Sensing Disaster: The Use of Wearable Sensor Technology to Decrease Firefighter Line-of-Duty Deaths
Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States
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After more than 30 years of the American fire service averaging over 100 line-of-duty deaths annually, the technology now exists that can reduce the number of firefighter line-of-duty deaths of cardiac origin. Despite the creation of programs designed to improve firefighters cardiac health and fitness, no reduction has occurred in the number of firefighters suffering fatal cardiac events. While firefighters can suffer heart attacks or cardiac emergencies anywhere, it has been well documented that firefighters working on the fire ground are exposed to significantly increased risk-factors for the development of coronary heart disease, as well as the exacerbation of underlying cardiac problems. As a result, more firefighters experience signs and symptoms of cardiac complications while on the fire ground than anywhere else while on duty.The development of wearable sensor technology now allows for incident commanders or their assigned designees to monitor the real-time physiologic health and wellness of each and every firefighter operating on the fire scene. Through the use of wearable sensor technology, firefighters can not only have their vital signs and EKG monitored, but this technology will also allow for real-time tracking of their location within a structure and their body motion, speed, and direction of travel.The use of wearable sensor technology in the fire service will have a significant impact on improving not only firefighter health and safety, but when fully developed, will improve other aspects of the firefighting profession, such as search and rescue and fire attack.