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Science Nation: New Sensor System Tracks Firefighters Where GPS Fails

3 minutes

(Describer) Streams of light collide to create a globe filled with water. Title: Science Nation.

[explosion]

(Describer) A burst of flames fills a room.

(man on walkie-talkie) I have fire showing. Also possible rescue on the third floor.

(male narrator) Everyone involved in this drill at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute knows it's dangerous to locate a missing firefighter in a smoky inferno.

(Describer) Matt Leonard:

When you go into a burning building, you can't really see anything. You're going on instincts.

(Describer) Roy Hodgson:

We've lost firefighters in a building and had a hard time finding them.

(narrator) That's why these firefighters are testing a new sensor system that tracks their whereabouts deep inside buildings, where standard GPS units often don't work.

(Describer) Carol Politi, TRX Systems:

This has been a need for a long time. September 11th was widely publicized. In that case, there was not even an understanding of whether certain firefighters were in the building.

(narrator) With support from the National Science Foundation, CEO Carol Politi and her team at TRX Systems are developing this portable device called the Sentrix Tracking Unit.

(Describer) It's put on like a belt.

It's a suite of sensors.

(Politi) Sensors include accelerometers and gyroscopes. Those are sensors similar to what's in your Wii.

(man on walkie-talkie) I have a Mayday for the rescue group.

(Describer) Smoke pours from the practice building, which firefighters enter.

(narrator) They gave us a demonstration. A firefighter outfitted with a sensor moves through the smoke, and the tracking unit maps his location and sends the data to base, in this case, the commander's laptop. The system can transmit via radio waves, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi.

(man on walkie-talkie) They have found the victim.

(Hodgson) This is tremendous for the fire service.

(Describer) Hodgson:

If my firefighters need help, it will be faster than to go in and do a blind search.

(narrator) Politi says the Sentrix system also could benefit other first responders like the police, FEMA, or the Red Cross, as well as the military and miners.

(Describer) Ben Funk, TRX:

First responders, firefighters are more difficult because of the types of motions that they're performing.

(narrator) Politi says they're honing the accuracy of the system before it's made available for sale to firefighters. The goal? Pinpoint precision, keeping a watchful eye through the smoke and flame.

(Describer) The globe turns.

For Science Nation, I'm Miles O'Brien.

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Firefighters risk their lives every time they run into a burning building. But, new technology may soon be watching their backs, no matter how far they venture into the flames and smoke. With support from the National Science Foundation, TRX systems is developing a new sensor system that can track firefighters where GPS units often fail.

Media Details

Runtime: 3 minutes

Science Nation
Episode 1
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 2
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 3
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 4
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 5
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 6
4 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 7
4 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 8
4 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 9
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 10
4 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12