Firefighting Technology Roundup: Indoor Tracker Competition Winner, Chemical Exposure Rankings, More

DHS S&T Incident Command System Transitions to Commercial Market

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has announced that the Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS), a full-time emergency response capability, will transition to the Worldwide Incident Command Services Corporation (WICS) “late spring of 2015. WICS, a California nonprofit public benefit corporation and DHS S&T Technology transition partner, provides technical and operational support to the NICS user community. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory originally developed this first responder technology as a tool that provides emergency response agencies and first responders with improved communications and situational awareness. NICS is a mobile, Web-based system that facilitates collaboration and enhances situational awareness across all levels of response agencies, government, and the private sector during emergency incidents. The system is designed to improve safety and enable operational efficiencies, particularly for responders who must make timely decisions under extreme pressure to save lives and prevent damages.

NICS can be operated from a computer, smart phone, or tablet. Additionally, to enable ease of use for all responders, no software needs to be installed for basic NICS functions. For mobile users, an enhanced Android-based version is available. An Apple® iOS version is scheduled for beta release in this summer.

NICS has about 3,300 registered users from 570 organizations in 40 U.S. states and five foreign countries. It has been effectively used in more than 330 emergencies and at numerous large events such as marathons and sports events. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection tested NICS in real-time fire situations. As NICS transitions from research and development to a fully sustainable, full-time emergency response capability, WICS will provide hosting, support, and enhancements, as well as emergency planner and first responder access to NICS as a low-cost service. Additional information about NICS can be found at  and on YouTube at Contact: DHS S&T Press Office, John Verrico (202) 254-2385.

Tracker Records Exposures to Toxins and Diseases and Sustained Injuries

Exposure Tracker, designed by a veteran firefighter who experienced permanent respiratory damage that caused his early retirement, tracks firefighter exposures to toxins, sustained injuries, and encounters with communicable diseases. The San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation has partnered with TrackTrain, the San Diego, California, company that supplies the system. Exposure Tracker has built in analytics for tracking individual and department-wide information that will facilitate monitoring the health and welfare profiles of firefighters throughout their careers and simplify the process of preparing workers’ compensation records. All team members’ records are included in one group report quick tracking. The system is available for individual firefighters for $5 per month for unlimited reports, storage (cloud), and 24/7 support. Department memberships are also available.  Data can be submitted anonymously by users for safety research through advisors at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additional information is at

Propane-Driven Generator Provides Energy Needs of the Military

The growth of technology for military use has been accompanied by a need for energy to power the new equipment. To meet the ever-growing demand for power to sustain battery life, The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has looked to propane. Equipment such as the standard Ultralife UBI-2590 battery, which weight more than three pounds, can power anything from a radio to an antenna to a smartphone, but the need for power is so great that soldiers might need a few dozen for a mission, and venues, such as Afghanistan, do not have an abundance of outlets for recharging batteries or other equipment. With DARPA’s support, engineers built a lightweight, 350-watt propane generator that is silent and can charge batteries in the field. The generator is powered by propane. Soldiers can now take fewer batteries into the field with them and recharge them as needed, significantly lowering the weight of equipment they must carry.  Before the propane generator, they would carry 100 batteries, each weighing more than three pounds. The propane generator weighs just 11 pounds, and the tank weighs 20 pounds. Smaller four-pound tanks work just as well.

DHS S&T Announces Winners of “Indoor Tracking” Competition

The winners of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate’s first innovation prize competition, “Indoor Tracking of the Next Generation First Responders” are The Vreeland Institute, Inc., of Copake, New York, and Certa Cito, LLC, of Rochester, New York. The focus of the challenge was keeping track of first responders when they are inside buildings, tunnels, and other structures.

The Vreeland Institute, winner of the first-place prize of $20,000, proposed a multi-layered approach of existing technologies to locate first responders by creating a 3-D map of each room entered as first responders progress through a building. The second-place winner, Certa Cito, LLC, received a $5,000 award. Its solution adopts an existing localization and tracking technology developed for the sports and mining industries that relies on a deployable mesh network. S&T will continue to host prize competitions to help find solutions to technological challenges, and to advance government research and development (R&D). By attracting diverse talent, prize competitions result in a wide range of potential solutions, and can steer R&D efforts in new directions to meet homeland security needs.

The winners were selected by a panel of expert judges from among more than 50 entries. They were evaluated for technical merit and alignment to DHS mission and programmatic needs. The competition was created under America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Reauthorization Act of 2010 (The America COMPETES Act) in support of the nation’s first responder community.

Additional information on the DHS S&T InnoPrize Program is at You may also contact John S. Verrico, Chief of Media Relations, Science & Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security at

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Scientists Rank Chemicals According to Potential Exposure Level

“About 80,000 chemicals are registered in the United States under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and industry adds 700 to 1,000 new chemicals every year,” according to the American Chemical Society (ACS). For many of these substances, the ranking will be the first step toward determining if they present health risks to humans.

