About 10 years ago, a firefighter fell off the roof of a residential home and was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. Many firehouses have similar stories.
Although the firefighter survived, it got Capt. Robert Duffy thinking.
Capt. Duffy, a 19-year veteran of the Springfield (Mass.) Fire Department, began his career in the construction and roofing business. As Capt. Duffy rose through the ranks, he was promoted to captain of training and spent a lot of his time teaching firefighters vertical ventilation and rooftop operations.
He always kept that one accident in the back of his mind and was concerned about his fellow firefighters falling off the roof due to the lack of proper equipment to give them a safe and sturdy footing.
"One night, I was lying in bed and it just came to me,” Capt. Duffy said. “I stayed up until 3:30 in the morning and started sketching out a design concept and made a prototype to experiment with. I took it to a metal shop the next day to see if it worked and it did."
The Quick Step Anchor (QSA) is a device that provides firefighters with a sturdy platform while conducting vertical-ventilation operations. It takes the place of the pickhead ax, trash hook and halligan bar.
"The longer you’re on a roof, the more chance you have falling through," Capt. Duffy said.
Capt. Duffy met with engineers and machinists to show his then-16-pound product.
"When I started showing it to people, they all said it was too heavy," Capt. Duffy said. "So, I went back to another machine shop and they helped me get it down from 16 to 11 pounds."
The QSA is made of lightweight aircraft aluminum and incorporates an anchor point that allows the firefighter to anchor with a safety lanyard in case of a fall. It can hold up to 1,000 pounds for 48 hours and is adjustable to all pitched roofs.
It anchors to the roof with two anchor hooks, which are pushed through a cut made by a chainsaw, and the hooks lock onto the backside of the sheathing to lock the step into place. The firefighter then connects the safety line from the QSA to his or her safety belt, stopping the firefighter in the event of a fall.
Capt. Duffy boasts that his product frees up a second firefighter from standing on the lower end of the roof ladder and provides another opportunity for more firefighters at the scene.
"I believe there will be a QSA on every fire truck in the world," Capt. Duffy said. "It takes time to get the product out there, but I’m dedicated to let everyone know about it."
Capt. Duffy has donated two QSA’s to the Springfield Fire Department. The firefighters are almost done with the training and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, he said.
"I wanted them to be the first in the world to use it because of the fact that it was inspired by a Springfield firefighter who fell off a roof, it was invented by a Springfield firefighter and its being manufactured here in Springfield," Capt. Duffy said. "I just thought it was the right thing to do."
The QSA retails for $995 and is displayed at various fire tradeshows. Capt. Duffy says the product is drawing interest from departments across the country and Canada.
"I’m honored the idea came to me and that I can help save the lives of the people who save lives for a living," Capt. Duffy said.