What is in this article?:
- Manufacturers ready WASP wearable firefighter tracker for market (with related video)
- Embracing embedded electronics
After years of research, a wearable wireless firefighter tracking system will hit the market in 2013.
(Article appeared in print as "Watch and wear")
A long-awaited system developed to reduce firefighter deaths and disability due to stress and lack of data will be available this year. Dubbed the Wearable Advanced Sensor Platform, WASP is a first-generation sensor system used in infrastructure-free and GPS-denied environments to track fire personnel. The wireless technologies are integrated into turnout gear and a new technical based layer developed byMfg. and their textile technology partner, Propel LLC.
Tracking firefighters became a priority after the 1999 Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire, in which six firefighters were killed after becoming lost. The idea re-energized after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when federal leadership tasked scientists with developing technologies that could track firefighters in buildings where GPS was unavailable.
It is an important technology, and is one of the industry’s top priorities. Indeed, the InterAgency Board listed in its 2012 R&D priority report that the No. 1issue was for the industry to determine a way to track the location of firefighters at incidents. Sanctioned by the U.S. attorney general, the InterAgency Board was founded in 1998 to strengthen the nation’s ability to prepare for and respond safely and effectively to emergencies, disasters and CBRNE incidents.
Moving passed PASS
To track firefighters, fire departments currently use PASS devices, which emit a loud, audible alert to let others in the same area know that a firefighter is in distress. These devices are integrated into firefighters’ SCBA.
But an audible alarm isn’t as effective as wireless sensing systems, said TRX Systems’ CEO Carol Politi last March, when the company announced an expected 2013 launch of the company’s Sentrix solution. The solution includes a set of sensors about the size of a deck of cards worn by firefighters that track their geographical location inside a building and calculate location by using data to model each person’s actions. Tracking units worn by firefighters transmit data and voice through two-way radios or cellular devices, which is then transmitted it to a command laptop with a mobile radio attached, she said.
TRX worked with the Department of Army, National Protection Center to integrate physiological data acquired from a bioharness (developed by Zephyr Technology) and the company’s location monitoring device into a lightweight system that tracks a firefighter’s location and vital signs. The bioharness enables the capture and transmission of comprehensive physiological data on the wearer via mobile and fixed data networks — enabling genuine remote monitoring of human performance and condition in the real world, Zephyr’s CEO Brian Russell explained.
The bioharness tracks firefighter cardiac health on the fire scene and in training, since that is a primary cause of firefighter fatalities, Russell said. Information is transmitted wirelessly to command laptops, so each person’s health rate can be monitored.
“With that data, a commander can determine if they need to pull someone out,” he added.