Gov. Ted Strickland has announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS), the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP), a division of ODPS, and the Ohio State Troopers Association (OSTA) to move forward with outfitting OSHP's fleet of Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors (CVPIs) with a vehicular fire protection system manufactured by FIRE Panel, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based safety company.
The FIRE Panel system was selected by Ohio's public safety partners after an eight-month search to find the most viable option for supplemental protection against fires resulting from high-speed, rear-impact collisions to OSHP's CVPI fleet. On Dec. 3, ODPS Director Henry Guzmán and Ohio State Highway Patrol Col. Richard Collins will appear before the State of Ohio Controlling Board to formally request authority to spend $643,850 on the purchase of FIRE Panel systems.
"The safety of our law enforcement officers is deeply important to me. This fire protection system provides an added measure of safety for the men and women of our State Highway Patrol who spend countless hours patrolling our highways and protecting our citizens," said Gov. Strickland. "I believe this is a necessary step to ensure that we prevent additional fire-related tragedies from occurring within our law enforcement ranks."
FIRE Panel's patented system deters fires in high-impact crashes. In addition, because the system is a single piece with no moving parts, it can be quickly installed on the outside of fuel tanks, minimizing the downtime for vehicles and saving money on installation and maintenance. At an estimated $4 million less than other available vehicular fire protection technology, the system is also cost effective.
"Working together with our partners, I am extremely pleased that we have identified a system that will provide a profound safety benefit for the Ohio State Highway Patrol," said ODPS Director Henry Guzmán. "This system is recognized as being efficient to install and maintain, while providing a critical added layer of security to vehicles in the event of a high-impact, rear-end crash."
The fire protection system consists of a polymer shell that contains a fire suppression powder. By releasing a cloud of fire suppressant upon impact, the shell acts as a shield around the gas tank and is proven to mitigate the risk of fuel-related fires caused by high-energy impacts. The suppressant prevents a fire from occurring, even traveling with the momentum of the vehicle as it comes to rest. If a FIRE Panel-equipped vehicle experiences a rear-end collision that pushes the gas tank forward into the body elements, FIRE Panel will activate, no matter how badly the car is damaged. Components of FIRE Panel's system are manufactured in Bowling Green, Ohio.
"All of the men and women of the Ohio State Highway Patrol appreciate Governor Strickland's support on this very important safety issue. He made it clear to me soon after my appointment that this needed to be a top priority," said Col. Richard Collins, Patrol superintendent. "I also appreciate the cooperative spirit at OSTA that made this possible."
FIRE Panel is currently in use by the Idaho State Police, Massachusetts State Police, New York State Police, North Carolina State Highway Patrol, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, city police departments in Dallas, Phoenix, and Portland, Ore., as well as more than 100 other police organizations across North America.
"In addition to other steps we've taken such as reorganizing items in the trunk of patrol vehicles to reduce the potential of puncturing the gas tank, the addition of the FIRE Panel system adds a proven layer of protection that can be provided to all troopers working in the field," said Larry Phillips, OSTA president.
Upon approval of the expenditure of funds from the Controlling Board, ODPS may enter into contractual agreements for the purchase and installation of the fire protection system to have the entire fleet of more than 1,300 vehicles outfitted by spring 2008.
For more information on FIRE Panel, visit www.firepanel.net.