The Internet of Things May Help Save Firefighters

When it comes to putting out fire, time is often the most important factor to consider. Time, and information. The more data about the burning structure – and the people trapped in it – is available to firefighters, the more they can operate effectively, saving lives and limiting the damages to the building, reports

In 2013 alone, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association, 1,240,000 fires were reported in the U.S., which caused the death of 3,240 civilians and $11.5 billion in property damage.

Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Fire Protection Research Foundation believe that at least part of this heavy toll could be reduced, if fire brigades, instead of relying heavily on the experience and judgment of the incident commander–as it often happens–could base their decisions on the data systematically and scientifically collected on the scene.

Their joint report, “Research Roadmap for Smart Fire Fighting” contains several examples of how enhanced data gathering, processing and delivery could transform traditional fire protection and fire fighting practices, combining the the points of strengths of what we are getting used to call the “Internet of Things” (in its various declinations) with the big data analytics. Here’s what “smart fire fighting” would look like, according to the paper. “Once the equipment and personnel are on scene,” researchers write, “a temporary wireless network could be set up, deploying a number of different sensor technologies to obtain a comprehensive and accurate assessment of the evolving situation on the fireground.”

Technologies that in everyday life we’re getting used to file under the Sensors embedded in personal protection equipment, could track the location and health condition of responders; images coming from surveillance cameras could prove invaluable to discover how many people are inside the building and where; information gathered from ventilation systems could help estimate thermal conditions and the risk of flashover.

“Today there is significant variety to the information accessible by fire brigades, and great potential as the Internet of Things continues to proliferate,” the Fire Protection Research Foundation’s executive director Casey Grant tells me, “Real-time information will greatly assist emergency responder situational awareness, which is especially critical during an event when time is precious.”

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