July 2006

Fishing Talk Radio | New Product Reviews

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Arizona-Built Fire-Training Platform Purchased By San Diego Harbor Police

By Jim Kelly

On June 13, the San Diego Harbor Police became the first maritime agency on the West Coast to put into operation an ecologically friendly, floating, fire-training platform.

Manufactured by Southwest Mobile, Inc. of Phoenix, Ariz., the platform was fitted on a demilitarized naval vessel at the 10th Street Terminal and then moved to 24th street in National City where it will remain until going into operations.

One of the best features of the new fire-training platform is everything was obtained at no cost to the Port District.

A grant to purchase the platform was obtained by the Harbor Police under the 2004 Urban Areas Security Initiative Program (UASI), and the boat was purchased with another grant from the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service.

According to Sgt. Eric Womack, training supervisor for the Harbor Police, the idea for the floating platform was first considered in the early part of 2005 and, "things just sort of came together at the right time.

"We’ll be able to use it to train for hazardous-materials emergencies and fighting fires," he explained in an interview with Arizona Boating & Watersports. "It’s great. All we’ll have to do is flip a switch," he said with enthusiasm echoing in his words. "It’s just like lighting a barbeque."

Womack explained the unit is made from used conex boxes and can be reconfigured to simulate different environments inside. It produces environmentally friendly artificial smoke and works on liquid propane gas.

"We can even move the areas around inside the box to produce multi-level crawl spaces you might find inside a boat," he added.

Womack also said the platform will be made available to other agencies in the county.

Southwest Mobile took approximately six months to build the platform, and Jim Benassi, vice president of design and fabrication for the company, was on hand to help assemble the unit.

According to Benassi, the father of the company’s founder, is a professor of forensics engineering at Arizona State University and came up with the idea of using steel containers as fire-training platforms.

"They’ve been doing this for about 20 years in Europe," he told Arizona Boating & Watersports, "but we’ve just started manufacturing them here."

In addition to building fire-training platforms, Benassi’s company constructs training units for other uses. Recently they fabricated a 5,000 square-foot training tower for the town of Buckeye, Ariz., and for Glendale Community College.

"We’ve built about 27 fire-training units so far," Benassi said. "However, this is the first one that’s been built to put on a boat."

More information on the fire-training units can be obtained by going to Southwest Mobile’s Web site at: http://www.mobilefireunits.com.


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