Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute Awarded Fire Safety Grant

The Department of Homeland Security's Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness awarded a grant of $750,000 to the University of Maryland's Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI) to be used for the development of protective measures for structural firefighters.

The grant will be used to study firefighter physiology using the VivoMetrics LifeShirt at the Center for Firefighter Safety Research and Development, which was established by the University of Maryland to develop new technologies to reduce firefighter injuries and deaths.

Every year, structural firefighters across the nation are required to complete endurance training and are exposed to intense physical conditions while on the job. During training, structural firefighters are required to lift heavy objects and simulate situations they may encounter in the field when working to extinguish fires in buildings. While this test insures that serving structural firefighters are fit for duty, it carries its own dangerous complications. Many times, exhaustion can overwhelm first responders before they or their supervisors are aware of it.

The study will utilize VivoMetrics Government Services' LifeShirt System, which will simultaneously and non-invasively track firefighters' vital signs while they conduct this year's training exercises in an effort to learn about the physiologic condition of firefighters when working in high-stress situations. From the study's data that deliver the first glimpse into this area of firefighters' health, it is expected that guidelines will be created, providing important safety knowledge to agencies throughout the country. MFRI and VivoMetrics Government Services' efforts will not only make for smoother training exercises, but also contribute to the well-being of structural firefighters while on the job.

"This grant will allow the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute to continue our work to enhance the safety of firefighters on the scene of an incident," said Steve Edwards, director of MFRI. "The research we will undertake over the next year will allow us to accurately monitor a firefighter's physiologic responses as they participate in training evolutions. The ability to instantly obtain biofeedback on a firefighter's vital signs is a key first step in improving our ability to locate and protect rescue personnel on the fire ground."

The center includes experts from the University of Maryland including the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute; the A. James Clark School of Engineering's Fire Protection Engineering Department; Small Smart System Center; and the Maryland Information Network Dynamics Laboratory (MIND Lab).

"The University of Maryland is uniquely able to bring together in one Center a group of nationally recognized units with a mission that focuses solely on the academic, educational, and technological problems of first responders," said Dan Mote, president of the University of Maryland. "Because of this unique combination, the center is an asset for the nation, blazing a trail in research and programs at this critical time in our nation's history. We are very proud of the work of MFRI and the center. We appreciate the leadership and vision of Senator Sarbanes and Congressman Hoyer in their support of outstanding contributions to all who are engaged in emergency services."

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