Firefighters oftentimes find themselves in situations where they are in danger of receiving burns to their bodies because the ambient temperature from a fire rises to an unsafe degree. This rise in temperature can be nearly instantaneous and can increase to a degree beyond the protective capabilities of the Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) and the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) the firefighters wear. Moreover, although advances in material engineering have increased the ability of gear to withstand very high temperatures, the increased insulation has also decreased the body’s ability to dispense internal heat as well as the firefighter’s awareness of external temperatures. This can increase the body’s core temperature to unsafe levels. This is particularly likely during rapid increases in critical situations. In addition, the structural integrity of the protective gear begins to degrade as temperatures rise, further endangering the firefighter.
Developing an early detection system that informs the firefighter of a rapid temperature rise, which might not be immediately evident inside the protective gear, would greatly benefit firefighter safety. Such a device should emit an audible, visual, or other recognizable alarm that warns the wearer of the presence of dangerous conditions. Ideally, the notification received by the firefighter in the critical incident situation will also be received simultaneously at the incident command center where the situation can be evaluated in real time resulting in decisions to withdraw or take other protective action. The device must be able to detect the changes as rapidly as possible and be an ultra-low power consumption device that is suitable for mobile electronics. The device, including the power source and all associated electronics, must be able to withstand high temperatures, high pressure water sources, and whatever other harsh environmental conditions that could be found in the vicinity of the critical incident. It is desirable that this power source be off when not in use to conserve battery power, but be ready to operate automatically when needed. The device needs to be manufactured with low thermally conductive materials, and should be of small size, shape, and weight. The device must be able to adhere to the helmet in a manner that will not interfere with the performance of the firefighter’s duty and so that the warning mechanism is recognized by the wearer. It must also be able to be certified to appropriate NFPA standards.
PHASE I: The offeror should research the topic area and provide a detailed technical report covering devices that may be currently available in the market and the rationale outlining the proposed solution and why it would be more effective than anything currently available. The report must also identify how the proposed mechanism will operate, and any limitations to the proposed solution. Any test data available from previous research that supports the technical approach suggested should also be included.
PHASE II: A prototype of the proposed solution will be developed that illustrates how the device will operate in fire incident scene conditions. The prototype will be built in accordance to the specifications outlined in the Phase I detailed technical report. A Final Report that details the work that was performed and contains test data that indicates that the device meets the performance/certification requirements established in Phase I have been met is also required.
PHASE III: COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS: A successful prototype(s) from Phase II is to be made available to DHS for selected first responder organizations for field testing under full operational conditions.
High-temperature warning unit, US-6075445-A, Athanasiades, Neocles G; McLoughlin, John E; Paris, Joseph Raymond; Toh, Kiam Meng, June 19, 1998.
Fire Fighter’s Protective Clothing and Thermal Environments of Structural Fire Fighting, Lawson, Aug 1996, NISTIR 5804, http://fire.nist.gov/bfripubs/fire96/PDF/f96072.pdf
Fire Exposures of Fire Fighter Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus Facepiece Lenses, Mensch, Braga, Bryner, November 2011, NIST Technical Note 1724.
Thermal Capacity of Fire Fighter Protective Clothing, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, The National Personnel Protective Technology Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and North Carolina State University, October 2008.