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Structural and Electromagnetic Scenarios for Firefighter Locator Tracking Systems



Anthony D. Putorti Jr., Francine K. Amon, Kathryn M. Butler, Catherine A. Remley, William F. Young, Christina Spoons


One of the most important aspects of effective firefighter response to an emergency event is awareness of the location of the firefighters involved, especially in cases with limited visibility due to darkness, heavy smoke, or unfamiliar and changing environments. Location and tracking systems (LTS ) have been developed and are being refined to aid firefighting operations or the rescue of firefighters in distress. In this National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) technical note, LTS technologies are examined with the goal of establishing structural and electromagnetic scenarios that are representative of situations in which firefighters are most in need of this technology. Firefighter injury and fatality data are studied to determine the building and occupancy types that are associated with the highest risk of injuries. Current radio frequency (RF) regulations are explored to provide guidance on the electromagnetic landscape in which LTS are expected to operate on the fire ground. The potential effects of RF attenuation, RF multipath, and RF interference, which impact the ability of LTS to operate and communicate with incident command posts, are also discussed. Notional building and electromagnetic scenarios are presented to support the development of future test methods and standards that will appropriately challenge and evaluate LTS performance. These scenarios are also useful for fire departments and local jurisdictions in determining which types of firefighter LTS may be most effective in the types of structures and occupancies in their community.
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 1713
Report Number


Firefighter, fighter, locator, locate, track, tracking, tracker, scenario, interference, attenuation, multipath


Putorti, A. , Amon, F. , Butler, K. , Remley, C. , Young, W. and Spoons, C. (2011), Structural and Electromagnetic Scenarios for Firefighter Locator Tracking Systems, Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed May 30, 2024)


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Created September 1, 2011, Updated February 19, 2017