• Flame retardantNew flame retardant is naturally derived, nontoxic

    Flame retardants are added to foams found in mattresses, sofas, car upholstery, and many other consumer products. Once incorporated into foam, these chemicals can migrate out of the products over time, releasing toxic substances into the air and environment. Inspired by a naturally occurring material found in marine mussels, researchers have created a new flame retardant to replace commercial additives that are often toxic and can accumulate over time in the environment and living animals, including humans.

  • First response technologyDHS recruits Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to develop first-response technology

    DHS wants better technology for first responders — police, firefighters, and EMTs — but rather than pushing for innovation from within the massive corporations that already provide technology to government agencies, the DHS has come to Silicon Valley to tap the entrepreneurial ecosystem of northern California. Giant technology firms have resources of large scale manufacturing and distribution, but there is one crucial difference. Technology startups are much more nimble, and can shift their development much faster than the huge corporations can.

  • First response gearSeeing through the dark clearly

    A new device, dubbed Thermal on Demand (TOD), allows firefighters to see everything in a heavily smoke-filled room, where the unassisted eye sees nothing but a pitch-black environment. TOD allows responders to see doors, furniture, light switches, debris on the floor, and victims lying on the floor. Looking through a periscopic lens, in front of a thermal camera, the wearer sees a detailed image of everything in the immediate vicinity.

  • WildfiresHundreds of fires blazing across more than 1.1 million acres in the West

    Wildfires have been ravaging large parcels of land in the West and there seems to be no end in sight for the weary Westerners. There are hundreds of individual fires blazing across at least 1.1 million acres in the West. Both the military and foreign firefighting crews have been called in to help the beleaguered firefighters in the West. Washington State’s firefighters are stretched to the limit, and on Friday the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) opened centers in Omak and Colville to coordinate offers of help from trained, qualified volunteer firefighters and from people who have and can operate machinery like backhoes and bulldozers to dig fire lines.

  • FirefightingHistoric drought complicates firefighting in California

    The twenty-one wild fires which have erupted in different parts of the state have already cost lives, dozens of homes, and millions of dollars in damages. To fight fires, firefighters need water – and although state water and fire officials say that, so far, there is no danger of running out of water, they are conscious of the state’s water predicament and they are trying to be more careful in the use of water. The persistent drought has forced crews to get creative, using more dirt and retardant on wildfires. Firefighting response to several blazes has been slowed down by the drought, because firefighting helicopters found it impossible to siphon water from lakes and ponds where water levels were lower than in previous years. In the past, property owners whose properties were threatened by fire, would allow firefighting crews to tap water on their property, and would then be compensated by cash reimbursements from the state. Now, many property owners demand instead that the state replenish the water used by firefighters to protect the owners’ property.

  • FirefightingFighting fires in California hobbled by hobby drones

    A spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service said last Thursday that private drone flights in restricted airspace around forest fires have impeded the efforts of firefighting crews to deal with a blaze in the San Bernardino Mountains. The incident has increased the fears of fire and aviation officials that the growing national use of hobby drones could seriously disrupt traditional air traffic and put lives at risk.

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  • FirefightingRobots on reins to be the “eyes” of firefighters in dark, smoke-filled buildings

    Currently, even when they have a map of the building, firefighters have to grope their way forward if smoke has badly affected visibility, feeling their way along a wall or following ropes laid by the first firefighter on the scene. But with only twenty minutes of oxygen per firefighter, there is a real need for any innovation that can help them move more quickly and easily. Now, firefighters moving through smoke-filled buildings will save vital seconds and find it easier to identify objects and obstacles, thanks to revolutionary reins that enable robots to act like guide dogs.

  • FireGreen concrete is more fire-resistant

    Selecting materials with high fire endurance is particularly important when constructing tunnels and high-rise buildings, and when storing hazardous materials. Concrete made using an industrial by-product has shown better fire endurance than traditional concrete when exposed to fires of nearly 1,000 degrees Celsius.

  • FirefightingInterconnected technologies to make firefighters safer

    When responding to the more than 1.2 million blazes reported annually, the nation’s firefighters usually start with a dangerous disadvantage: They often lack critical information — even something as basic as a floor plan — that could be vitally important in mounting the most effective and safest attack. That information gap could be erased with today’s communication, computing, sensor and networking technologies.

  • FirefightingFirefighting humanoid robot shows its skills

    In fall 2014 in Mobile Bay, Alabama, Virginia Tech engineering students made history during a five-minute demo that placed an adult-sized humanoid robot with a hose in front of a live fire aboard a U.S. Navy ship. The robot located the fire and sprayed water from the hose. Water blasted the flames. The demo, four years in the making, is part of a new effort by the U.S. Navy to better assist sailors in fighting fires, controlling damage, and carrying out inspections aboard ships via user-controlled unmanned craft or humanoid robots.


  • WildfiresForest managers hampered in efforts to control costly wildfires by using prescribed burns

    Fighting wildfires is costly. The U.S. government now spends about $2 billion a year just to stop them, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. This is up from $239 million in 1985. Forest managers would prefer to use prescribed burns every few years to help prevent costly wildfires and rebuild unhealthy ecosystems, but hurdles like staffing, budget, liability, and new development hinder them.

  • FirefightingImproved structure firefighting glove commercially available

    When responding to structural fires, firefighters wear protective gloves known as “structure gloves” to shield their hands from burns and other injuries. Because structure gloves can be bulky and limit dexterity, firefighters often need to remove the gloves to complete routine tasks, such as handling operating tools or using communications equipment. Without gloves, firefighters’ hands are at a higher risk of injury. DHS S&T partnered with two companies to construct a new, improved structure glove that will provide the full range of protection firefighters need. This next-generation glove provides firefighters with enhanced dexterity, water repellency and fire resistance. The glove is now commercially available.

  • FirefightingResearchers make “bio-inspired” flame retardants in a jiffy

    Furniture fires are the leading cause of casualties in house fires. In 2013, they accounted for about 30 percent of more than 2,700 deaths in residential fires. After devising several new and promising “green” flame retardants for furniture padding, NIST researchers took a trip to the grocery store and cooked up their best fire-resistant coatings yet.

  • FirefightingFighting fires with low-frequency sound waves

    A thumping bass may do more than light up a party — it could flat out extinguish it, thanks to a new sound-blasting fire extinguisher by George Mason University undergrads. The fire extinguisher uses low-frequency sound waves to douse a blaze. Their sound-wave device is free of toxic chemicals and eliminates collateral damage from sprinkler systems. If mounted on drones, it could improve safety for firefighters confronting large forest fires or urban blazes.

  • FirefightingTethered robots to be the “eyes” of firefighters in “blind” conditions

    Researchers have developed revolutionary reins which enable robots to act like guide dogs, which could enable that firefighters moving through smoke-filled buildings could save vital seconds and find it easier to identify objects and obstacles. The small mobile robot — equipped with tactile sensors — would lead the way, with the firefighter following a meter or so behind holding a rein. The robot would help the firefighter move swiftly in “blind” conditions, while vibrations sent back through the rein would provide data about the size, shape and even the stiffness of any object the robot finds.