Computers and Firefighting

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Computers and Firefighting


It seems that the advances of today are moving far more rapidly than people have ever thought about. The only question is that how much farther can we go in the advancement of computer technology to support people. One of the ways to support people is in the area of Firefighting. In this field the firemen with help of computers is allowed to help civilians when they are in need. The job of now is becoming a little safer to do because of newly advances by computers in the firefighting field. Three important ways computers have contributed is in the ways firemen can refine their own personal knowledge of the job, personal protective equipment (PPE), and one of the tools invented to locate people.

The topic for computer advancement, is of a field that is one of the most critical services given to people. Why? It is one of most demanding jobs because of what the fireman actually does. In most senses his or her job is not to only fight fires, but also to search out for life within the fire, administer aid if needed, along with the searching for clues to what might have been the cause for the accident or blaze. The Fireman combines the work ethic of not only his or her job, but along with knowledge of a nurse and police officer. True, he or she does not always play a role on the other areas besides fighting fires, but they have to be able to pick-up where ever they are needed in whatever role. In order to broaden the knowledge of the firemen, it is most commonly done through new types of studying and training. A firemen can take lessons of a CD with help of a computer, and run simulations on their own to refine and expand their own personal abilities as a fireman. Now all they have to do it go to a computer and learn what they need to know, at times even through interactive lessons, instead of using the old method of reading textbooks, magazines, journals, or where ever else the information lies for them to find.

In the area of the firemen¡¦s own personal protective equipment, it too has be advanced because of computers. Twenty-five years ago, the turnout gear worn by firefighters was used to keep the firefighter from getting wet mainly then with the introduction of Nomex, which was a self-extinguishing man-made material, then came Gortex and PBI.

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Gortex was a fabric that allowed firefighters to release moisture into the outer environment, making the firefighter more comfortable. PBI¡¦s outer shell material raised the fire resistance to very high temperatures up to 1,200„a F, before the material would break down.

Despite the far advances of the Turnout gear, three common things are still happening to the firefighters. One, the firefighters are still getting burned, second the heat prevention is so good by the materials the firefighters can¡¦t detect when they have entered dangerous heat levels, until the heat makes its ways through the jacket in a radiant manner. Lastly, the gear is only providing limited protection and limited time to escape a life-threatening situation. So now we are faced with a situation, firefighters are protected in such a manner that they can¡¦t tell when they are in a dangerous situation until it is almost too late. This problem is being resolved with the invention and the production of the SmartCoat System (SCS).

The SCS consists of six heat sensors within the outer shell of the turnout jacket. These are located on the shoulder, back, and chest. These sensors take readings of the coat and the outer-environment every five seconds then read the temperatures in a small computer with an alarm device located in a special pocket of the coat. The computer works as a rate-of-rise heat detector. This computer and alarm is set the danger limit when the alarm will go off at 150„a F. This temperature was designated because; it is determined when the wearer is taking low doses of radiant heat. This radiant heat is what causes the firefighter to burn. The limit temperature corresponds to the known fact that the human skin must be exposed to 160„a F for sixty seconds or 180„a F for thirty seconds or 212„a F for 15 seconds to produce a second-degree burn. By using this knowledge through fact, testing the usage of the turnout coat with the SCS, the SCS does buy the wearer an extra 30 seconds to a minute before the firefighter is threatened by being burned by radiated heat. The SCS is lightweight and does not restrict movement or add and detectable physical stress.

The last item to be discussed is the ultra-wideband. This item will give the mere mortal a similar ability attributed to cartoon superhero, such as being able to see through a wall. With the ultra-wideband, this will allow emergency people to detect objects buried in rubble or underground and to build cars enhanced with sensors that help avoid collisions. The ultra-wideband uses millions of narrow pulses every second to give a more accurate reading of distance and location. A similar object is by sending a shockwave into the ground and measuring the time to have the wave reflect against, a solid object.
By measuring the time of the different soundwaves, this allows the computer to determine the general size, and distance below ground the object is. The ultra-wideband uses a lot more waves or pulses to give a clearer image of what lies beneath or underneath the earth and rubble. These waves or pulses will be able to sense motions on the other side of a wall even before firefighters have to knock down a door or part of the wall. In Fairfax Virginia, rescue workers where able to see people still breathing twelve feet under rubble using the ultra-wideband after a building collapsed.

Other hopes with the ultra-wideband are to act as a sensory device for cars. This acts in a manner that when a brake is applied it monitors the rate of deceleration in the car, and the time to release the air bag. Another hope is to create special radios that allow for covert secure communications between soldiers without revealing their location, or even the knowing to the enemy that they are even in the area.

There are many more areas that computers have advanced within the firefighting field, other than the discussed learning of knowledge through computers, personal protective equipment, and the ultra-wideband radar. People should just be careful to not get carried away with the advancing technology, which affects people. We do not want to get in the situation of trying to cheat death, because by doing so, we are trying to play God, and that is some dangerous ground of his to be playing on.


Sources:

New Technology to Aid Firefighters, Rescuers

Kalpana Srinivasan, CoolWriter Internet Associated Press, Firehouse.com (6/14/2000)

Article on the new technology for the Fire Service

Change in the Fire Service Symposium: "A Focus on Technology in the Fire Service"

Charles Werner, CoolWriter Internet Associated Press, Firehouse.com (1/11/1999)

Link to article of the Change in Fire Service Symposium

Turnout Gear: The Next Generation

Jerry Knapp, CoolWriter Internet Associated Press, Firehouse.com (9/1998)



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