Technology Roundup: Maximizing Safety, Efficiency, and Interoperability

BY MARY JANE DITTMAR

Trends in emergency services technologies that have emerged or have been continued over the past year reflect several major objectives. There is the ever-present need to improve firefighter health and safety, especially lowering the number of line-of-duty deaths. The initiatives of the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), many of them involving health and safety, are presented in “USFA: Responder Health and Safety Focus of Initiatives” on page 74. Many studies are underway to learn more about firefighting hazards so that fire tactics can be made safer (see “Firefighting Technology Research at NIST” on page 68).

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), for example, awarded Underwriters Laboratories (UL) a $991,900 Fire Prevention and Safety Research Grant to enhance the understanding of the hazards for firefighters in structural fires and to use the data to improve firefighting tactics. The study, “The Firefighter Safety Research Project,” will investigate the structural stability of engineered lumber and evaluate the effectiveness of the extinguishing agents used to fight fires in modern structures. The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the Chicago (IL) Fire Department, and the University of Maryland Fire Protection Department will participate in the study. The objective, according to Steven Westermann, president of the IAFC, is to develop strong recommendations for fighting fires in new residential and commercial developments. He noted that, between 1998 and 2003, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) attributed 13 firefighter fatalities and nine firefighter injuries to the collapse of buildings built with lightweight wood trusses. UL estimates that a report will be ready in early 2009.

Robots, Unmanned Devices

One approach for enhancing responder safety is to remove the responder from the most dangerous scenarios, when possible. This goal involves the study of robots for urban search and rescue (US&R) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), sponsored by the DHS, Science and Technology Directorate, Standards Program (see “US&R Robots: Toward Standard Performance Test Methods” on page 60) and of robots on the battlefield, as well as unmanned drones that can be directed to areas of danger to gather information about storms that can help responders to make disaster operations safer and to determine when civilian evacuations should be considered.

The U.S. Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) ultimately envisions a battlefield of robots; unmanned aerial vehicles, ground vehicles, and robot soldiers will operate within a sophisticated wireless communications network in which humans with remote controls and their robotic counterparts will communicate and exercise control.1 The Boeing Co. is the prime contractor for this project, being conducted in partnership with Science Applications International Corporation. (1) Also, “innovations” include providing electronic technologies for the military (and ultimately the emergency services) in smaller and lighter devices. (1)

Precision Personnel Locater

Since responders must out of necessity perform in dangerous environments, technologies have been directed at increasing safety on the fireground and other emergency sites and reducing responders’ line-of-duty deaths, injuries, and illnesses.

One example is the research that has been ongoing on the Precision Personnel Locater at Worcester (MA) Polytechnic Institute (WPI) for several years. The technology is periodically evaluated and tested at the Worcester (MA) Fire Department burn building and modified so that the ultimate locater device will meet firefighters’ needs and be affordable for fire departments. James Duckworth, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at WPI and principal investigator for the project, provides the following report.

“Over the past decade, WPI has emerged as the world leader in the pursuit of technological solutions for locating, tracking, and monitoring the status of firefighters as they work inside buildings. WPI’s research program in precision personnel location began after a December 3, 1999, warehouse fire in Worcester claimed the lives of six firefighters, most of whom died near exits they were unable to locate.

“Recognizing that the standard Global Positioning System (GPS) is ineffective inside buildings, WPI’s indoor personnel location and tracking research group has been developing a system based on advanced radio and radar technology. To date, the project has received more than $4 million in support from the U.S. Department of Justice and the DHS.

“The goal of the WPI project is to produce a reliable, low-cost commercial system that will require no setup at the fire scene. Firefighters or other emergency workers will wear transmitters on their turnout gear. Receivers located on emergency vehicles around the building will pick up their signals. The receivers will use sophisticated, custom-designed algorithms to determine their distance from the transmitters and, by sorting out a multitude of straight-line and reflected signals, determine the exact location of the transmitters in three-dimensional space.

“The final system will pinpoint a person’s location in three dimensions to within about a foot, have a range of 600 meters, and track up to 100 people simultaneously, displaying the position and path of each individual on a screen at the incident command center. During the past year, the research team has made significant progress toward those goals, refining the transmitter and receiver hardware; advancing the algorithms to improve their capabilities (they currently provide an accuracy of one meter, a range of 30 meters, and the ability to track five people); implementing a new algorithm that automatically determines the position of the receivers; and significantly enhancing the command center display.

“In addition, the system has now undergone numerous real-world tests in multiple building types—from wood-frame houses, to steel-framed buildings, to buildings with brick and stone facades. The tests are run with volunteers wearing full turnout gear to simulate realistic firefighting conditions. The system has also undergone trials in the Worcester Fire Department’s burn building. From the beginning of this project, the WPI research team has worked very closely with the firefighting community to understand its needs as well as the realities of the fireground. We are committed to developing a system that is reliable, accurate, and easy to use; that fits seamlessly and unobtrusively into the equipment firefighters wear and use as well as their way of attacking a fire; and that is affordable to most fire departments.


Figure 1. Screen capture. The command display developed as part of the new FEMA-supported research project, which combines real-time location and tracking with physiological monitoring. The display shows the location and tracks of four firefighters; two are on the first floor of the building and two on the second floor. The arrows indicate the direction of movement; the figure indicates the posture of the firefighter (upright or horizontal). Each firefighter is identified by radio call number. The physiological readings for one of the firefighters on the first floor are straying from normal levels (thus the yellow color); the other firefighter (in red and prone) is in trouble. Note that a box with real-time physiological data, name, photo, position, and air supply level pops up for firefighters who enter the red condition. (Figure courtesy of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.)



“One of the most significant developments of the past year involves the integration of physiological monitoring technology into the precision personnel location system. In August 2007, WPI received a nearly $1 million award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Program to develop a system that can locate and track firefighters and also monitor their health and physiological status, displaying both types of information on an integrated command center display. To achieve this goal, the WPI is partnering with Foster Miller Inc., a leader in physiological monitoring, and Globe Manufacturing, a manufacturer of turnout gear. The deliverable product will be a unique proof-of-concept firefighter safety system that mitigates two of the three leading causes of firefighter fatalities—related heart attacks (number 1) and getting lost, trapped, or disabled inside buildings (number 3).

