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New technology developed for first responders


As we remember that horrible September day in 2001, we can't help but think about the brave people who gave their lives while trying to save others. The odds were stacked against the first responders called to the burning towers. And the front lines of catastrophe will always be dangerous, but some local researchers are trying to make it a little bit safer


While everyone else rushed out, they rushed in. Three-hundred and forty three firefighters and paramedics were killed at Ground Zero.

On the campus of Worcester Polytech Institude, the research conducted in labs focuses on the lessons learned from 9/11 and other tragedies like the 1999 Worcester cold storage inferno that killed six firefighters.

With help of federal grants, faculty and students are developing new technology to assist first responders on the front lines. One device called the precision personnel locator is the brain child of Associate Professor James Duckworth and Professor David Cyganski.

As research video shows, the precision personnel locator (PPL) is able to track a firefighter inside a burning building. A transmitter attached to a firefighter sends a signal, allowing commanders outside to monitor every step on a computer screen. The device can also relay a firefighters vitals and air intake and the temperature of the environment they are working in.

Another project inspired by the lessons learned from 9/11 is run by Kathy Notarianni, the head of WPI's department of fire protection engineering.

Professor Notarianni is looking at new approaches to fighting high-rise fires. Her study will investigate the efficiency and safety of specially designed fire-proof elevators so firefighters don't have to waste time and energy lugging heavy equipment up stairs.

For the students assisting on the projects it's a chance to make a real difference.

The fire protection engineering department at WPI is one of only two in the country. It recently received a $1 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

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