Software utilizes GPS to track responders


By Jamie Thompson
FireRescue1 Editor


Photo courtesy of RedZone Software
The software allows command to track first responders using GPS Mics.
BOULDER, Colo. — Accurately tracking firefighters on scene has always been a challenge for incident command. Real-time updates can be critical not only to the success of the mission but to the safety of firefighters.

New technology that combines the latest hardware and software is now allowing command to improve situational awareness.

RedZone Software's RZ3™ is among the first software on the market that supports the Infinity Gear GPS Mic to track personnel over radio.

"Together what we can do is track responders in real time from a command vehicle or incident command post," said Clark Woodward, president of the Colorado-based company.

"If something goes wrong, you can know where they are in real time and get them of harm’s way if needed."

The software development company was launched in 2002, specializing in providing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) capabilities such as data collection, visualization and map production for emergency responders.

The Infinity Gear GPS Mic integrates into RedZone, giving incident command the ability to view the entire operational field on a single computerized map.

For Woodward, it represents an expansion in the use of technology, moving away from just tracking vehicles.

"We have seen this type of technology on the marketplace for several years for vehicles; the difference here is that we can track personnel," he said.

"It can be used for a variety of scenarios such as USAR operations and wildland search and rescue."

The GPS Mic itself incorporates a black and white screen that displays the user's position and the relative position of those around him.

With the addition of the GPS Mic-enabled software, whenever field personnel press "push-to-talk," their current GPS coordinates are broadcast over the radio and picked up by a computer at the command post.

"Infinity Gear was the first company to put hardware out that allows you to use your radio for this, and combined with our software we are able to present it in a way that can be used easily," Woodward said.

According to Woodward, the technology would have been well suited to meet the needs of responders to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"If you think back to when FEMA teams showed up in New Orleans, the city was devastated with streets signs — and even streets — gone.

"This technology would have made it much easier to monitor whether teams were keeping safe, and to identify their progress and the areas they might have missed."

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