Wearable Technologies

Bringing wearable tech to first responders

Today’s firefighter cannot imagine fighting a fire in a woolen uniform with a rubber slicker. There was a time when that was considered the go-to PPE. Tomorrow’s firefighter may not be able to understand what it was like for a firefighter to not have his condition and the conditions around him continuously monitored by sensors. These sensors could have the capability to feed data regularly to not just the fire, but also on the firefighter’s physical condition. Embedded sensors would do more than monitor – they would provide alerts that will take safety to a new level.

Wearable technology is a fact of life today.

Wearable technology is a fact of life today – whether it is your fitness tracker or your smart watch. It’s simple to see how advantageous wearable technology can be and why the industry is moving towards making sensors an important part of a firefighter’s PPE. A sensor can monitor body and environmental parameters and sound a warning when temperatures become dangerous or vital signs indicate physical distress. These are signs a firefighter may overlook in his or her adrenaline-fueled dedication to containing or extinguishing a fire.

Wearable sensors will go wherever the firefighter goes.

Sensors to protect firefighters are a natural progression. Fitness sensors already monitor location, movement, heart rate and, even, sleep quality. Now, technology needs to adapt them to provide even more information and to withstand the harsh conditions of a firefighter’s job. The advantage of wearable sensors is clear; they will go wherever the firefighter goes. They are small by nature, but there is still a challenge to create sensors and systems that are both small and efficient. Systems will have to be able to have quantitative approaches to data — capturing motion and conditions accurately to meet identified needs. They will need to be integrated into PPE gear while the gear remains comfortable and non-constrictive.

Sensors will be able to help firefighters improve safety and situation management.

Technologically-enabled PPE may be one of the most promising safety measures now being developed. Sensors will be able to help firefighters improve safety and situation management. They can increase productivity for both individuals and crews. However, preventing injury and protecting lives will always be their most important role.