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Anaheim Fire Department Deploys Multipronged RFID System
Radio frequency identification will help the California organization monitor the location and status of not only firefighters, equipment and supplies, but also disaster victims.
Oct 15, 2008—The Anaheim Fire Department in Orange County, Calif., has thousands of RFID-enabled patient triage tags ready for use in the event of a mass emergency. By year's end, the department plans to equip all 12 of its fire stations with handheld RFID interrogators, and to deploy a number of 915 MHz EPC Gen 2 RFID tags so it can automate inventory management and the replenishment of its medical supplies.
Next year, the fire department will begin employing active 433 MHz RFID tags to inventory the high-dollar equipment carried on its fire trucks, and will also add to the handhelds the capability to read those tags. Ultimately, the department intends to use similar 433 MHz active tags in conjunction with specialized, long-range interrogators that communicate with Wi-Fi-enabled access points. Such a system, the department hopes, will enable it to follow firefighters' locations in real time as they battle fires and other emergencies.
The Anaheim Fire Department first started looking into RFID about three years ago, as a way to replace the paper tags utilized by fire departments across the country to identify and track injured individuals when responding to mass-casualty incidents. To that end, it began working with VerdaSee Solutions, a Langhorne, Pa., RFID company that develops customized RFID-enabled tracking and tracing products and services.
In September, VerdaSee unveiled its Navigator First Response System, developed largely from the company's work with the Anaheim Fire Department. The system includes readers, tags and middleware. To develop the system, VerdaSee also partnered with AAID, a Peachtree City, Ga., manufacturer of active RFID systems specifically designed for hands-free vehicle identification in fleet management, parking, airports, gated communities, access control and asset management applications.
"We started off looking at developing a tracking system for [paper-based] triage tags," says Bob Logue, deputy chief of the Anaheim Fire Department. The triage tags require that first responders and medical personnel place tags on patients, then tear off the appropriate color-coded portion of each tag matching that particular patient's condition. The color codes are green, signifying minor injuries; yellow, for non-life-threatening conditions; red, for life-threatening injuries; and black, for deceased.
The torn-off portions are then compiled and used to determine the quantity and status of patients at the scene, and —if there's time to write down the information—when, and to which hospital, the patient is being transported. The paper tags are effective, but the process of collecting them and consolidating their information is time-consuming and prone to errors. The most difficult task involves tracking patients once they leave the scene via ambulance.
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