In 2013, over 17,000 firefighters in the US suffered an injury owing to exposure to chemical hazards, now new funding for research into a personal chemical warning device has been announced.
In any emergency incident there are obvious and hidden threats to people’s lives, and hazardous chemical exposure can go unnoticed before the first responder feels any symptoms. It is therefore crucial that firefighters and other emergency personnel be able to detect these threats and remove themselves from the situation before coming to any harm.
Firefighters are sometimes unaware of dangerous levels of chemicals building up at incidents – last year, 17,000 firefighters were injured in such incidents in the US alone
The Department of Homeland Security has begun funding research to develop ChemTag, a personal chemical warning device. The goal is to create a device durable enough to withstand the harsh conditions faced by responders without burdening the life-saving efforts they provide. The low cost, user friendly device will detect levels of gasses like carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and methane and alert the wearer if these levels go above the safe limit as defined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Permissible Exposure Limits.
Partnerships have been developed with the Los Angeles Fire Department, Los Angeles Police Department, and the Chicago Fire Department to test the effectiveness of the device in the field. With the development of this type of technology, it will reduce the risk of injury or death by alerting responders to potentially dangerous situations.
Kristina Dolan and Ian Portelli