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Responder News: New Helmet Mounted Thermal Sensor

Release Date: June 3, 2015

Firefighters often find themselves in situations where they are in danger of getting burned because the surrounding ambient temperature has risen to a level beyond the protective capabilities of their Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) and their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The hazard associated with infrared radiation (IR) is particularly serious because the intensity of IR can increase to dangerous levels in mere seconds.

New Helmet-Mounted Thermal Sensors Because this rapid temperature shift is not always immediately evident inside the responder’s protective gear, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s First Responders Group (FRG), in collaboration with TDA Research, Inc. and FoxFury LLC, is developing an early detection system. Burn Saver is a small, affordable, battery-powered thermal sensor that will warn firefighters when they are exposed to thermal environments that can cause rapid failure of their PPE, especially the faceplate of the SCBA.

The prototypes of the device are helmet-mounted and fast responding. The device will monitor, analyze and detect passive and active threats and hazards at fire scenes in less than 10 seconds. This real time notification allows firefighters to immediately assess and address the risks related to their surroundings.

Burn Saver will provide audible and visual alarms to indicate different hazard levels. To accomplish this, the device will have both infrared heat sensors and a specialized sensor that measures the air temperature in the presence of radiative heating. It will use light-emitting diodes to communicate early warning signals to responders that they are in an environment too hot for their PPE to properly protect them. Turnout gear ensembles can only tolerate exposure to very high danger fire conditions for less than one minute before degrading, so Burn Saver will provide time to find a way out of the situation. It will also send alerts to the on-scene incident command center.

After completion of the initial prototype devices, field tests are planned for summer 2016. The final Burn Saver design will be submitted for National Fire Protection Association certification prior to commercialization.

Last Updated: 01/12/2023
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