System Monitors Vital Signs of Fire Fighters and Hazmat Crews

Nov. 16, 2004
A high-tech undershirt could help save the lives of firefighters and hazmat crews during emergencies.

The LifeShirt System for first responders was used in training exercises by Elk River, Minn., and Fairfield, Conn., firefighters and hazardous materials (hazmat) workers to monitor vital signs such as breath rate, heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, motion, posture and body temperature during training exercises. The system, which resembles an undershirt, is worn under fire retardant clothing and level-A HazMat gear and wirelessly transmits the wearer's vital signs to an incident command center.

This real-time version of the VivoMetrics LifeShirt System has been released for investigational use only and works in conjunction with the VivoCommand Software. It allows a commander to monitor information on up to 24 responders at once and displays the information on an easy-to-interpret screen to enhance decision making.

"During an incident, you're your own worst judge of the situation," said Captain Scott Bisson, training director of the Fairfield Fire Department. "Your adrenalin is pumping so hard that you may not even notice that you're about to collapse. Any tool that we can put on a firefighter to quickly identify if he may be having a problem or is overcome by heat exhaustion inside a building is a good tool."

During the Fairfield, Conn., training exercise, an 18-wheel tanker truck was rolled over and simulated toxic chemicals were spread across a highway. Hazmat team members wearing LifeShirts cordoned off the area, set up a decontamination center and dispatched a level-A crew to spray foam on the truck to contain toxic vapors. They then dragged 200-pound mannequins to the decontamination station, where level-B team members cleaned them and executed life-saving techniques.

In Elk River, Minn., a donated house was set on fire and trainees wearing LifeShirts made multiple entries to subdue the fire.

As part of both exercises, commanders watched their team's vital signs from a command truck and noted changes.

Andrew Behar, president of VivoMetrics, said his company designed the LifeShirt System to empower commanders to make instantaneous decisions to help protect the people who put their lives on the line. "Elk River and Fairfield first responders successfully used this technology to help identify problems even before they happened, and it also prepares them to better serve their community in the future," he noted.

For more information on VivoMetrics LifeShirt System, visit

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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