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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.
The RFID tags will cover all supplies, from Band-Aids to IV drugs, used by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics when they respond to calls. The supplies are stored in individual bins, which are currently being tagged with the EPC Gen 2 labels. Fire personnel will employ the same handhelds used for the triage tags to scan each bin tag, then enter into the device the amount that needs to be ordered. The reader can then be docked, and the data from the order transmitted back to the department's headquarters via Anaheim's internal, citywide network. Every time a fire rig is restocked, that information will be sent over as well, and a weekly order will then be built.
Next year, the Anaheim Fire Department plans to add active VerdaSee 433 MHz RFID tags to such high-dollar assets as rescue tools, cardiac monitors and automatic external defibrillators (AEDs). These tags will store in-service dates, maintenance schedules and other information. The goal is to have the tags remind services section managers of all required repairs and checks.
"Firefighters can see what's on their trucks, and when things were last serviced," Logue explains. "They can make sure the assigned equipment is on their trucks. This is especially important on seldom-used items and reserve apparatus. During fires, equipment gets swapped by mistake, so sometimes it's not your apparatus on your rig, but the apparatus from another station."
Perhaps the RFID application in which Logue and his colleagues are most interested is one that will enable the department to track firefighters while they are actually fighting fires—a system he says will ultimately save lives. By affixing active 433 MHz tags to each firefighter's breathing apparatus, or by embedding the tags into their clothing, the department envisions a time in the near future when it will be able to track firefighters' movements in real time as they enter a building.
"Firefighters get separated from the hose line inside of structures, or a sudden collapse prevents them from leaving the building," Logue says, "and sometimes they aren't able to be found until it is too late." He cites the events of 9-11, as well as a June 2007 fire at a furniture warehouse in Charleston, S.C., in which nine firefighters perished. "There is no way to tell if an RFID system would have changed any of these tragic events," he says, "but the potential to save lives is very exciting."
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