Report by NIST and FPRF Details Research Plan for Advanced Cyberphysical Systems

When responding to the more than 1.2 million fires reported annually, the nation’s firefighters usually start with a dangerous disadvantage: They often lack critical information — even something as basic as a floor plan — that could be vitally important in mounting the most effective and safest attack.

That information gap could be erased with today’s communication, computing, sensor and networking technologies according to a new Research Roadmap for Smart Fire Fighting. Prepared by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Fire Protection Research Foundation(FPRF), the roadmap charts the path toward overcoming technical obstacles so that those interconnected technologies, known collectively as cyberphysical systems, or CPS, can be harnessed to greatly improve fire-protection and fire-fighting capabilities.

Smart fire fighting, the roadmap explains, can capitalize on growing collections of community and building-related data—from inspection reports to digital building information models—and the increasing adoption of computer-controlled building management systems. For example, units responding to a high-rise fire could access information on current traffic conditions to determine the fastest route to the scene. And while en route, fire fighters could go over building drawings and floor plans, scan surveillance cameras to locate occupants, check whether hazardous materials are on the site, and review other information vital to mounting an effective fire-and-rescue operation.

Data captured and sent by mobile and stationary sensors—situated in buildings and attached to fire-fighter equipment and clothing—can significantly improve the situational awareness of incident commanders and responders. Sensors embedded in personal protection equipment, for example, can detect hazardous materials, monitor temperature and alert to the potential for flashover, and track the location and health condition of responders. And equipping employee badges with sensors could help rescuers to locate them in a burning building.

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