“Currently, the research team is testing a system that incorporates a T-shirt … that monitors heart rate, respiration rate, skin temperature, activity level, and posture …. A small, short-range transmitter continuously sends the information from the T-shirt to the transmitter used for position location, which then rebroadcasts it, along with the position information, to the command center. The Worcester Fire Department asked the WPI team to simultaneously test a wireless pulse oximeter developed by researchers in WPI’s electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering departments. Worn on the forehead, the sensor monitors blood oxygenation and pulse and respiration rates and transmits the information to the position location radio. The results from the T-shirt and wearable oximeter compare favorably with blood oxygen, heart rate, and respiration rates measured independently with a pulse oximeter and capnography.

“As part of its efforts to respond to the needs and concerns of the firefighting community, WPI worked with Globe Manufacturing to survey the community about the value of an integrated location and physiological monitoring system during the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Redmond Symposium on Firefighter Health and Safety in Chicago in October 2007. The survey showed that firefighters strongly agreed that a real-time physiological monitor would improve firefighter safety during training and on the fireground …. More than 90 percent expressed interest in testing the locator/physiological monitoring system. The survey was to be repeated within the general firefighting population at the FDIC show in April, where the physiological monitoring system was displayed.

“WPI’s advanced position location and integrated physiological sensing technology will be demonstrated during WPI’s third annual Precision Indoor Personnel Location and Tracking for Emergency Responders Workshop August 4-5, 2008. The meeting attracts the top research groups and industries in the field of indoor location, as well as representatives from the firefighting community and state and federal agencies concerned with public safety and homeland security. The 2008 workshop will include two new features. First, a session has been added on the physiological monitoring of first responders. Second, at the request of the DHS, a day has been set aside to enable researchers and manufacturers to demonstrate their location technologies under identical conditions and following scenarios developed in cooperation with the Worcester Fire Department. The demonstrations will enable the capabilities of various technologies to be compared side by side for the first time. More information on the workshop can be found at http://www.ece.wpi.edu/Research/PPL/Workshops/2008/.

“The WPI research team estimates that a final commercial version of its location and physiological monitoring system could be available to the fire community within two to three years. A simpler homing device (dubbed the Mantenna) that uses technology similar to the position location system is also under development and may be ready for sale to emergency departments sooner.”

Use of Videos on the Fireground

Another effort to improve fireground safety as well as efficiency involves making video information readily available to fire commanders. The U.S. DHS’s Office for Interoperability and Compatibility entered into a $1.8 million cooperative agreement award with Noblis Mobile Communications, a nonprofit science, technology, and strategy organization specializing in complex scientific systems, process, and infrastructure problems, to assess emergency responders’ use of video, anticipate their future use of video, and ensure that technologies meet their needs. Mark Jones, manager of the Noblis Mobile Communications Team, describes a future fire scenario in which Command would be able to watch video being wirelessly streamed from a helicopter overhead, providing guidance for directing firefighters toward safety should a problem arise or to the most effective areas for fighting the fire.2

DATA “INTEROPERABILITY”

The Internet and tools such as the geographic information system (GIS) have facilitated the use and sharing of data-related technologies that can add to fireground efficiency. “The GIS technology has been out there for 20 years,” says Russ Johnson, public safety industrial manager for ESRI, marketer of GIS and software. The capability and technology have improved; you can now get real-time updating by way of mobile devices.”3 He explains that federal wildland agencies and large state agencies have owned the technology for a long time and have been using it predominately for planning. The “new dynamics,” he adds, enables them to use GIS in real-time emergencies. These agencies now have unmanned vehicles and sensor-streaming information and can incorporate data into the maps. With the new assets, the agencies need a platform within which to operate, according to Johnson.

Johnson/ESRI has been working with state and local officials and agencies in San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles Counties in California to leverage GIS spatial technology for mapping fire data, deploying firefighters and equipment, planning emergency staging areas and shelter locations, and communicating public safety information for evacuees and health information for the general public affected by smoke and air quality. One of the latest features is that information, such as addresses and the incident site, can be displayed on computers in fire apparatus. If the site is preplanned, the data can be linked to a floor plan and photos.

It appears as if this technology will become a more significant tool for the fire and other emergency services. The IAFC, Johnson notes, has established a GIS advisory board, and the National Fire Protection Association has formed a standards group covering the use of GIS and the exchange of data. The goal is to establish interoperability across jurisdictional boundaries. Two-dimensional and three-dimensional fire maps may be viewed at www.esri.com/disaster_response/journalistmaps.html.

The 2008 version of the mapping tool SmartDraw was released in September 2007. It contains dozens of templates for floor plans and thousands of symbols and images to use in those plans, such as egress points and furniture. The system can be integrated with Google Earth. Eric Acton, fire investigator/IT director of the Campbell County Fire Department in Gillette, Wyoming, uses the mapping tool for preplanning the county’s business occupancies and for noting layouts and sites of flammables, hazards, and access points.4 Download a free trial map at www.smartdraw.com.

The Geographic Tool for Visualization and Collaboration (GTVC) and ResponseVision are two separate, yet interconnected, pieces of the National Emergency Management Network (NEMN). Response Vision, a product of Atlanta-based Emergency Visions, provides a database model that allows agencies to input any resource information related to personnel, facilities, equipment, and so on. The model is then used to build teams for use in disaster response. It can also be used for FEMA and National Incident Management System (NIMS) tracking for costing and resource availability. Subscribers across the nation populate the NEMN databases. As more agencies subscribe, the available assets catalogued will increase. As one city manager on the system explains, resources from other agencies become available to his city, and other agencies can access his city’s resources if they are needed elsewhere. All resources are NIMS compliant and are precoded for integration into NIMS forms for timely reimbursement, if needed.


The GTVC mapping tool helps emergency management officials better coordinate events, incidents, and real-time response. The tool can track chemical or smoke plumes and help management personnel plan evacuation routes for emergencies such as hurricanes, fires, and floods. (Photos courtesy of Kirk Pennywitt, Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Information Technology and Telecommunications Laboratory.)



