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Currently-available turnout gear for firefighters does not inherently provide adequate visibility, ballistic protection, or lower extremity protection as traditional approaches do not always meet today’s needs. This is one of the challenges for which the US government is interested in finding a technological solution.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is seeking new technologies for first responders of all disciplines. Their capability gaps are reflected in several fields:
Integrated Structural Turnout Gear: Firefighters respond to a variety of situations that require very specific turnout ensembles, garments, vests, and other items to meet the demands of the mission. S&T is seeking to provide firefighters with personal protective equipment that meet these needs and comply with all National Fire Protection Association standards.
Traditional structure firefighter helmets do not incorporate state-of-the-art technology that maximizes capability and safety. For instance, current helmets offer no ballistic protection, which puts firefighters at risk when working in violent situations. S&T is seeking a next-generation helmet solution that will incorporate current “best of breed” capabilities and characteristics, including better head protection, increased comfort, increased range of motion, and less probability of snags, as well as easier cleaning and maintenance.
Search and rescue: In the aftermath of a disaster, responders of all disciplines may have to locate and rescue people that are trapped in difficult-to-reach or dangerous-to-enter locations. Most traditional approaches can be time-consuming and often increase risk to the emergency responders themselves. Because time is of the essence, S&T is seeking new remote- and rapid-rescue tools that can quickly deploy an unmanned device or vehicle on the ground, in the water, and/or from the air to locate stranded or trapped persons, hook or load them, and carry them to safety. The proposed solution would also carry payloads to assist casualties by delivering food, water, medicine, or other supplies crucial to survival, according to hstoday.us.
Portable Thermal Imager Integrated with Signs-of-Life Sensors: Emergency responders need to quickly identify signs of life (e.g. breathing, blood pressure, body heat, pulse, movement, speech) to improve rescue and increase survival rates. While many existing tools are designed for large-scale events, S&T is seeking handheld options integrated with thermal imaging that the fire service, law enforcement, and emergency medical personnel can use in a wide variety of everyday operations.
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