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NEWSLETTER The Newsletter of the First Responder Technologies Program

Volume 2 Issue 10 October 2009


Portable Bioharness Measures First Responders’Vital Signs

In high-stress and hazardous situations, rst responders have a hard time determining if they are at risk for dehydration, fatigue, or other dangers from overexertion. Stress and cardiac overexertion can lead to cardiac arrest, which is the principal cause of death for reghters in the United States, according to the United States Fire Administration. As a result, when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) released a report about the technology needs of rst responders, personal physiological status monitors were listed as a top priority for 2009.

The Zephyr First Responder System (FRS 1000) is a new commercially available system that monitors the physiological and biomechanical conditions of rst responders in real time. The system gives EMTs, reghters, and incident commanders information to protect rst responders’ health and safety, as well as improve their work performance at an incident scene or while in training.

The FRS 1000 is interoperable with existing data radio equipment. It can monitor up to 16 rst responders’health statistics on one screen; 64 total responders can be monitored across four tabbed screens. Photo courtesy of Zephyr Technology.

Previously, technology of this kind was not available in the eld. According to Division Chief Jim Campbell of the Pike Township Fire Department in Indianapolis, Indiana, where eld tests were conducted for Zephyr, incident commanders relied largely on verbal feedback from their crews. Campbell added,“Most departments now include some type of rudimentary medical monitoring such as a blood pressure check, but certainly nothing approaching what would be available through this technology.”

The FRS 1000 was developed by Zephyr Technology Corporation under a contract funded by the Technical Support Working Group (TSWG). The system is designed to work with rst responders’existing radio systems, including the Motorola XTS 1500/2500/5000, which eliminates the need for purchasing additional electronics. The system is designed for use by any rst responder deployed to high- stress events, such as reghters, hazmat teams, and Civil Support Teams (CSTs).

Steven Small, Vice President of Business Development and Sales at Zephyr Technology, explained that the physiological status sensor improves decision-making and remote triage. “It’s designed so incident commanders have insight into the vital signs of their personnel,”said Small. “If it looks like [personnel] are getting into trouble, they can get them out to rehab.”

The system’s sensors measure heart rate, breathing rate, and skin temperature. The FRS 1000 sensors also include accelerometers that measure rst responders’postures and activity levels. Combining this data provides a meaningful picture of a responder’s health status. Moreover, incident commanders can be alerted if a rst responder is bent over, crouched, or inverted, as such distressed positions elevate heart and breathing rates.

Campbell reported,“Commanders can, in real time, better evaluate the workloads assigned to various crews and call


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