The Georgia Tech Research Institute first developed the GTVC in 2000 for military applications. It has since been tailored to the needs of the emergency management community and first responders. The collaborative mapping tool allows first responders to share and view information from other first responders or agencies in real time, explains Kirk Pennywitt, a senior research engineer in Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Information Technology and Telecommunications Laboratory. “It allows command centers in potentially different locations to view the same map or area of interest, indicate how each group plans to deploy its resources, and see how they will interrelate,” he explains. It also allows users to see which government facilities, such as schools and hospitals, are closest and what areas will be affected by an evacuation, for example. Incident tracking and messaging are also built in, as is a replay capability so that the entire sequence of events can later be reviewed as they were entered into the tool, adds Pennywitt. During an event, he says, electronic feeds can alert users to new incidents and display the location of the events live on the map.


The GTVC records every user’s actions so that those in command can review them after the event to improve planning for future events.



In the near future, the system will enable users to provide their own custom topographic, photographic, and aerial maps. Users now can view street maps, aerial imagery, or a combination of both.

The Georgia Emergency Management Agency has been using the system since 2005 to track forest fires and hurricanes. The Florida Division of Emergency Management uses the system for planning events and incidents.

Hillsborough County, Florida, and Burnsville, Minnesota, have also licensed the emergency management software; more than 100 other cities, counties, and local agencies have expressed interest. The software development team spent two months improving the system used by Florida to include new capabilities such as real-time tracking of resources. Florida plans to implement the networked emergency management system in all of its 67 counties.

The GTVC can be licensed from the Georgia Tech Research Institute directly or through Emergency Visions.5

MEETING THE NEEDS OF DISASTERS

Another main area of technological development activity is based on the needs revealed during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in September 2001 and what some define as the “gaps” that became evident during the 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. (Technologies involving bioterrorism and counterterrorism will be addressed in a future issue.) In many cases, the needed technologies are similar, such as the need for improved communications, more sophisticated preplanning, and meeting the basic human needs of the multitude of civilians who might be affected by these events. In some cases, corrective actions have been or are being taken.

Eight Florida public safety agencies, for example, joined the Statewide Law Enforcement 800-MHz Radio System (SLERS), a single, unified radio network using Tyco Electronics’ M/A-COM technology. Local, regional, state, and federal public safety agencies can communicate on a common network throughout the state. The system is the result of a public-private partnership between M/A-Com and the state of Florida. The all-digital network accommodates more than 6,500 users with 14,000 radios over 60,000 square miles.

Also, the Madison (KY) Emergency Management Agency awarded Tyco Electronics a $13.9 million contract to implement its Project 25IP (Project 25 to the power of Internet Protocol) radio communications system throughout the county. The nine-site simulcast system will be customized to meet the requirements of Madison County’s police, fire, and EMS departments and the county’s school bus fleet. The project will involve converting the county’s 800-MHz analog system to a digital one.

Rivada Networks, for example, reported in December 2007 that it was equipping the Louisiana Army National Guard (LANG) with a power broadband fully interoperable system that delivers high speed voice and data over a network that can survive natural or manmade disasters. The system does not require new spectrum allocation and offers a greater range and capability at a fraction of the cost of other technologies, according to the company. LANG’s Colonel Ronnie Johnson said the system offers the potential for redundant capabilities for its local, state, and federal emergency response partners. Rivada provided emergency broadband communication capabilities in the Gulf States region when existing infrastructure failed in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It designed, integrated, and maintained emergency communications systems for the DHS’ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).6

Among the radio innovations is a digital push-to-talk cellular radio that enables users to instantaneously communicate with land mobile radio users without compromising voice quality and network efficiency. The capability will be marketed to cellular service providers and public safety, enterprise, utility, education, and healthcare markets, according to Raytheon JPS Communications, which has developed the product with Clarity Communication Systems.

First responders in more than 70 communities use Motion Technology’s onboard Mobile Gateway, which provides emergency vehicles with mobile, secure, wireless local area networks called “vehicle area networks.” It allows communication in the field and while in transit. The Gateway senses and selects the best available wireless network, making it possible for first responders to access and disseminate critical information from the field. Electronic information, including computer-aided dispatch, ECG results, and electronic patient records, can be communicated seamlessly to an operational center or hospital.7

Communicating with the Public

Communicating with the public on a regional or national basis is another area in which there has been activity. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published a notice of proposed rulemaking in January 2008 establishing a commercial mobile alert system that would let wireless providers send emergency alerts to users of cell phones and other devices. The notice in the Federal Register asked for public comments on the recommendations of the Commercial Mobile Services Alert Advisory Committee regarding the technical protocols, procedures, and requirements for such a system by February 4, 2008. The FCC said its highest priority is to ensure that “all Americans have the capability to receive timely and accurate alerts, warnings, and critical information regarding impending disasters and other emergencies, irrespective of what communications technologies they use.

The system facilitates the alerts to targeted geographic areas as much as possible while avoiding network congestion. Also, the system is to ensure that the emergency alert used by various providers and devices are compatible with one another so users can receive alerts when away from their home bases.

Congress, through the Warning Alert and Response Network Act, ordered the FCC to adopt technical standards for wireless providers to send emergency messages to the public. Commercial mobile service providers may voluntarily choose to send such alerts.

The rulemaking also indicates the FCC’s commitment to expand the existing Emergency Alert System that requires broadcasters to carry presidential alerts to include cell phones, cable television, radios, and satellite transmissions.8

In August 2007, FEMA and Sandia National Laboratories began to implement on a small scale the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) in several Gulf Coast states. Other small-scale implementations are planned for this year. Depending on the outcome of the tests, national implementation of the new alert system could be achieved by 2010.

The goals of the pilot tests were to demonstrate that the system could deliver more than radio and TV alerts and to get buy-in from [state and local] emergency managers, according to Ron Glaser, Sandia’s IPAWS program manager. The system’s core element, the Trans-Enterprise Services Grid (TSG), enables the new emergency alert system to operate securely across federal, regional, state, local, and tribal jurisdictions involved in major emergency responses. The Internet-based IPAWS will make it easier for emergency managers to communicate alerts and other emergency-related messages to the public. The initial level of the TSG and other systems was expected to be piloted before the 2008 hurricane season. Until the TSG is installed and operable, the emergency alert system operates through a cascade arrangement in which messages are sent to a single, primary point; local authorities pick them up and retransmit them; then other authorities pick up the messages and transmit them; and so on. IPAWS messages can be broadcast to all recipients simultaneously and enables officials to send messages to various Internet-connected devices, including personal digital assistants, cell phones, and presumably any yet-to-be-developed devices, as long as they conform to accepted standards.

