Improving Safety for First Responders

First responders put their lives on the line every day. And increasingly, sensors help protect them.

One of the biggest problems these workers face is a lack of accurate information, says the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Where is the fire within the building? Are flammable chemicals stored nearby? That's why NIST is working with building-industry, public safety, and IT communities to develop standards for communication networks (including wireless) that would send information such as building floor plans and data from sensors and video cameras directly to fire and police dispatchers.

"Intelligent" building systems aim to help firefighters and other first responders better act upon emergency calls.
"Intelligent" building systems aim to help firefighters and other first responders better act upon emergency calls.

A new NIST video showcases creation of a system of interoperable data and communications standards that would link with building systems. Firefighters are shown using laptops to track the spread of a developing fire on a floor plan even before reaching the scene. Other real-time information includes status of specific mechanical systems, elevators, lighting, security and fire systems, and temperature and smoke conditions, as well as the whereabouts of building occupants. Care to join the effort? Details and downloadable video clips are available at

A key application for BiMAT technology, newly financed by Advance Nanotech, Inc., will be to help medics, EMTs and doctors instantly analyze microscopic amounts of biological material for specific diseases on site. Advance Nanotech says BiMAT can aid in the early detection of Avian Influenza (bird flu). The technology promises to eliminate the need to send samples to specialized laboratories, speeding treatment and reducing problems of handling, storage, mislabeling and treatment delay. (

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