New opportunities to fuse emerging sensor and computing technologies with building control systems and firefighting equipment and apparatus are emerging. The resulting cyber-physical systems will revolutionize firefighting by collecting data globally, centrally processing the information, and distributing the results locally. Engineering, developing, and deploying these systems will require new measurement tools and standards. This project will focus on the needed tools and standards in three areas: smart building and robotic sensor technologies, smart firefighter equipment and robotic mapping technologies, and smart fire department apparatus and equipment. The results from this project will improve fire fighter effectiveness and safety and decrease the property and personnel losses due to fires.
Objective: By 2015, to develop the measurement science that enables fusion of cyber-physical systems from buildings, apparatus, personal protective equipment, and robotics that enhances situation awareness, operational effectiveness, and firefighter safety.
What is the new technical idea? The new technical idea is to collect data globally across the fire ground and response area, centrally analyze/process the information, and distribute the results locally to firefighting teams. Each year, unwanted fires result in more than $300B of costs to the U.S. economy, numerous civilian and firefighter injuries and deaths, and significant property loss. Fire-related cyber-physical systems have the potential to reduce these impacts considerably. But, they are used only sparingly and sporadically in residential buildings and by the fire service. This project will reverse this situation and help achieve that potential.
To do so, the project will implement a technical idea containing three parts. First, it will use new sensor technologies to augment existing building controls and fire equipment. Second, it will use computer technologies to augment our existing fire models with prediction and decision-making. Third, it will fuse these disparate cyber-physical capabilities into a multi-dimensional integrated system that enables smart firefighting at three distinct levels: the individual fire fighter level, the firefighting team level, and the incident commander level. Developments within and across these levels will be demonstrated through the Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) Testbed being developed at NIST Gaithersburg.
The results of this project will (1) mitigate total social costs of fires at both the community and the building scales, and (2) realize an important part of NIST’s strategic roadmap on innovative fire protection technologies.
What is the research plan? The research plan will focus on three tasks: smart building technology and robotics, smart firefighter equipment and robotics, and smart fire department apparatus and equipment. Successful implementation will require a coordinated systems approach with clear overarching objectives to ensure alignment across tasks. Each task will have a distinct impact on fire losses, but will be fully integrated with the other tasks. Each of the three tasks is briefly described below, with emphasis on both short-term and long-term objectives by FY15 and FY18, respectively.
Task 1: Smart building technology and robotics. Automated building sensors and controls are common in commercial buildings. They are just emerging, however, in residential buildings through home automation and energy conservation efforts, including smart grid. From a fire perspective, these residential buildings will have some environmental sensors and minimum controls that are associated with the fire alarm control panel, if one exists. This panel collects and analyzes fire-related information from the sensors and can actuate sprinklers if a fire is detected. That information is currently governed by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association standard (NEMA SB30). A short-term objective of this task is to extend the capability of the NEMA standard to enable integration with Tasks 2 and 3.
The main objective of this task is to augment existing environmental sensors with fixed and mobile robotic technologies that are capable of both autonomous sensing and actions. These capabilities have been demonstrated in multiple application domains including disaster response and domestic assistance, and in multiple technology competitions including RoboCup Rescue and RoboCup@Home. We intend to use the next RoboCup competition to promote innovation in the development of fixed and mobile robots that can sense and suppress incipient fires in residential buildings. Simultaneously, we will standardize test methods for sensing and suppression by 2015 through the ASTM, which has proven successful for similar applications. In the longer term, we will incorporate emerging building sensors to enhance the capability and reliability of the robots and to communicate building information to firefighter’s en-route and on-scene.
Task 2: Smart firefighter equipment and robotics. Operational effectiveness of the entire firefighting team is hampered by poor situational awareness. Situational awareness includes (1) the status, location, and actions of all the firefighters and (2) the current status and likely evolution of the fire and the structure. The short-term objective is to develop and test sensors and communications protocols that can provide real-time information on firefighter location, firefighter vital signs, and environmental conditions to the firefighter, incident commander, and other firefighters. The availability of such sensors and protocols would enable a transformational change in the use of information by the firefighter and incident commander, enabling safer and more effective operations.
The long-term objective is to develop the capabilities of creating building maps; detecting survivors; and, measuring temperature, heat flux, gases, and smoke concentrations. To provide these capabilities, we will equip mobile robots with a variety of sensors. Most of the required robots and sensors already exist; and they been used in numerous realistic environments with obstacles. However, they have not been demonstrated to perform in a firefighting environment. A suite of standards will be developed to certify the capabilities of the robots and sensors to operate in structural fire environments (high temperatures, heat fluxes, smoke, and water), as well as realistic communication environments, which can be highly challenging.
This information will be communicated in real time to the incident commander (IC). The IC would then use new NIST-developed tools together with existing fire models to make and communicate predictions and tactical decisions to the firefighters.
Task 3: Smart firefighting apparatus and equipment. Firefighting apparatus such as engines or ladder trucks can cost $1M or more. Equipment carried on the apparatus and deployed during the incident, while not as expensive, is critical to a successful response. Neither has leveraged emerging cyber technologies to any significant degree. Yet, it is clear that the use of such technologies can reduce physical effort, increase incident awareness, and save peoples’ lives. Consider, for example, fire hoses. Water pressure, water timing, and water quantity are all critical variables to ensure firefighter safety, yet they are not measured. Automated collection of these and variables associated with other critical equipment can improve operational effectiveness and reduce injuries. In addition, the availability of such data will improve greatly the post-incident lessons learned.
In this task we will focus on two types of data: on-board incident data and integrated sensor data. We will continue development of on-board, incident data systems that can display information about the building geometry, fixed fire systems (such as hydrant locations, and building access points), fire history, and current extent of fire severity. Much of this information is available today, but very little of it is in digital forms that can be communicated electronically. Additionally, none of it is standardized. We will develop the tools and standards necessary to capture, transmit, and display this information.
Sensor networks deployed on fire department apparatus and equipment can substantially improve fireground situational awareness and provide automated records for after-action analysis or standardized incident reporting (such as NFIRS reports, e.g.). Performance of sensor networks will be improved with the development of guidance on sensor network design (required density of sensors, type, sampling frequency, synchronization, etc.) as well as sensor data is collected in raw or processed format. For example, the tracking of fire apparatus can be done at 60 s intervals, but monitoring gas temperatures within the structure may require sampling rates faster than 10 Hz (10 times a second). Whether it will be better to pre-process or average the data at the sensor or send the raw data to a central processor for conversion, processing, and synchronization is still an unresolved issue.
 NIST Special Publication 1130, Reduced Risk of Fire in Buildings and Communities: A Strategic Roadmap to Prioritize and Guide Research, April 2012.
 This project is a direct continuation of the FY12 Exploratory Project entitled Enabling Robotic Fire Intervention Standards, led by Averill and Jacoff.
 NIST has a decade of experience in this area through its work on the Virtual Cybernetic Buildings.
 Jones, W., Holmberg, D., Davis, W., Bushby, S., Reed, K. “Workshop to Define Information Needed by Emergency Responders During Building Emergencies.” NISTIR 7193, Jan. 2005.
Recent Results: New Project
Standards and Codes:
Start Date:October 1, 2012
Lead Organizational Unit:el
Related Programs and Projects:
100 Bureau Drive, M/S 8661