WPI Firefighter Safety Researchers to be Honored at 23rd Annual 'Firefighter of the Year' Ceremony

December 14, 2012


The 23rd Annual "Firefighter of the Year" Award Ceremony.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) professors John Orr, David Cyganski, James Duckworth (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Kathy Notarianni (Fire Protection Engineering) will accept the Fire Marshal's Award from Gov. Deval Patrick, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, Public Safety and Security Secretary Mary Elizabeth Heffernan and Fire Marshal Stephen Coan on behalf of WPI, which is being recognized for its research to further firefighter safety.


Dec. 18 at 10:30 a.m.


Mechanics Hall, 321 Main St., Worcester, Mass.


In December 1999 the city of Worcester lost six firefighters after they were unable to find their way out of the Worcester Cold Storage warehouse, which was destroyed by fire. Professors Orr, Cyganski, and Duckworth set out to develop technology to help command officers locate firefighters precisely, in three dimensions, inside buildings, and to guide them to safety or rescue them, if necessary. In developing a solution to this daunting challenge, WPI has worked closely with the Worcester Fire Department and the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy, and benefitted from major awards from several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Prototypes for a personnel locator device have been developed and extensively tested. More recently, the researchers have developed a sensor that would give a firefighter advance warning of "flashover" conditions, in which combustible materials in a room simultaneously erupt in flames, and are working on a new device that will warn firefighters of the presence of toxic gases.

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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will honor firefighters from Worcester and 14 other communities for bravery, courage, and heroism. The Fire Marshal's Award will be presented to WPI for outstanding work to increase firefighter safety. The WPI Brass Ensemble, under the direction of Douglas Weeks, will perform the National Anthem and other selections. There will be open seating, and the event is free and open to the public.