Save the heroes
The term “public safety” does not do justice to the dedication, hard work and heroism of firefighters, police and EMS.
Firefighters constantly face potentially fatal situations. Yes, it is their job, but we should be looking at every possible solution to improve the safety of that job, to save their lives when they are saving others.
A small business in Huntsville, AL, has done just that. Time Domain Corp., under Phase 1 of the Small Business Innovation Research program from the Department of Commerce, has demonstrated a wireless technology that could track firefighters through heavy smoke, fire or dense steam. Time Domain and application developer Intelligent Automation of Rockville, MD, have submitted a Phase 2 SBIR proposal to build a fully functional prototype system that could help save firefighters’ lives by providing precision tracking and communications inside burning buildings.
If the Phase 2 proposal is approved, (which means that the companies win a contract for as much as $300,000 to continue the research), the companies will jointly develop a radio named “Ultra” (ultra-wideband location-tracking radio).
The Ultra radio would be a small, light, battery-operated device that would be integrated into the firefighter’s uniform. Its projected range is 100m-200m in hazardous environments.
According to Intelligent Automation, this radio does not transmit continuous radio waves like conventional radio. Only pulses are transmitted, and power is used only during the short duration of those pulses. A typical duty cycle is 0.5% with pulse widths of 0.5ns. The low-frequency component of this radio’s signal allows the radar to see through foliage and walls, while the high-frequency component provides high resolution. (Supposedly, this radio generates no interference, operating below FCC Part 15 device levels.) Two radios would recognize each other’s proximity to within about 1″.
Another lifesaving device that already exists is the thermal-imaging camera. However, these cameras are expensive, and all taxpayers aren’t willing to pay a little more to increase safety for everyday heroes.
Either one of these technologies could have saved the life of a Phoenix firefighter who died in a burning supermarket in March. Bret Tarver ran out of air and became lost, incoherent and disoriented. As reported on Firehouse.com by Heather Casey, some kind of collision knocked Tarver and his partner off the hose line. The two became separated. The partner was rescued, but Tarver was a “big guy and too disoriented to cooperate,” one of the investigators said. His body was found under a table used to prepare meat.
Whether it’s a tracking system, a thermal-imaging camera or a simple portable radio, the public safety community should always consider acquiring any device that will possibly save the life of a hero. Taxpayer education about these technologies can only help this cause.
One posting to Firehouse.com’s Web site said the toughest thing about being a firefighter is “attending wakes and funeral services, and then going out on the next alarm without our buddy at our side.”