Instead of attempting to directly measure the quantities of these chemicals people are being exposed to by analyzing blood and urine samples, John F. Wambaugh and colleagues developed a mathematical model to predict which household and industrial chemicals people are exposed to the most. They based their research on the answers of five questions related to the substances’ use, including whether the chemicals are used in consumer products or whether they are contained in pesticides. Using this approach, they ranked close to 8,000 chemicals, from highest potential exposure level to lowest. A few of the top 10 chemicals are known compounds such as DEHP, a phthalate that has been shown to cause reproductive problems in rodents. Most of the other chemicals, however, are substances scientists know very little about. A substance’s risks to human health depend primarily on the chemical’s potential hazards and how much of the chemical people are exposed to; unfortunately, public data on these variables are lacking for many substances already in widespread use. An objective of the researchers’ ranking is to facilitate the prioritizing of efforts to understand the potential health risks of thousands of chemicals. The Environmental Protection Agency funded the research.

Source: American Chemical Society NEWS SERVICE Weekly Press Package, Oct. 29, 2014. The journal article “High Throughput Heuristics for Prioritizing Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals” is at Dr. Wambaugh may be reached at the National Center for Computational Toxicology, US EPA, at

Mary Jane DittmarMARY JANE DITTMAR is senior associate editor of Fire Engineering and conference manager of FDIC. 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’ degree in English/journalism and a master’ degree in communication arts.


Firefighting Technology Roundup: Structure Fire Command App, Threat Software Revision



Firesoft LLC, Galena, Illinois, has launched its inaugural product, iCommand: Structure Fires. Developed by firefighters, the application (app) is designed for Apple’s iPad According to Matt Oldenburg, a volunteer firefighter from Galena and one of the system’s developers and the CEO and a co-founder of Firesoft LLC, “the tool will bridge the gap between firefighting and technology and bring order to otherwise chaotic and dangerous situations.” The app is marketed as a “tool for incident commanders to use on the fireground that will help to reduce line-of-duty deaths and injuries.”

The app, which can be used by fire departments of all sizes and types, offers real-time accountability at a glance and captures important postincident reporting data, Oldenburg notes. It also supports compliance benchmarks of NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety & Health Program, and NFPA 1561, Standard on Emergency Services Incident Management System.

Oldenburg, a West Point graduate, says the application has been nearly two years in the making, but it is decades overdue for the industry. “Our expertise in mission command, combined with a strong understanding of technology, allowed us to develop a groundbreaking approach to incident command in firefighting,”  he adds, explaining, “iCommand: Structure Fires brings time-tested concepts from military doctrine together with the latest in tablet computer technology.” A primary feature, he notes, “is that the command page offers a user interface that simulates the feeling of commanding an incident with technology out of a science fiction movie.”

“We spent a great deal of time and attention on programming, streamlining complex information on the backend to provide a rich graphical environment for users to operate in,” says Aaron Abt, COO and Firesoft LLC co-founder. “Commanders will appreciate the practicality of iCommand. The app provides unparalleled feedback and situational awareness as the incident unfolds, and the best part is that iCommand takes minutes to learn and only hours to master,” Abt concludes.

Firesoft LLC will officially launch iCommand: Structure Fires with a limited release of subscriptions at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis this April, Booth #13014. For additional information, go to


ProRAE Guardian (PRG) V.1.5 software, which has been upgraded to globally aggregate and deliver toxic gas threat data from the MultiRAE and ToxiRAE family of wireless monitors to geographically dispersed teams. It also equips incident commanders and safety managers with real-time threat data for time-critical decisions.

The upgraded version provides ongoing real-time gas detection support for existing wireless devices, with additional features including the following:

  • New Device Support–RAELink3 Mesh, ToxiRAE Pro family, MultiRAE2 family.
  • Fault Alarm Support–New alarm type for device faults like pump stall and low battery.
  • Offline Alarm Support–Ensures a minimum number of wireless monitors up and running for complete safety of a facility.
  • Runtime Privileges–The program can run without administrator privileges.

The PRG application includes a built-in cascading feature that displays real-time gas and radiation readings, alarm status, responder location and biometric information from multiple teams displayed on the same screen. The continuous transmission of real-time sensor data and alarms to the command center allows incident commanders to focus on their job by eliminating the need to report readings. The data can then be instantaneously shared and accessed securely through the Internet from virtually any location.

“This latest software upgrade addresses a critical need among incident commanders for real-time access to threat data across dispersed teams, enabling them to make time-critical decisions while addressing life-threatening situations,” explains Thomas Negre, Vice President of Marketing at RAE Systems.

The PRG V.1.5 Windows software is available for download at for new and existing North America customers, or on a CD kit. The previous version of PRG expired on March 31, 2012. Existing users will need to upgrade to ProRAE Guardian V.1.5 to maintain functionality of their monitoring devices after March 31, 2012.

Related Application Notes on the use of ProRAE Guardian to monitor hazmat incidents is available at Information on how to protect and monitor public events is available at

The company’s Web site is at

If you have a service or technology you would like considered for this column, contact

Mary Jane Dittmar is senior associate editor of Fire Engineering and conference manager of FDIC. 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.