The FDNY is developing state-of-the art tracking technology to help safeguard firefighters operating at fires. The series of innovations, some of which are being unveiled in pilot programs now, will allow Fire Department chiefs to determine whether a firefighter has gone missing - then quickly find him again. "This grew out of 9/11," FDNY Chief Edward Baggott said, recalling how scores of firefighters could not located in the chaos at the World Trade Center before the towers collapsed. The city announced this week it plans to cut a $2.5 million contract with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to develop an "E-ZPass" for firefighters on the rig, Baggott said.
A chip will be implanted in the smoke-eaters' bunker gear and, once the firefighter sets foot on the rig, it will broadcast a real-time signal to a chief. "We can now identify who is on the truck and who is actually at scene - and figure out fast if anyone is missing," said Baggott, who said the program - which was tested first in Queens will be expanded to parts of Manhattan and the Bronx this year.
The FDNY is also preparing to roll out two other high-tech safety innovations:
By the end of the summer, every firefighters' handie-talkie will be equipped with a unique transmitter that a firefighter can trigger to broadcast an electronic "Mayday" if he's in trouble, Baggott said. Additionally, the FDNY will equip its units with a hand-held homing device that zeroes in on a firefighter in trouble. If the smoke-eater is motionless for more than 30 seconds, his mask will transmit a signal that can be tracked by the handheld "Pak Tracker" device. Baggott said the devices are building blocks for the holy grail of safety devices - a true tracking system that would pinpoint precise locations of every firefighter in a blaze. That technology has proved elusive, according to fire experts. "The first problem is signal strength," said Glenn Corbett, fire science professor at John Jay College. "The chips don't currently have enough power to broadcast a signal from deep inside a building or up in a high-rise."