Motorola Unveils Firefighter Accountability System

Aug. 26, 2003
A new product unveiled by Motorola at the 2003 Fire-Rescue International Conference, Aug. 22-25, at the Dallas Convention Center could prove to be a lifesaver for some first responders.

The mobile Fireground Communications System provides on-scene, automated personnel monitoring for firefighters. The Tulsa Fire Department discussed the beta test they conducted this summer of the mobile communications system.

"Everything on the Fireground system worked efficiently and without a hitch during the tests," reported Tulsa Chief Michael Graves.

Motorola specifically designed the system to address the difficulty faced by incident commanders in tracking emergency responders at the incident scene, often a matter of life or death for firefighters.

Each year, approximately 15 to 20 percent of the line-of-duty deaths in North America are a result of firefighters being lost or trapped inside buildings.

Typically, fire departments rely on manual methods to identify on-scene resources and account for personnel. The Motorola Fireground accountability system improves on these methods by using wireless radio signals to identify firefighters by sector or working assignment. Each radio channel corresponds to an incident command sector, and firefighter names or identification information is automatically displayed on the incident commander's laptop screen, thereby reducing or eliminating the manual approach to personnel accountability. In addition, all of the system's channels are programmed to operate on the same tactical frequency, so even though channel selections correspond to different Incident Command sectors or work assignments, everyone on-scene can communicate easily with each other and the incident commander.

"These features make it possible for an incident commander to instantaneously identify firefighters on scene and monitor their sector assignments, and save crucial seconds if an emergency response is required," said Milos Grcic, North American Systems Marketing Analyst for Motorola. "If a user turns off the radio, the incident commander is automatically informed and can relay that information to the response team."

A special feature of the system allows a firefighter who's caught in a life-threatening situation to push an emergency button that activates an audible and visual alarm on the mobile command terminal to will help identify the specific firefighter who initiated the alarm as well as his or her assigned sector.

The Motorola system utilizes FieldSoft's FDonScene Incident Management Software with a specially designed GUI interface that displays information received from Motorola radios.

"This software is designed to handle typical incident command mechanics so an incident commander can focus greater attention on strategy, tactics and hazards at the emergency scene," said FieldSoft founder and retired Battalion Chief Mark Bouchard. "Combined with Motorola's equipment, this end-to-end solution takes firefighter accountability operations to new performance levels. It converts an extraordinary amount of data into easy-to-understand information that can be swiftly acted upon."

The software runs on a regular laptop computer or a Motorola Mobile Data Terminal connected to an RF modem to capture data transmissions from portable radios. The application includes timed reminders, personnel accountability reports, and condition evaluation monitors, as well as access to electronic images, floor plans and the National Institute of Occupational Safety Hazards Guide to chemical hazards.

"Given the challenges faced by fire departments every day, solutions that improve on-site management are more critical than ever," said Mike Worthington, Motorola corporate vice president and general manager of Global Safety and Security Solutions. "We believe the Fireground Communication System represents a huge advance in fire departments' efforts to help ensure greater firefighter safety."

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