Advanced wireless technology is increasing the range of RF-based firefighter-down personal alarm safety systems (PASS) from the immediate vicinity to the incident command station outside a building. With U.S. Department of Homeland Security funding, the Metrology for Wireless Systems Group is working with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to develop a set of test methods designed to ensure that these new types of emergency beacons operate reliably in representative firefighter environments. The use of such beacons could increase firefighter safety and potentially save lives.
This work has reaped a wealth of measurement data and analysis for both the emergency response and commercial wireless sectors. Because little data existed on RF propagation in representative firefighter conditions (low antenna heights involving indoor-to-outdoor building penetration), NIST researchers first conducted an extensive series of field tests, the results of which they reported in a series of NIST Technical Notes. The NIST team also tested RF PASS in these same environments, which allowed the researchers to determine the best metrics to assess device performance. Laboratory-based tests were then developed to mimic the real firefighter environments. The test methods have been written up for inclusion in NFPA 1982 Personal Alert Safety Systems, resulting in the first-ever over-the-air tests this new technology.
Currently, we are supporting standards development to incorporate new NIST test methods into the 2018 revision of NFPA 1982 Personal Alert Safety Systems through participation in the NFPA Electronic Safety Equipment Committee.