Can “wearable technology” make a difference for firefighters?

WASP at Bruce Power screen

By Mark Mordecai, Globe Director of Business Development; Photos courtesy of Fire Fighting in Canada | Canadian Firefighter 

There’s been a lot of talk for a lot of years about the problem. Stress and overexertion combine with a host of physiological and environmental factors to trigger cardiac events in firefighters that result in 50% of line of duty deaths and an even larger number of disabilities. With all the advancements in personal protection, operational tactics, and training, this is still an alarming fact.

And rescuing a downed firefighter inside a building is still like finding a needle in a haystack with RIT teams often spending valuable time doing necessarily thorough searches in areas where the victim isn’t instead of being able to focus on a narrower and more productive area.

So what if you could wear sensors that would allow real-time monitoring of firefighters’ heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration rate, activity levels, posture, estimated body core temperature, as well as 3D location inside a building? And what if all of this critical data could be transmitted outside the building where it could be monitored for safety? Could this technology make a difference?

That is the goal of Globe’s Wearable Advanced Sensor Platform (WASP™) – the world’s only system for real-time monitoring of physiology and location designed for firefighters and emergency responders.

Enter Bruce Power, a privately owned nuclear generating facility in Ontario, Canada. In November, their fire department held a WASP™ technology demonstration, the first in Canada, at their brand new and state-of-the-art fire training facility. Seven firefighters wore the WASP™ base layer t-shirts with embedded electronic sensors and location tracking units. The information collected was sent back to a single command station that displayed user data in real-time.

WASP at Bruce Power FF

Bruce Power’s focus is on prevention – being able to detect something that is not right during training. Two years ago a Bruce Power firefighter was training off site and went into cardiac arrest after a routine exercise. Luckily the firefighter survived.

After the demo, Fire Chief Brian Cumming said the WASP™ system is a good fit for the department, incorporating another layer of safety for firefighters at Bruce Power. And for Globe, demonstrating the WASP™ system during real fire training scenarios helps pave the way to using this wearable technology initially at training academies and then in the field to improve outcomes and safety for firefighters everywhere.