Research & History

The background, rationale, and general goals of the current project are described in the original White Paper (184KB PDF) produced shortly after the Worcester warehouse fire, as well as an expanded White Paper (76KB PDF). System requirements, architecture and research results are documented in several publications and presentations.


The concept of this project originated in the aftermath of the fatal warehouse fire in Worcester, MA on December 3, 1999 where six firefighters lost their lives. Extensive coverage of the fire is available on a Web site maintained by the Worcester Telegram.

Several faculty in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department resolved to apply their technical expertise to the protection of emergency responders, and in particular to the immediate development of a precision indoor location system for firefighters and other first responders who routinely enter hazardous indoor environments.


Emergency service providers work in hazardous and dynamic environments in which information is the critical factor in minimizing injury, loss of life and property damage. Crucial real-time information can include: personnel locations, exit routes, environmental conditions, health status, and coordination of services.

The burgeoning fields of computer and sensor technologies can revolutionize the safe and effective delivery of emergency services. However, full exploitation will require focused development of sensors and systems that directly address the needs of the community of providers. Thus, the user community must be continuously and closely involved at all stages of the research and development process, both to assure that their real needs are met, and to guarantee coordination and interoperability across the different responder groups.

To address this situation the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at WPI has committed to focusing its expertise on development of electronic systems for emergency service providers. Support comes from government research grants and industrial sponsors. In support of its mission, this laboratory will focus on sensor and system-level solutions for emergency service related areas such as:

The initial research emphasis on personnel location is described in these pages. This will be followed by work in the other areas listed above.


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Last modified: July 06, 2010 10:32:17