicle. It can go across water, across ice, and anything in between in situations where you can’t safely put another piece of equipment,” adds Bosse.
The AIR Responder’s specialized features result in reduced rescue time and increased safety for all involved. Its Kevlar®-reinforced foam-filled fiberglass hull, high-density plastic bottom and very low center of gravity render the AIR Responder virtually unsinkable. The vehicle is capable of reaching the victim in a fraction of the time of conventional methods, reducing the likelihood of hypothermia. Any necessary medical care can begin as soon as the victim is onboard while the vehicle returns to shore to the waiting ambulance.
After seeing media accounts of rescue personnel walking gingerly on, or often sprawled across, icy bodies of water to get to a victim, Roger Bailey of Gilford, New Hampshire, thought, “There has to be a better way.” He founded WISE Technology, LLC (Water, Ice, Snow Equipment) in 2011 and, through years of study and prototypes, the AIR Responder was born. This device uses the power and speed of a snowmobile to propel it across a wide variety of ice, snow, and open water at speeds up to 25 miles per hour without fear of flipping or sinking because of its wide, buoyant design.
In November 2013, WISE Technology collaborated with The Landing School of Arundel, Maine, on constructing the hull. The post-secondary institution, founded in 1978, blends education in modern yacht design, boat building and marine systems technology into diploma and associate’s degree programs. Together, composite boat building instructor Chis Audy and yacht design instructor Derek Wright built a prototype. Jamie Houtz, a fellow Landing School faculty member and experienced fire captain, weighed in on the design to ensure it would suit rescue workers’ needs. They added a structural gird system, which provided added rigidity. They also reduced the weight of the hull by changing the laminate schedule and adding Kevlar® to the regions impacted by ice. The result was a more durable hull and increased optimum speeds.
WISE Technology received a patent for the vehicle in February 2014 and delivered its first unit to the Poland (ME) Fire and Rescue that July.
In recent tests the AIR Responder was able to get to an accident victim in less time than it took firefighters to inflate and deploy their inflatable boat. A distance that took them 35 minutes round trip took the AIR Responder only six minutes. Because it is propelled by an unaltered snowmobile, speed and ease of steering make a significant difference.
“We are very pleased participate in this project with WISE Technology,” says Robert DeColfmacker, Landing School President. “This opportunity allowed our faculty to help a local company fulfill its goal of developing a new-to-market product, one that will be used to save countless lives. It’s a great lesson for our students about the positive outcome of collaboration”.
Amphibious Ice Rescue (AIR) Responder
- Versatile for ice, broken ice, open water or snow
- Reinforced Kevlar® fiberglass hull
- Replaceable HDPE plastic bottom
- Foam-filled core makes hull essentially unsinkable.
- Large, flat nonskid platform to conduct rescues
- Low center of gravity provides for extremely stable work space.
- Very low freeboard (less than four inches) for ease of access and recovery
- Integrated edge rollers to assist in victim recovery
- Railing system designed as victim grab rail and responder tether anchor
- Deck-mounted electric winch for loading
- Snowmobile can be removed from the hull in five minutes and reattached in 15 minutes.
- Optional light rail for running lights or mounting spot or floodlights
- Light rail can be mounted in either forward or rear position.
- Rail can be laid flat in either position for passing under low obstacles.
- 15-foot overall length.
- Seven-foot beam.
- 33.4-square-foot platform.
- 650-pound dry weight without snowmobile.
- 1,450-pound functional weight when fully equipped.
- Approximately 900-pound weight capacity—two rescuers, two victims, and equipment.
- Custom tilt-and-rotate design.
- Tandem axles for tire redundancy in case of flats.
- Designed for rear-facing deployment of vehicle.
- Tilt allows for quick deployment and recovery of the AIR Responder at rescue site.
- Rotation allows for quick reorientation of the AIR Responder for a rear-facing deployment.
- Arctic Cat XF 7000 long-track snowmobile with optional rail kit for second seat.
- Approximately 130-hp with full carbide studs.
For further information, go to www.wisetechco.com