News Article

Wearable firefighter tracking system comes to market
Date: Jan 15, 2013
Author: Mary Rose Roberts
Source: Fire Chief ( click here to go to the source)

Featured firm in this article: TRX Systems Inc of Greenbelt, MD

A long-awaited firefighter tracking system will be available this year. The Wearable Advanced Sensor Platform, or WASP, is a first-generation sensor system used in infrastructure-free and GPS-denied environments to track fire-service personnel. Wireless sensor technologies are integrated into turnout gear, specifically a new technical based layer developed by Globe Mfg. and its textile technology partner, Propel LLC.

Tracking firefighters became a priority after the 1999 Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire, in which six firefighters died after becoming lost. The idea re-energized after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when federal leadership asked scientists to develop technologies that could track firefighters in buildings where GPS was unavailable.

To learn more about the system and its capabilities, FIRE CHIEF spoke with Mark Mordecai, Globe's director of business development. Globe has been involved in the project since 2006.

How is Globe involved in the WASP program?
Globe is the systems' integrator. We integrated into turnout gear two technology partners: Zephyr Technology produces sensors for physiological monitoring, and TRX System provides tracking systems. Both of these technologies are best of breed in their space.

What does the commercial product look like?
We are producing is a flame-resistant, wicking technical base-layer shirt with integrated physiological monitoring sensors to track things such as temperature and heart rate. For the location tracking unit, a pocket was developed that is attached to the turnout gear pants.

Instead of wearing your cotton shirt, you would replace that with the technical base layer shirt that happens to have sensors built into it. You would show up to the shift wearing the shirt and wear it for 24 hours.

What is protecting the tracking sensors from extreme heat?
The location tracking sensor already is in a hardened case. It is about the size of a deck of cards. It is enclosed in a flame-resistant fabric pouch that is worn under the turnout gear jacket. So, it is pretty protected.

What is the trend for turnout gear embedded with electronics?
Data is about trying to an increase situational awareness on the fireground. With an electronic worn system, we can integrate multiple sensors that can measure every metric via one system, for air supply, location, physiological… . You could have a half dozen sensor systems, so an integrated system is critical. We are not at the end. The technology will continue to evolve, and there will be other generations in future years. It used to be science fiction to locate firefighters and now the technology is here. It is exciting to be at this stage of development: commercialization.

What is the future of Globe's turnout products?
We really need to rethink firefighter protection. There are other threats we need to address. We can do that with body worn electronics to measure firefighter risk, in every day rehab, training… . There are a lot of places where this technology is making a difference. As we move forward, we will look to add additional sensors to continue to evolve and a more comprehensive system for situational awareness on the fireground.