The IPAWS program began in 2004 when the DHS began looking for ways to improve the public alert system in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the FCC, and other public and private stakeholders. The “lessons learned” report from Hurricane Katrina and Executive Order 13407, in June 2006, helped the project to evolve to its current status. The Executive Order made it U.S. policy “to establish an effective, reliable, integrated, flexible, and comprehensive system to alert and warn the American people in situations of war, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or other hazards, and to ensure that the President can communicate with the public under all conditions.” IPAWS is being viewed as a potential forerunner for other interoperable government communications. By 2010 or 2011, IPAWS is expected to become the common architecture for Internet-based communication of emergency alerts and messages.9

“Mega-Shelters”

One example related to multicasualty events is the partnership the Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission (MERC) and the American Red Cross (ARC) Oregon Trail Chapter formed. They acquired a “mega-shelter” for coordinating services and operations during major emergencies and disasters in Oregon. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, there was no precedence for operating large evacuation centers or “mega-shelters” (a word coined during Hurricane Katrina to distinguish between shelters that could accommodate 2,000 people as opposed to churches, schools, and other typical shelter facilities). The cooperative agreement creates provisions and conditions to ensure that both agencies work effectively before, during, and after disaster events where human suffering and needs cannot be alleviated without assistance.

OTHER TECHNOLOGIES

 

Weather

The government has been engaged in research that can help scientists better understand the energy transfer from the ocean to the atmosphere that causes hurricanes to intensify. Joseph Cione of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the lead scientist on a project to send an unmanned aerial drone with advanced weather-watching equipment deep into a hurricane. The drone is one of several emerging technologies being used to help unlock the secrets of hurricanes; the intent is to get more accurate computer models. The drone can be launched from the roof of a sport utility vehicle and can fly 1,200 to 1,300 miles round-trip. Initially, it is steered by scientists using radio control (a joystick); at greater distances, it is controlled by satellite. Its instruments record moisture, temperature and pressure, ocean surface temperatures, and wind speeds. Data are sent to National Hurricane Center in Miami by satellite and made available to forecasters immediately. The drone collects data continuously.10

Another tool is the North American Lightning Detection Network, a growing network of more than 180 highly sensitive land-based remote sensors that can study storms from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Scientists were to report early this year in the Monthly Weather Review, a journal of the American Meteorological Society, that it may be possible to gauge when and whether a hurricane will intensify by using the sensors to examine the frequency of lightning strikes within the eye wall. (10)

Wildfires

The National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, and the Building Research Institute in Tsukuba, Japan, have jointly built a firebrand generator that produces controlled and repeatable firebrands that can be adjusted to represent typical firebrands produced from burning vegetation. The objective was to determine how firebrands penetrate building vents fitted with screens. The study revealed that there is a need to build homes with vents that can resist firebrands. The study was reported in 2007 at the Second Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference.11

ON THE HORIZON

Among new technologies predicted for the future is a “systems monitoring” device, called the “eWatch” from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. The multi-sensor device is about the size of a large wristwatch and is said to have the potential to proactively monitor the health of employees to allow for early intervention if the subjects show signs of stress or stress-related illness. Daniel Siewiorek, director of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute in Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science, and Asim Smailagic, research professor in Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering, developed the device. It can sense sound, motion, ambient light, skin temperature, and other factors that give information about the wearer’s location, health status, and current activity.12

Also in progress is the development of Lobster Eye sensors that can detect images through wood, concrete, and steel. The handheld Lobster Eye X-ray imaging devices (LEXIDS) can detect and identify humans and contraband in hidden compartments and through walls of various thicknesses and materials, according to the project’s sponsor, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate.

It is still in early development; but, according to Jim Apple, homeland security business development director at Physical Optics Corp., in Torrance, California, which built the technology, it has “tremendous potential.”

The Directorate has set a goal of developing devices able to see through several inches of soil, steel, wood, or concrete at distances as far as nine feet, according to an agency announcement.13

Finally, on the health front, Universal Detection Technology (UDTT) plans to develop a Staphylococcus Aureaus (MRSA) detection system based on the technology under exclusive license to UDTT from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Office of Technology Transfer and protected under a provisional patent. The technology has applications in NASA’s Planetary Protection Program. UDTT has no timeframe for developing the detection system. MRSA is a type of staph infection that is resistant to methicillin and other more commonly used antibiotics.


•••

The information presented here is not even the proverbial tip of the iceberg. These are exciting times for technologies that affect every aspect of the fire/emergency services. The availability of grant monies and directives to achieve certain goals such as attaining communication interoperability and initiatives for reducing the number of responder line-of-duty deaths and injuries and civilians deaths from fires have increased the opportunities for research for educational institutions, fire service organizations, the business community, and other entities in addition to the government agencies.

Are you aware of research projects underway or in the planning stage? Would you like to see them covered in the next “Roundup”? Contact me at maryjd@pennwell.com.

ENDNOTes

1. “Tracking Trends in Military-Electronics Technologies,” Jack Browne, Penta Media, Inc., Sept. 2007.

2. Press release, Porter Novelli Public Affairs, Washington, D.C., Oct. 12, 2007.

3. Phone conversation, March 10, 2008.

4. www.smartdraw.com, accessed March 11, 2008.

5. Georgia Institute of Technology, Research News & Publications Office, Abby J. Vogel, Ph.D., communications officer; avogel@gatech.edu.

6. “Louisiana Army National Guard Upgrades to Broadband Interoperable Communications for Public Safety,” Kelsey Flora for Rivada Networks, Dec. 4, 2007.

7. www.telematicsjournal.com “Tri-State Ambulance Deploys Next-Gen Wireless Network,” Nov. 19, 2007.

8. “FCC moves forward on mobile alert system,” Alice Lipowicz, www.washingtontechnology.com Jan. 29, 2008.

9. Brian Robinson, “FEMA tests a new alert system,” www.fcw.com 9/17/2007; accessed Sept. 25, 2007.

10. “Drone, Sensors May Open Path into Eye of Storm,” Christopher Lee, Washington Post Staff Writer, www.washingtonpost.com; accessed Oct. 8, 2007.

11. “Scientists build a firebrand generator,” www.upi.com; www.fireengineering.com, Sept. 19, 2007.

12. “Wearable sensor could help provide a ‘dashboard’ for human resource health,” http://www.continuitycentral.com, Oct. 19, 2007.

