A Colorado company is perfecting a device aimed at making fighting fires safer for firemen, and it's using the Colorado Springs Fire Department to test it out. It's called the Firefighter Rescue Transceiver. Boulder-based Exit Technologies modeled the Transceiver after another product used to locate people trapped in avalanches. The Colorado Springs Fire Department is one of less than a dozen departments nation-wide testing the transceiver, both in practice drills and actual alarms.
The Transceiver works like a homing devise. The person wearing it turns it on before entering a dangerous situation and begins emitting a radio frequency. Those on the outside use the trackers on "search mode" in order to receive the radio frequency. On the screen, firefighters can see how close they are to finding their comrades within one meter.
There are still a few bugs in the tracker. For example, while they are able to locate fallen fire fighters, they don't alert when they're in trouble. CSFD Captain Russ Renck says he gives the company feedback on the trackers, and engineers respond with design adjustments.
"They're now working on a second generation tracker," said Renck. "It will have a built-in feature which will alert when the person wearing it stays stationary for longer than 30 seconds."
During training, fire fighters say they've been able to reduce their search times by more than half using the using the trackers.
After the one-year test period, the department will have to return the trackers to Exit Technologies. If the city chooses to buy the trackers, it will cost about $80,000.