It must have been around 5 years ago when I last visited an Emergency Services Show, at the time it was down at Stoneleigh Park where it barely filled a couple of halls. But how things have changed, this years event was the biggest and busiest in its 10-year history.
Hang on a minute, what is the Emergency Services Show you may ask. Well, as the name suggests it’s a show aimed at all our emergency services, whether its land, air or water based, and offers a fascinating insight to the UK’s fast-evolving emergency services industry.
This year saw a move to the much larger Hall 5 at the NEC, and even then they had to utilise an outdoor car park or two! Not only were companies and organisations selling their wares, but the organisers had managed to arrange over 80 free seminar sessions, numerous CPD workshops, as well as live demonstrations and water rescue displays on the Pendigo Lake directly outside the exhibition hall. Phew.
That’s all very good, but why is that of interest to us 4x4 owners and outdoor enthusiasts?
Well my theory is, if the products on offer are good enough for coastguards, police and the military then they’re going to be great for us.
Having said that, as you can imagine there’s a lot of companies selling their wares that are way beyond our needs, and one of these included WASP Rescue. The ‘Warning Alarm for Stability Protection’ (WASP) was most recently deployed on the high profile bridge collapse on the M20 last year. It monitored the remaining pier ensuring that rescue workers were protected during the recovery and clean up phase. In fact, around 90% of the exhibitors are specialist in their fields and therefore not really relevant, but that didn’t stop me from gawping in awe at some of the machinery.
One of the many vehicles that caught my attention was the Overlord armoured vehicle from Ovik-Crossland. I love that name 'Overlord'! It has a Cummins 6.7 ltd engine up front with an Allison 3500 Transmission and OVIK transfer box. Of course it has heavy duty axles with variable differential ratios, and differential locks to ensure that OVERLORD can operate at up to 14 tonnes GVW with 2.5 tonnes of payload!
One particular company that is relevant to us was Armadillo Merino. You may think that a base layer is just a base layer, but they aren’t. Armadillo Merino take pride in designing the world’s most advanced next-to-skin clothing for tactical operators and professionals operating in high risk environments. Their next-to-skin clothing is safe as will not melt, drip or catch fire, which is handy for military personnel and firefighters alike.
Andy was kind enough to give me a base layer and some socks to review. I’ll write a more in-depth report once I’ve worn them for a while.
It was great to catch up with Gill from Peli who was on hand showcasing their cases, torches and, well, pretty much everything they offer. Peli are the go-to company if you want a dependable case that will protect your gear, and are trusted by professionals and enthusiasts alike. I still use some of their goodies from years ago and they’re still going strong (I must do a re-review on them soon).
Wilderness Lighting had an impressive stand and I was desperate to have a chat about how I could improve the lighting on Deux Smurf, but they were far too popular. Maybe next year…
A company who I see quite regularly at shows like this is Air-Seal Products, and it makes sense, the last thing you want to be mithered with in an emergency is a pesky puncture. Air-Seal Products offer a range of tyre sealants that are able to treat machinery and vehicles for both on and off road environments, from wheelbarrows to large dumper trucks.
How it works is quite simple, as the tyre rotates, the sealant spreads evenly over the inside surface and the moment a penetration occurs, the air pressure in the tyre forces the gloop to plug the hole. Obviously it’s more complicated than that, but who cares as long it works, yeah?
For us 4x4 owners who enjoy greenlaning fitting Air-Seal Products is a no-brainer really, especially as idiots have started to sabotage green lanes with metal spikes.
The atmosphere, both inside the hall and out was amazing, according to the organisers over 20% of the 460 exhibition stands were taken by new exhibitors and record number of 6,433 visitors were attracted to the show, which included a 45% increase in overseas visitors.
There were so many interesting companies and vehicles on show, from Hägglunds to hovercrafts, and everyone appeared incredibly busy either networking or taking orders. This caused me a bit of a problem as I didn’t want to barge in and interrupt more important conversations, instead I just wandered around taking photos.
And that was it for 2016, I left with a huge grin on my face, after all, how often do you see an Oshkosh Striker Airport Firefighting vehicle up close and personal?
The Emergency Services Show will return to Hall 5 at the NEC from 20th to 21st September 2017. Entry to the exhibition, all the seminars and parking will continue to be free of charge.