UW research helps firefighters
(adapted from a UW
Daily article by Eric Neusbaum / Contributing writer / November 23,
Sensors in a fire suit monitor the vital signs of a firefighter in
Firefighters put their lives on the line regularly, and to aid them,
research is helping to increase safety by improving the performance of
emergency workers in harsh environments.
Extreme Endeavors, a
company, is developing sensors for fire suits that can help send vital
information from the scene of an emergency back to an appliance that
installed on fire trucks.
With the help of UW researchers, the sensors will have the capacity
the location of emergency responders inside a building and monitor the
signs of firefighters.
A research project, led by electrical engineering professor Les Atlas
graduate student Qin Li, produced technology that can monitor the
physiological traits even in the most chaotic conditions.
According to Atlas, the sensors measure the sound of a heartbeat,
dangerous irregularities easier to identify in even the harshest
He said firefighters will be safer and more effective because of this
For example, if a firefighter is found to have an irregular heart rate,
commanders outside the scene will know to deploy a rescue team for his
This safeguard will allow emergency workers to focus completely on
the task at
hand. Compared to other products, the UW technology is "less expensive
more efficient to use," Atlas said.
The technology, called "modulation processing," extracts periodic
are deeply buried in noise. It monitors repetitive patterns such as
volume and is very sensitive to changes. It can be applied to human
music or any sound that is relatively repetitive. The sensors sharpen
sound they pick up in order to make its structure visible.
While the product is still in developmental phases, the company
plans to market it commercially. Extreme Endeavors' engineers working on
project are primarily former soldiers and firefighters, adding
the efforts. The support of the project also has the National Institute
Health in the form of a recently awarded grant.
UW research in this field has already been used by the U.S. military
acoustic applications, such as sniper detection and localization. It has
a project for Washington engineers for a few years. The interest of
Endeavors, is relatively recent, and its partnership with Washington is
in its early stages, according to Atlas.