Agreement paves way for applying NASA technology to fire safety and prevention

Agreement paves way for applying NASA technology to fire safety and prevention

NASA, represented by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have entered into an agreement to use technologies derived from the space program to improve firefighter and the public safety.

“…. Our intention is to evaluate technologies that can serve to reduce firefighter injuries and fatalities. We also will explore ways in which technologies designed for the space program can protect the public from fire,” explains Gary O. Tokle, NFPA assistant vice president for public fire protection.

All 10 NASA field centers will participate in the study to be pursued by the Fire and Other Emergency Service Working Group (FESWG), which is chaired by Chris Bramon of the Marshall Center. Other members of the Group include Chief Frank Moriarty of the Chicago (IL) Fire Department; NFPA`s Tokle; Ben Farley and Larry Gagliano of the NASA Marshall Center; Kirk Sharp of the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi; Cheryl Allen of the Langley Research Center in Virginia; Bruce Webbon of the Ames Research Center in California; Terry Stefanovic of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida; Lee Duke of the Dryden Research Facility in California; Nona Minnifield of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland; Milt Lavin of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California; Bob Dotts of the Johnson Space Center in Texas; and Steve Riddlebaugh of the Lewis Research Center in Ohio.

According to Chairman Bramon, the FESWG will focus on the following areas of investigation and research:

The ability to anticipate the collapse of burning buildings in which firefighters are working. The object is to devise a system of independently powered sensors that will provide at least five minutes warning so that firefighters can evacuate. The sensors can be installed when firefighters arrive at the fire and while buildings are under construction.

A personnel locator system that will make it possible to trace and locate all personnel at a fire scene from a central site. The objective is to develop a system that can be installed and be operational within 15 minutes of firefighters` arriving on the scene.

A vehicle-mounted transponder package to track vehicles carrying hazardous materials. A pilot program is planned for the Gary-Chicago-Milwaukee Corridor Project.

A vital signs monitor and transmitter to be worn by all emergency services personnel operating in extreme conditions characterized by high heat, smoke, dangerous chemicals, and stress. Information will be relayed to a central monitoring location. Personnel will be able to be evacuated before they become physically incapacitated or can be identified as having become incapacitated and in need of rescue.

Developing and adopting a single suit/material that provides protection against exposure to hazardous chemicals and a flash fire environment and that still will maintain acceptable standards of protection and affordability.

An urban search and rescue emitter that can be worn by citizens in earthquake-prone areas such as the Pacific rim states and the New Madrid Fault in the central United States. The device will facilitate locating and extracting persons trapped in structures more quickly.

A thermal sensing system for installation in new construction. The sensor array will detect fires hidden in walls and other inaccessible areas and will be connected to the existing alarm system.

A requirement to provide on-the-spot identification of unknown materials that may present a hazard to emergency services personnel. The present method of obtaining a sample and sending it to a laboratory for identification is unacceptable in an emergency situation. The sensor will be optimized to quickly identify the 1,600 chemicals approved by the Department of Transportation for commercial transport in the United States. Priority will be given to those materials specified by the Chicago Fire Department as those most likely to be encountered and which pose the greatest hazard.

A type of helmet that can be worn inside an encapsulated suit to provide heads-up information, personal communication, and a control capability.

A remote sensor to determine the temperature of a standing wall without actually having to touch the surface by hand. The battery-operated thermal sensor will indicate to firefighters whether a fire is present behind the wall.

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