13. “DHS orders sensors with lemon butter,” Alice Lipowicz, www.washingtontechnology.com Dec. 21, 2007.

MARY JANE DITTMAR is senior associate editor of Fire Engineering. Before joining the magazine in January 1991, she served as editor of a trade magazine in the health/nutrition market and held various positions in the educational and medical advertising fields. She has a bachelor’s degree in English/journalism and a master’s degree in communication arts.

US&R Robots: Toward Standard Performance Test Methods

 

BY ADAM JACOFF

For the past three years, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has hosted annual response robot evaluation exercises that assemble emergency responders, robot manufacturers, and robot researchers at Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urban search and rescue (US&R) task force training facilities. These events support an ongoing program sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate, to develop consensus standard test methods for robots that can be fielded for disaster response. After initially identifying specific emergency responder requirements for robots, this program has generated several proposed standard test methods that are being used by robot developers to practice and refine their products and by emergency responders to objectively evaluate robot performance and support operator training. The emerging standard test methods and practices are being published through ASTM International’s Committee on Homeland Security Applications-Operational Equipment (ASTM E54.08.01).


(1) ASTM E2592-07, Standard Practice for Evaluating Cache Packaged Weight and Volume of Robots for Urban Search and Rescue, addresses responder requirements for the total number and size of the two approved shipping containers (or pallets),



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(2) the time needed to ready the robot from packaging to deployment downrange,



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(3) the tools necessary to assemble and repair the robot; and, finally, the downrange weight of the robot, operator station, and spares are also captured. (Photos courtesy of NIST.)



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Of the several work items pending, the first to get through the open balloting process was the ASTM E2592-07, Standard Practice for Evaluating Cache Packaged Weight and Volume of Robots for Urban Search and Rescue. This addresses the seemingly mundane but essential need for US&R robots to conform to FEMA US&R task force cache packaging requirements to deploy with the rest of their equipment. It details specific ways to describe requirements for storing, shipping, and deploying the US&R robots.


(4) Other standard test methods working through the committee include the ground robot endurance test method within a known figure-8 course of rolling/pitching floor ramps;



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(5) the remote situational awareness test method within an unknown random maze with rolling/pitching floor ramps; and



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(6) the directed perception test method for mobile manipulators identifying hidden visual, thermal, chemical, and radioactive targets, also on rolling/pitching floor ramps and other complex terrains. (Photos courtesy of NIST.)



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Access to standardized information concerning logistics for these robots will help response team managers integrate the devices into their operations while guiding robot developers toward working within operational constraints to answer responder needs. For example, the standard lists information relevant to robots deployed for 10 days without resupply for the first 72 hours, a basic operational constraint for disaster deployments of any kind. It includes the number and types of cases required for packing the robot and all associated components such as operator control stations, batteries, spare parts, and tools—information important for logistics managers, who must allocate appropriate warehouse space and make transportation accommodations for shipping the robots to and from the disaster site. It captures practical estimates on the time it takes to unpack, set up, and test the robot prior to deployment downrange. It also addresses the tools required to set up and repair the robot, noting responders’ preferences: No required tools at all is preferred, typical tools can be acceptable, and specialized tools are discouraged. Finally, data on the actual weight of the robot, its operator control unit, and spare items when ready to deploy downrange help users plan how to transport the devices to the worksite from the base of operations.


(7) Ground robot test methods include a mobility test method made of random step-field pallets (4 x 4 wood posts),



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(8) an incremental step test (50 cm step shown)



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(9) a tow capacity test method with a trailer full with 300 pounds of wood for structural shoring downrange (and a victim in a litter on top). (Photos courtesy of NIST.)



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ASTM working groups have been formed to push through a suite of standard test methods for mobility, manipulation, sensors, radio communications, and human factors, expected to be completed this year. Additional test methods will be developed next year to address specific responder identified requirements for robot payloads such as chemical, biological, radiological, and explosive sensors along with interoperability of those sensors and operator control units.


(10) NIST and DHS are focusing initially on micro/mini aerial vehicles (MAVs) that weigh less than four pounds, to limit impact forces and support vertical takeoff and landing in urban environments for the first wave of standard test methods. This is an example of a “quad-rotor” MAV with a protective hoop around it, to allow contact with walls and obstacles without crashing.



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(11) The aerial station-keeping test method uses flush-mounted and recessed visual acuity charts (also a stand-alone standard test method) in the windows of the burn building at FEMA’s Maryland Task Force 1 training facility in Rockville, Maryland.



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(12) The same MAV working with responders in a hazmat train crash scenario at FEMA’s Texas Task Force 1 training facility called “Disaster City,” in College Station, Texas. (Photos courtesy of NIST.)



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Additional information on NIST’s performance standards for US&R robots is available at www.isd.mel.nist.gov/us&r_robot _standards. Additional information on the ASTM standards committee can be found at www.astm.org.

ADAM JACOFF is a robotics research engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and is leading the program to develop standard test methods for urban search and rescue robots sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate.

Firefighting Technology Research at NIST

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BY DAN MADRZYKOWSKI AND STEVE KERBER

During the past year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has continued work on many projects and started a few new efforts to improve firefighter safety. In addition to the research projects listed below, the Fire Fighting Technology Group continues to improve the way that information is transferred to the fire service. The biggest change in information transfer this year is a redesigned Web site, www.fire.gov. The new site has a list of subjects of interest to firefighters such as flashover, thermal imaging, structural collapse, and positive-pressure ventilation (PPV). Relevant NIST reports and downloadable videos can be found under each subject.

Thermal Imaging Cameras

NIST is continuing to work closely with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Technical Committee on Electronic Safety Equipment and the U.S. Army’s Night Vision Laboratory to develop test methods to support and enable thermal imaging camera (TIC) performance standards. Given that a TIC is composed of a number of components that affect what a firefighter “sees,” this effort has gone beyond the NIST Fire Research Division and has tapped the expertise of the NIST Physics Laboratory as well as the NIST Electronics and Electrical Engineering Laboratory. NFPA plans to present the standard for public vote at its 2009 annual meeting.


Figure 1. Components of a Thermal Imaging System



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Integrated PASS Device

In 2005 and 2006, NIST published reports on the performance of thermal exposure sensors in personal alert safety system (PASS) devices and on the thermal environment considerations for electronic equipment used by the fire service. The thermal exposure research in concert with field observations by the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program identified issues with the decrease in alarm signal volume at high temperatures. This led to the revision of the thermal test requirements of NFPA 1982, Standard on Personal Alert Safety Systems, which went into effect in July 2007.


