Fighting Fire with Sensors

One of the things the FDNY learned during the crisis of 9/11 is the importance of coordinating emergency vehicles without delay," says Asa Yanai, project manager for Motorola, which supplies vehicle-tracking systems to the New York and Chicago fire departments. The company's MDR800 model F5127 system integrates a u-blox GPS receiver with dead-reckoning functionality that, aided by other sensors, provides accurate vehicle location information—even in tunnels and underground parking garages. The systems are responsible, say New York City officials, for reducing response time to 911 calls by 3 minutes. www.sensorsmag.com/0906/SCfire1

The results of a study—made possible by another sensor system—can help ensure the safety of firefighters once they arrive on the scene.

Because firefighters work at or near maximal heart rates for extended periods while training, the experience is dangerous—and too often deadly. So Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI) and The Center for Firefighter Safety Research and Development conducted a year-long scientific study to determine guidelines for firefighter training safety—with the help of VivoMetrics LifeShirt.

Worn beneath protective gear, the LifeShirt enabled MFRI to monitor respiration, ECG, blood oxygen saturation, temperature, and activity level during standard training exercises, including maze crawls, 1000° F fires, and hose pulls—conditions that cannot be replicated in a laboratory environment. "Until now, there was no other way to measure firefighters' life-signs in real-time, during training," says MFRI director Steve Edwards.

The LifeShirt-informed guidelines were presented to fire departments and training academies nationwide last month. www.sensorsmag.com/0906/SCfire2