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How Can RFID Assist First Responders?

Posted By RFID Journal, 07.10.2009
What future applications do you foresee for emergency first responders pertaining to radio frequency identification?

—Name withheld

———
There are a number of applications that have already been deployed. The state of Texas, for instance, has implemented an RFID system enabling emergency personnel to provide ID tags for people being evacuated from disaster areas. Evacuees are scanned onto buses, which are then tracked with GPS. As people arrive at a shelter, they are also scanned so the government knows where evacuees are and can reunite them with their loved ones (see An RFID Port in a Storm).

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 (see Anaheim Fire Department Deploys Multipronged RFID System). It has equipped all 12 of its fire stations with handheld RFID interrogators, and has deployed a number of 915 MHz EPC Gen 2 RFID tags so it can automate inventory management and the replenishment of its medical supplies. It also plans to use active tags to track high-value assets at emergency scenes.

Belgium has piloted a customized version of the RFID-equipped Victim Tracking and Tracing Systems (ViTTS). The system is designed to track disaster victims wirelessly from the scene of an incident to a hospital (see First Responders Can Tag Victims For Tracking). The system helps the government, hospitals and the Red Cross respond to disasters more quickly, by enabling them to route victims to the most appropriate medical care. The system also includes a database that will contain the routing information, and could include data regarding the victim's health—whether they have received pain killers or antibiotics, for instance.

And there are additional applications related to emergencies. Oakland Coliseum, for example, is equipping 150 stadium employees with handheld RFID devices they can use to send alerts specifying the type and location of a situation requiring immediate assistance (see RFID Speeds Coliseum's Emergency Response).

As for future applications, one might be to track the environment of a natural disaster with low-cost RFID sensors. The idea would be that in the case of, say, a terrorist attack, the sensors would provide information regarding which chemicals, radioactive materials and other hazards might be in the environment. Some tests are also being conducted to determine if RFID-enabled robots could enter emergency areas before the first responders, armed with sensors that would provide feedback on environmental conditions.

—Mark Roberti, Editor,
RFID Journal

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