(1) Comparison of three thermal imaging camera detector technologies of the same fire environment at the same time: (left to right) vanadium oxide (VOx), amorphous silicon (ASi), and barium strontium titanate (BST). (Photos courtesy of NIST.)



NIST is continuing the thermal exposure research and is developing a new thermal test loop that can be used to test a range of personal protective equipment, including integrated PASS devices. The apparatus is designed to accommodate the entire SCBA and is expected to be operational by July 2008.

The Thermal Capability of Firefighter Protective Clothing

Every year, approximately 100 firefighters die in the line of duty, and more than 80,000 firefighters are injured. Although not the leading cause of fatalities, reports on firefighter deaths and injuries indicate that burns accounted for approximately 7 percent of firefighter fatalities and 8.5 percent of firefighter injuries. Firefighter personal protective clothing (PPE) is designed to provide the wearer with a limited amount of protection from burn injury. Burn injuries can occur from exposure to the heat produced by a fire through contact with flames, hot combustion gases, steam, burning items, or any combination of these conditions. Firefighters can also receive burn injuries when their protective garments become compressed as a result of contact with hot objects or when movement compresses clothing material against the skin.


(2) The bench scale thermal exposure test apparatus with a PPE sample exposed to a gas-fired radiant panel.



Two thermal performance test methods found in NFPA 1971, Ensembles for Structural Firefighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, have had a significant impact on improving the performance of firefighters’ protective clothing. The Fabric Flammability Test (FFT) has resulted in the development of protective garments that resist flaming ignition. The second test, the Thermal Protective Performance (TPP) method, has helped in the design of protective garments that reduce the rate of heat flow from a firefighting environment through the protective clothing. The TPP test measures heat flow through a garment while exposed to a heat flux of approximately 83 kW/m2, intended to simulate exposure to a flashover fire. A single copper calorimeter is used to measure heat transfer through a protective clothing assembly. Work by Krasny et al. at NIST suggests that firefighters will likely receive serious burn injuries in less than 10 seconds when exposed to a heat flux of 83 kW/m2. Fortunately, very few firefighters are exposed to flashover conditions. Most firefighter burn injuries appear to result from thermal exposures much less severe than the flashover conditions used by the TPP test. In addition, many of these burn injuries appear to result from relatively long-duration exposures to low or moderate heat fluxes.

As part of a project funded by the United States Fire Administration (USFA), the Building and Fire Research Laboratory (BFRL) at NIST is exploring the feasibility of developing new apparatus for evaluating the thermal performance of firefighter protective clothing. This test apparatus would be capable of measuring the thermal performance of firefighters’ protective clothing over a wide range of thermal environmental conditions and over extended time periods.

NIST developed a bench scale test apparatus, using combinations of protective clothing material approximately 0.38 m (1.3 ft) square. A full-scale apparatus that uses the full ensemble of protective clothing mounted on a mannequin to more effectively examine the complex geometric interactions of the protective clothing and the potential for various burn injuries is under development. The report (see below) presents the results of tests conducted using turnout gear mock-ups in the bench scale apparatus and the full-scale test apparatus. In addition, data obtained from the mock-up tests are evaluated against results from tests of complete firefighter ensembles in the full-scale test apparatus. Finally, the experimental data are compared with calculations from a mathematical computer model of heat transfer through firefighter protective clothing systems.

The complete report, NISTIR 7467, Full Ensemble and Bench Scale Testing of Fire Fighter Protective Clothing, by David Stroup, Roy McLane, and William Twilley, can be downloaded from http://fire.nist.gov/bfrlpubs/fire07/PDF/f07083.pdf.

Figure 2 shows the data from five repeat full-scale experiments for the four locations through the turnout coat (shell surface, inside of shell, body side of thermal liner, and outer surface of workstation shirt). This graph provides a visual representation of the variation in the thermal profile through the garment.


Figure 2. Results of Repeat Experiments



Building on knowledge gained from this work, NIST is continuing the research on stored energy in PPE, working with North Carolina State University and the Fire Protection Research Foundation on investigating a new test method for measuring the energy retention capacity of the protective clothing. This new test apparatus is being considered for inclusion in NFPA 1971.


(3) An instrumented mannequin in front of electric radiant panels.



Longer-term research is being conducted on reactive cooling systems and nanocomposite fabrics for use in PPE. The reactive cooling systems are proposed to work by adding a layer of phase-change materials (changes from solid to liquid as it absorbs heat) to the lining of the turnout gear. As heat is added to the PPE from a fire environment, the phase-change materials would absorb energy to delay the thermal penetration. Once the phase-change material has absorbed enough energy to change the state, the heat wave would continue to the person inside the PPE. As an example of phase change, consider a piece of wax. When the wax is heated (absorbs thermal energy), it changes from a solid to a liquid. When the wax cools (loses thermal energy), it changes back to a solid.

PPV in High-Rise Buildings

During the past year, NIST issued two reports, NISTIR 7412, Evaluating Positive Pressure Ventilation in Large Structures: High-Rise Pressure Experiments, and NISTIR 7468, Evaluating Positive Pressure Ventilation in Large Structures: High-Rise Fire Experiments (available for download from www.fire.gov). Working in cooperation with the Chicago (IL) Fire Department, the Toledo (OH) Department of Fire and Rescue, and the Fire Department of New York, NIST conducted PPV fan studies in a 30-story and a 16-story high-rise. The Department of Homeland Security, Office of Science and Technology funded part of these efforts. The studies address the use of PPV for pressurizing stairwells to prevent heat and smoke infiltration and improving conditions for firefighters entering the building and building occupants trying to exit. Many configurations of fans were tested, such as the number of fans, the sizes of fans, positions, locations, and so on.


(4) The Chicago Fire Department’s truck-mounted fan pressurizes the first floor and the stairwell and forces the fire back through the fire apartment and out the window.



The experiments showed that the portable fans (24 to 27 inches) and the mounted fans (46 to 50 inches) generated pressures sufficient to remove the smoke from and keep the target stairwell free of smoke under a range of conditions. The pressures measured during these experiments agreed with the correlation provided in NFPA 92A, Standard for Smoke-Control Systems Utilizing Barriers and Pressure Differences, for using a pressure differential as a smoke barrier.


