Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part story about new technology developed by MSA to enhance firefighter safety and scene management. The first installment focuses on MSA’s connected firefighter platform while the second article will address the features and benefits of specific products.
The internet of things (IOT) has ushered in several useful features for business and personal use. Now, MSA promises to wirelessly connect firefighting tools to enhance safety and staff.
In 2014, MSA developed the G1 self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for firefighters that improved situational awareness and communication. Two years later, the firm launched G1 iTIC, which integrated a thermal imaging camera into the SCBA along with Bluetooth technology to transmit data.
Today, MSA has engineered an all-in-one safety solution ecosystem of products to help firefighters view a situation in real-time while staying connected to each other in smoke-filled hot zones and remote or underground areas. The connected firefighter platform comprises:
- LUNAR – A handheld search-and-rescue device using thermal imaging technology to identify edges, people, doors, windows and other venting sources. It also includes a motion detector that sounds an alarm and broadcasts a distress signal to nearby personnel if a firefighter becomes incapacitated.
- FireGrid – An integrated system that connects all LUNAR devices as soon as they turn on to provide real-time accountability of firefighters’ status and location, whether or not they wear breathing apparatus. It feeds the collected data to on-scene commanders and remote personnel, such as a dispatch center or fire station.
- MSA Hub – A device creating a wireless gateway using its own hotspot by tapping into cellular technology. If cell signals are unavailable or severed, it creates its own cloud-based hotspot to communicate with all devices within range.
Previously, data about individual firefighters only became available when they connected to a SCBA that relayed their estimated air pressure, battery life and time remaining. LUNAR now uses advanced technology to relay that information and other data to assist any firefighter carrying the handheld device.
They can monitor data on scene or remotely from any computer via a secure Internet connection. Because each device connects with LUNARs within range, fire departments offering mutual aid can connect to other firefighters as soon as they arrive on scene.
“When you look at the wide array of jobs firefighters perform at the scene of a structure fire, there are often only a small subset of firefighters wearing respiratory protection,” says Matthew Quigley, MSA’s global product group manager for fire service technology and connectivity. “Other firefighters get involved in incident command, manning pumps or trying to coordinate traffic.”
With LUNAR, MSA bridged the gap of knowing precisely where all firefighters are on scene—even those not wearing respiratory equipment.
“LUNAR represents an enormous advancement for MSA regarding connectivity technology to help departments monitor firefighters on scene and keep that information for future use,” says Quigley.
Equipped with firefighting assisting search technology (FAST), LUNAR constantly broadcasts real-time information about a firefighter’s location and status. For example, if a firefighter has not moved in 30 seconds, LUNAR’s motion detection sensor recognizes a problem, broadcasts a distress signal and emits an audible alarm.
But even when not connected to SCBA, LUNAR detects a downed firefighter and broadcasts distance and directional information to other personnel who can use the device’s thermal imaging feature to rescue that person even in restricted visibility. It uses the heads-up display capability of a SCBA system to relay LUNAR alarms to the firefighter’s facepiece.
Quigley cited studies showing interior firefighters, who are members of that team or an adjacent team within the structure, perform most successful rescues. Often, firefighters doing fire suppression or venting will locate and extricate a downed firefighter from the building, says Quigley.
MSA’s G1 Industrial SCBA relays critical information to firefighters whether they are wearing respiratory equipment inside the scene or working outside an actual fire.
“Combining LUNAR with G1 Industrial SCBA ensures firefighters are moving and able to continue their operation,” he explains. “They use the ubiquitous cellular network to transmit data from an industrial fire back to a control center or to staff monitoring the situation from a remote location.”
Firefighters in industrial settings could tap into the device’s thermal imaging tools, including edge detection. That way, if a firefighter becomes distressed, lost or incapacitated, the LUNAR alarm can notify nearby personnel to launch a rescue operation.
Departments can build the system slowly by adding more devices over time. For example, a department with a single G1 SCBA can add a LUNAR to enhance the safety of breathing apparatus. However, it also can equip other firefighters to use LUNARs without SCBA, such as with land fires or non-fire rescue situations.
“Departments that don’t use MSA’s breathing apparatus can still use LUNAR and other FireGrid tools because they are independent solutions,” says Quigley. “The safety tools work regardless of thetype of personal protective equipment worn.
“The system works optimally within an entire MSA system, but most tools are available to use regardless of the type of equipment being worn,” he explains. “This allows departments to incrementally add LUNARs to their fleets as resources allow.”
SETUP AND TRAINING
When teams unbox a LUNAR device, instructions guide them to create a FireGrid account or add the new device to an existing one by entering the serial number.
As soon as the department registers the device, it has full access to all cloud-related capabilities and software tools for monitoring, after-scene analytics and inventory management.
MSA builds cellular connectivity into each device. That means departments don’t have to purchase SIM cards from third-party providers, like Verizon or AT&T, for LUNAR to work. The device creates a private cellular network once it’s turned on.
Departments can use a free FireGrid Configure app from Google Play or the Apple Store to set usability preferences for each LUNAR, such as assigning the name for a specific person or the user’s riding position on the truck.
“We took a hard look at documentation that speeds up a department’s ability to use the product,” says Quigley. “We added searchable help portals on our website along with videos and other resources to help get firefighters up to speed in using the product.”
MSA does not design the system to change the standard operating procedures of any department, Quigley promises. Instead, the tools enhance procedures and techniques perfected by firefighters over many years.
“Our philosophy is to design products that make firefighters more efficient and provide actionable access to important information that improves decision-making as fire scenes evolve,” he adds.
For more information about LUNAR or any of the suite of firefighting products developed by MSA, visit http://www.msasafety.com.
NOTE: Part 2 will discuss the unique aspects of LUNAR technology, such as the ability to use edge detection to assist firefighters in navigating interiors in any condition.