The Peoria Fire-Medical Department has purchased a hazmat robot to avoid tragedies like the 2019 explosion at the APS McMicken energy storage facility that injured four Peoria firefighters.
The first of its kind in the United States, the robot was purchased with grant funds from the Tohono O’odham Nation.
“Literally, it doesn’t exist anywhere else,” said Peoria Fire Capt. Mark Barbee. “We had four firefighters who were injured at a battery facility. This came about from that.
“It was a lot of work with the people involved in the incident and fire administration. We determined we needed to take less risks when we have something like that that is unknown.”
The NED Hazmat 193 robot boasts four cameras and can read labels. The robot allows the operating firefighter to remotely see inside potentially dangerous spaces before crews enter.
“NED,” named after the Tohono O’odham Nation’s chairman, is designed to keep members safe by remote monitoring in dangerous environments that firefighters traditionally enter. The robot is in the automatic aid system so it can be shared throughout the Valley.
“We’ve never had an explosion like that that’s injured firefighters,” Barbee said. “It made national news. This robot is a deployable asset.”
It is stored with and dispatched by the hazmat team at Fire Station 193, 8330 W. Emile Zola and 83rd Avenue. “NED” has a loading ramp for easy transport.
Manufactured by North Carolina’s Superdroid Robots, the model Peoria owns has a plethora of features, including:
•A 20-times zoom camera with 360-degree pan and tilt.
•Three other mounted cameras.
•A multiaxis arm capable of lifting 20 pounds fully extended.
•A track design that allows the robot to climb over most obstacles, including stairs.
•A mounted Toxi-RAE MultiRAE 5 gas plus radiation meter.
•An eight-hour run time.
•Gripping fingers with 65 pounds of squeeze force, as well as three attachments that fit in the arm, including a hook, piercer and wire cutter.
“The robot is not meant to pull or lift anything heavy,” Barbee said. “It couldn’t drag a human being out. It’s not meant for that. It has different attachments. For example, the claw can only grip 65 pounds of squeeze force.
“There’s a hook, something that pierces and wire cutters. When the arm is fully extended, it can lift 20 pounds.”
Several of Peoria firefighters have been trained in-house and will continue their education to use “NED.”
“It’s like a skills course,” he said. “You have to take A, B and C to be proficient,” Barbee said.