(5) A wide variety of portable fans were used during the Toledo and Chicago high-rise experiments.



The large mounted fans positioned at the front of the structure were able to clear the stairwell quickly when vented and were able to keep smoke out of the entire stairwell with the fire floor door open. The mounted fans were also able to clear the smoke all the way back out of the fire apartment, past the fire, and through an open rear window. Even when a second stairwell was opened, the mounted fans were able to keep that second stairwell free of smoke as well.


(6) Flames being forced out of a classroom window by a PPV fan located at a remote exterior doorway.



The portable fans were also effective at ventilating the 16-story stairwell and keeping it free of smoke while pressurizing. In most cases, the single portable fan at the base of the stairwell resulted in significantly improved conditions in the stairwell. The increased pressures greatly reduced the amount of smoke that was able to flow into the stairwell under natural ventilation conditions. When a second fan was added two floors below the fire floor, smoke was kept completely out of the stairwell, even with the fire floor door open or with an additional door open.


(7) A post-flashover experiment in the school gymnasium.



The bottom line is that PPV fans used correctly can increase the effectiveness of firefighters and the survivability of occupants in high-rise buildings. In a high-rise building, it is possible to increase the pressure of a stairwell to prevent the infiltration of smoke if fire crews configure the fans properly. When configured properly, PPV fans can meet or exceed previously established performance guidelines for fixed smoke-control systems. Proper configuration requires the user to consider a range of variables, including fan size, setback, and angle; fan position inside or outside of the building; and number and alignment of multiple fans. The portable fans were most effective when a single fan was positioned outside the stairwell on the first floor and another portable fan was positioned two floors below the fire floor, pressurizing from outside of the stairwell.


(8) A wind-driven fire spreading from the bedroom through the apartment and venting out of the living room.



A compilation of the PPV reports to date and videos documenting the fire experiments are available from NIST at no cost. Send your PPV DVD requests to skerber@nist.gov.

School Tests in Toledo

Last summer, another building of opportunity brought the NIST Fire Technology Group to Toledo, Ohio, to further examine PPV with the Toledo Department of Fire and Rescue. A series of experiments was run in an abandoned high school to examine the ability of PPV fans to limit smoke spread or to remove smoke from desired areas. The two main scenarios included a long hallway with classrooms and a gymnasium. Both scenarios included fires that produce a large amount of smoke and hot gases. Instrumentation was placed to assess tenability criteria and how PPV tactics can increase or decrease survivability. Measurements included temperature, oxygen concentration, CO concentration, pressure, and numerous video views. The report is scheduled for release in summer 2008; watch the Web site www.fire.gov for further details.

Wind-Driven Fires in Structures

One of the last experiments in the 16-story building in Chicago was the simulation of a wind-driven fire. Conditions in the public corridor went from tenable (in PPE) to untenable within 30 seconds of the onset of the wind. Flames were forced from a bedroom on the upwind side of the structure, down a hallway, through the living room, and into the public corridor. In response to the results of that experiment and the loss of firefighters and civilians in wind-driven fires in New York City; Houston, Texas; and Prince William County, Virginia, NIST initiated a new research project this year to examine wind-driven fires.

NIST, in partnership with the Fire Department of New York; the Fire Protection Research Foundation; and Polytechnic University, New York—and under the sponsorship of the DHS’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program—is conducting experiments to develop an improved understanding of wind-driven fires and examine a variety of tactics to mitigate the hazards of firefighting under wind-driven conditions.

Wind-control devices, PPV fans, and fire suppression nozzles that can be operated from the floor below the fire floor will be among the tactics examined. The research program begins with full-scale experiments in a three-room structure built at the NIST large-fire facility in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The research program will leave the lab and continue in a seven-story building on Governors Island in New York Harbor. Results from the laboratory study and the New York experiments will be available later this year on www.fire.gov.

DAN MADRZYKOWSKI is a fire protection engineer with the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

STEVE KERBER is a fire protection engineer with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and deputy chief of the College Park (MD) Volunteer Fire Department. He developed and maintains the NIST Web site, www.fire.gov.

USFA: Responder Health and Safety Focus of Initiatives

 

BY GREGORY B. CADE

The Federal Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-498) authorized the United States Fire Administration (USFA) to develop, test, and evaluate equipment used by the nation’s fire and rescue services and to conduct management studies. The USFA’s National Fire Data Center (NFDC) develops and manages these research and applied technology projects and partnerships, which were designed to enhance firefighter health and safety. Some of the projects begun or completed in 2007 include the following.

• Sleep deprivation and human performance. The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Fire Fighters and EMS Responders, a report based on a study of the impact on human performance in the fire and emergency services of sleep deprivation and of immediately being awakened was made available, as was an accompanying computer-based educational program. The effects of sleep deprivation on driver performance, firefighting, providing medical care, and managing and commanding incidents are covered. Countermeasures for sleep deprivation are also included. This project was done in conjunction with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the faculty of the Oregon Health and Science University.

• Emergency incident rehabilitation. The USFA Emergency Incident Rehabilitation report, originally published in 1992, was revised in conjunction with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).

• Firefighter wellness-fitness. A guide that highlights the differences between the third edition (the most recent edition) of the Fire Service Joint Labor Management Wellness-Fitness Initiative was published in conjunction with the IAFC. The USFA’s partnership with the IAFF included a peer-credentialing program for fire department peer fitness trainers, recognized by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the world’s largest nonprofit fitness certification and education provider. Fire departments and union locals who have already chosen to certify a percentage of their firefighters as peer fitness trainers will quantify the effectiveness of the peer-credentialing program for fire department peer fitness trainers.

• Emergent health and safety issues of the volunteer fire service. Emergent issues related to occupational health and safety in the volunteer fire service and initiatives, programs, and strategies for reducing fatalities among volunteer firefighters were studied in conjunction with the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC). The results of the study are available in Emerging Health & Safety Issues in the Volunteer Fire Service, now online from the USFA at www.usfa.gov.

VEHICLE SAFETY

Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative. In conjunction with the IAFC, the IAFF, and the NVFC, the following advanced Web-based education programs were developed:

• The Guide to Model Policies and Procedures for Emergency Vehicle Safety, developed with the IAFC, provides in-depth information for developing policies and procedures that support the safe and effective operation of emergency and privately owned vehicles in the fire service.

