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How Can I Track Firefighting Equipment?

Posted By RFID Journal, 03.20.2013

Where can I learn about radio frequency identification solutions for monitoring assets on first-responder vehicles?

—Name withheld


Equipment Management Service and Repair (EMSAR), which handles health-care and medical-services tools for clients nationwide, provides an RFID-based solution developed by Silent Partner Technologies (SPT) for clients to track assets' locations (see Emergency Medical Services Providers Try New Equipment-Managing RFID Solution). The solution—for which EMSAR is the exclusive reseller—is focused on solving several problems. It helps an emergency medical service (EMS) provider's staff quickly locate items requiring maintenance or inspection, and also assists crews, such as ambulance drivers or other emergency responders, in ensuring that they do not leave expensive equipment behind when going out on a call.

The Chicago Fire Department has tested a wireless system that can pinpoint the locations of firefighters within burning buildings (see Chicago Fire Dept. Tests ZigBee-based RFID System). At the University of California, Berkeley, researchers developed the system in response to a request by the fire department following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, when rescue workers at the Twin Towers, using incompatible two-way radios, were unable to communicate with each other. Developed by the school's mechanical engineering department, together with the Center for Information Technology in the Interests of Society (CITRIS), the Fire Information and Rescue Equipment (FIRE) system provides firefighters and command chiefs with details regarding rescue workers' positions within a building. The two-way radios that most fire departments employ have limitations in this respect, as they require firefighters to provide status reports about their locations.

The Anaheim Fire Department has deployed a system from VerdaSee Solutions, a Langhorne, Pa., RFID firm that develops customized RFID-enabled tracking and tracing products and services, in order to monitor the locations and statuses of not only firefighters, equipment and supplies, but also disaster victims (see Anaheim Fire Department Deploys Multipronged RFID System).

Compass Systems has developed a system called the Hand-held Apparatus for Mobile Mapping and Expedited Reporting (HAMMER) that combines RFID, GPS, mapping and sensor technologies. The device was designed for potential use in a range of applications, such as mapping archeological sites, but it could also be utilized to assist first-responders (see HAMMER Combines RFID, GPS, Mapping, Sensor Technologies).

A few years ago, Avery Dennison introduced a durable high-memory EPC Gen 2 RFID tag designed to track personnel and assets during emergencies (see Avery Dennison Debuts Extra-Durable High-Memory EPC Gen 2 Tag). The tag's impact-resistant case is designed to be impervious to dust and jets of water, earning it an International Protection (IP) rating of 65. What's more, the case is reusable and can be applied to substrates via bolt or rivet.

Finally, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has developed technology for tracking firefighters, in order to be able to rescue first-responders. The solution consists of wireless technology that tracks a person's location and condition, and then transmits that data via a series of "breadcrumb" routers. The DOD is presently looking for a company to commercialize the solution (see Homeland Security Seeks to Commercialize Technology for Tracking Firefighters).

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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