Maryland researchers win DHS grant for biometric shirt

COLLEGE PARK, Md., 1 June 2005. Researchers at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute have won $750,000 as a Federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Jun 1st, 2005

COLLEGE PARK, Md., 1 June 2005. Researchers at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute have won $750,000 as a Federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The grant will be used to study firefighter physiology using the VivoMetrics LifeShirt at the Center for Firefighter Safety Research and Development, which was established by the University of Maryland to develop new technologies to reduce firefighter injuries and deaths. The center includes experts from the University of Maryland including the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI); the A. James Clark School of Engineering's Fire Protection Engineering Department; Small Smart System Center; and the Maryland Information Network Dynamics Laboratory (MIND Lab).

MFRI will be contracting with VivoMetrics Government Services, based in Ventura, Calif., to provide LifeShirt Systems for this project. The LifeShirt System is a comfortable garment worn beneath a fire fighter's protective gear to monitor vital signs and capture high-resolution physiologic data, in essence, every breath and every heartbeat. Throughout this study, the LifeShirt will be used to monitor and record the physiologic responses of firefighters during "hot" fire fighting drills and training exercises. The LifeShirt System measures respiration, heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, activity, posture and temperature.

High stress, in addition to smoke inhalation, increases the risk of fatality to these first responders. Many times, physical strain goes undetected until it's too late for firefighters to escape from hazardous situations. The researchers hope to gain a better understanding of normal physical reaction to these circumstances by measuring physiologic data from firefighters -- leading to lowered injuries and fatalities on the job and during training for firefighters and other first responders.

"This grant will allow the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute to continue our work to enhance the safety of firefighters on the scene of an incident," said Steve Edwards, director of the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute. "The research we will undertake over the next year will allow us to accurately monitor a firefighter's physiologic responses as they participate in training evolutions. The ability to instantly obtain biofeedback on a firefighter's vital signs is a key first step in improving our ability to locate and protect rescue personnel on the fire ground."

Dan Mote, president of the University of Maryland, said: "The University of Maryland is uniquely able to bring together in one Center a group of nationally recognized units with a mission that focuses solely on the academic, educational, and technological problems of first responders. Because of this unique combination, the Center is an asset for the nation, blazing a trail in research and programs at this critical time in our nation's history. We are very proud of the work of MFRI and the Center. We appreciate the leadership and vision of Senator Sarbanes and Congressman Hoyer in their support of outstanding contributions to all who are engaged in emergency services."

Both Senator Sarbanes and Congressmen Hoyer are members of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. Sarbanes is one of two Senate co-chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, with Hoyer serving as a House co- chair. Both Sarbanes and Hoyer were very active in helping establish and fund the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program and in the awarding of the current grant, which is the first research grant made under the program.

"We're excited to work with MFRI as they are the leading fire training institute in the country, if not the world. And as this is our second grant, we are thrilled that the Department of Homeland Security has once again recognized the value and potential of the LifeShirt to aid first responders," said Andrew Behar, president of VivoMetrics Government Services. "Firefighters react quickly to emergencies and their bravery can sometimes make them the last to realize that they are at the point of heat exhaustion or physical collapse. We hope that the results from this study will enable safety officers and fire captains to optimize their team's efficiency and improve safety."

The University of Maryland, nationally recognized for advanced technology research, has formed the Center for Firefighter Safety Research and Development. This center is uniquely qualified to carry out the mission of improving firefighter safety through the research and development of improved communications systems, on-scene accountability, and firefighting equipment. There are extensive resources and expertise found within the Center for Firefighter Safety Research and Development. The close working relationships between key entities within the Center brings the potential for effective solutions in response to the need for vast improvement on this issue. These entities include:
* Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI)
* Fire Protection Engineering Department (FPED)
* Small Smart System Center (SSSC)
* Maryland Information and Network Dynamics Laboratory (MIND Lab)

It is the mission of the Center for Firefighter Safety Research and Development to develop and support research that will improve firefighter safety by focusing the resources and specialized talents of the University of Maryland toward advanced uses of technology in an effort to reduce firefighter deaths and injuries. It is the further mission of the center to provide crossover technology and advancements to the nation's law enforcement and other public safety agencies so that improved safety measures can benefit all first responders. For more information, see www.mfri.org.

The LifeShirt System is the first non-invasive, ambulatory monitoring system that continuously collects, records, analyzes and transmits a broad range of cardiopulmonary parameters. Users wear a lightweight, machine washable garment with embedded sensors that collect respiratory, cardiac, posture, activity and temperature data. Additional data can be collected by integrated peripheral devices that measure blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, EEG/EOG/EMG, periodic leg movement, end tidal CO2 and cough. An electronic diary captures subjective user input and all physiologic and subject data are correlated over time. The LifeShirt System has received FDA clearance and EMEA approval (CE Mark).

VivoMetrics, based in Ventura, Calif., and founded in 1999, develops and markets the LifeShirt ambulatory monitoring device and provides services for the collection, analysis and reporting of subject-specific physiologic data. Pharmaceutical companies use VivoMetrics' technologies to improve the speed and economics of clinical research. The company's offerings also enable academic researchers to discover new clinical signatures of disease, and U.S. government agencies to protect the lives of military and civilian first responders. For more information, see www.vivometrics.com.

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