International Workshop Held to Discuss Critical Need for Systems to Track First Responders In Buildings

Sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology, the sixth annual workshop featured live demonstrations of location and tracking technologies and keynote speakers from NASA and Qualcomm
July 15, 2011

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), a leader in the development of technology for safeguarding the lives and health of first responders, hosted the sixth annual International Workshop on Precision Indoor Personnel Location and Tracking Technology on Aug. 1-2, 2011.

Precision indoor location technology is designed to help firefighters, police officers, and EMTs quickly locate and rescue colleagues who become lost, disabled, or trapped inside buildings. A 2008 report by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) identified becoming lost or disoriented inside buildings as one of the leading causes of firefighter fatalities. The inability to precisely locate and track first responders inside the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 contributed to difficulties in managing the response to that disaster, and the loss of six firefighters in a 1999 warehouse fire in Worcester occurred when two firefighters became lost in the building and four others attempted, unsuccessfully, to find them.

The annual workshop is the only comprehensive forum in the field and brought together 150 leading researchers from industry, academia, and government, members of the first responder community, and representatives of federal, state, and local governments to discuss progress made in indoor location technology over the past decade, to explore challenges and priorities for the future, and to see how actual location systems perform in realistic search and rescue simulations.

The conference was sponsored by the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and featured a keynote addresses by Preston Carter, director of game changing technology in NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist, and Ayman Naguib, global technical lead for indoor positioning at Qualcomm. Carter and Naguib also participated in a panel on the future of commercial location services for first responders moderated by Jalal Mapar, program manager for the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, and featured representatives from Google, Astrium, and Verizon.

The Associated Press covered the event – and the larger body of work that is being done at WPI to protect firefighters – with a thoughtful and comprehensive article. That story has, so far, generated 278 in top media nationwide.