• The IAFF developed Improving Apparatus Response and Roadway Operations Safety in the Career Fire Service, which includes instructor and participant guides and addresses critical emergency vehicle safety issues.

•The NVFC/USFA Emergency Vehicle Safe Operations for Volunteer and Small Combination Emergency Service Organizations focuses on the specific needs of volunteer and smaller departments.

All of these programs address issues such as the use of seat belts, safety at intersections, the design of fire apparatus and emergency vehicles, selecting and training drivers, alcohol use and driving policies, and alternative response programs.

Emergency vehicle warning lighting systems. This field study assessed the colors, intensity, and flash patterns of emergency vehicle warning lamps from the perspectives of the lamps’ conspicuity and glare for motorists. The results of the study are reported in Effects of Warning Lamps on Pedestrian Visibility and Driver Behavior, now available on the USFA Web site. A second report from this study, Effects of Warning Lamp Color and Intensity on Driver Vision, will soon be available on the USFA Web site. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) National Institute of Justice (NIJ) funded the study. The USFA and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) were project partners.

Emergency vehicle visibility and conspicuity. In partnership with the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) and supported by the DOJ’s NIJ, this study will further address emergency vehicle visibility and conspicuity. Fire apparatus, law enforcement vehicles, and ambulances will be included, as will international best practices in emergency vehicle visibility.

FIREFIGHTING SAFETY

Thermal imaging systems technology. In conjunction with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), we completed research that developed the scientific-based test methods to support the new National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1801, Standard on Thermal Imagers for the Fire Service.

Fire department communications. The USFA report Fire Department Communications Manual–A Basic Guide to System Concepts and Equipment is being revised in conjunction with the IAFF. The most current operational and technological topics related to fire department communications, critical interoperability issues, and the SAFECOM program are addressed. This report will soon be available as a download from the USFA Web site. The Department of Homeland Security SAFECOM Project Office is funding this project.

Predicting structural collapse on the fireground. Work with NIST is continuing. The second phase of this project would involve developing a smaller prototype than that created during the initial phase of this research. The new prototype would enhance the usability and capability of the cumbersome and rudimentary larger device used in the initial collapse prediction experiments. This would involve developing hardware, including wireless solid state electronic sensors and a base display unit, as well as the interpretation algorithm necessary to translate the vibration data from the sensor into a “green/yellow/red” tactical decision aid to alert incident commanders to a pending collapse.

Personal alert safety systems (PASS) device sound level assessment. The USFA is working with NIST to determine if the current standard of 95 decibels at a three-meter distance is sufficient to overcome competing background noise on the fireground. To assess the current standard, the intensity of the competing background sound level and the potential reduction in sound caused by the firefighter’s accidentally muffling the device must be identified. Sound levels from individual pieces of firefighting equipment, such as apparatus, PPV fans, and saws—sounds on a working fireground—will be measured to examine the interaction of the noise-producing devices.

In laboratory experiments, PASS device sound will be measured by insulating the PASS device with a variety of materials, including PPE and construction materials, to simulate a post-collapse environment. Integrated and stand-alone PASS devices will be tested.

Computer-based firefighter trainer. In partnership with NIST, a computer-based firefighter trainer is being developed that will allow firefighters to gain ventilation and suppression experience in a virtual reality environment without exposing themselves and others to danger.

Examining firefighting tactics under wind-driven conditions. The USFA is working with NIST to study how smoke and heat’s spreading through the corridors and stairs of a building during a fire can limit building occupants’ ability to escape and firefighters’ ability to rescue them. Changes in the building’s ventilation or the presence of an external wind can also increase the fire’s energy and the spread of fire gases through the building. Experiments in progress will improve the safety of firefighters and building occupants through a better understanding of wind-driven firefighting tactics, including structural ventilation and suppression. The results from the experiments will be used to develop technical information that will enhance the understanding of the dynamics of fire phenomena and the ability to predict fire intensity and growth under wind-driven conditions.

Municipal water supply systems. Funded by the DHS’s Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate and in partnership with the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) Educational & Scientific Foundation, research on the latest trends and technologies related to municipal water supply systems in relation to enhancing local-level fire protection has been incorporated in the reports, Water Supply Systems Concepts and Water Supply System Evaluation Methods, and will soon be available through the USFA Web site.

FIREFIGHTER AUTOPSY PROTOCOL

The revised and updated USFA Firefighter Autopsy Protocol manual has recently become available for downloading from the USFA Web site. It offers guidance on medical, technical, and legal issues related to standardized protocols for determining the causes of firefighters’ deaths.

CIVILIAN LIFE SAFETY

Mitigation of the U.S. rural fire problem. The USFA and the NFPA have completed a study of ways to reduce the high death rate from fire in rural America. Information from the USFA report The Rural Fire Problem in the United States was used as the basis for this guide on effective mitigating methodologies and techniques for local fire departments and other safety-delivery entities. (The fire death rate in rural communities is 35 percent higher than that for nonrural areas.)

A final report that documents and summarizes the results of the project, Strategies Based on Original Research and Adoption of Existing Best Practices; train-the-trainer presentations for the rural fire service and community leaders on administering successful outreach program; and a presentation for citizens highlighting key fire safety and preparedness messages can be downloaded from the USFA Web site.

Behavioral mitigation of cooking fires. In partnership with the NFPA, the USFA issued the report Behavioral Mitigation of Cooking Fires through Strategies based on Statistical Analysis, which recommends strategies for preventing these fires. Cooking-related fires are the leading cause of home fire injuries. The USFA also issued five educational videos based on this report and developed an illustrated presentation aimed at adults.


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In addition to the above, the USFA is a member of the DHS S&T Standards Council and its Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Standards Working Group.

Additional information on the USFA’s research and applied technology projects and partnerships are at http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/fireservice/research/index.shtm. Through continued research and applied technology projects and studies of the NFDC, the USFA will be better able to achieve its goal of reducing firefighter on-duty fatalities.

GREGORY B. CADE is the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) assistant administrator (fire administrator) for the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). He has 40 years of fire and rescue services experience, having served as the chief/emergency services coordinator of the Virginia Beach (VA) Fire Department; chief of the Hampton (VA) Fire Department; and bureau chief, Division of Fire/Rescue, Prince George’s County, Maryland. He earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Maryland and completed the Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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