New FDNY Firefighter Tracking System Fully Active

The FDNY has marched full steam ahead with a new system that allows incident commanders to better locate firefighters after a Mayday transmission.

Safety Week Coverage

The Electronic Fireground Accountability System was developed by the department last fall and is now operational at fire companies throughout the city.

Project Manager Arlene Hoffman said that feedback from crews has been positive so far and that the system has been actively used at all fire calls since the program went into effect.

While statistics dealing with Mayday instances where the EFAS was active have not yet been compiled, she said that so far the system has been successful when such incidents occur.

Before the new system was in place, when firefighters signaled a Mayday through their handheld radios, their ID number would be transmitted, but once another transmission was made, that information would clear out.

This led to confusion as to which firefighter sounded the alert.

The new system uses the existing radios and sends information through software to a device controlled by the incident commander.

The program contains detailed information for each firefighter and when a Mayday is made, their name becomes highlighted among the list of names.

In addition to the information on the device, a hard copy is automatically printed showing the company, position and time of the Mayday.

The EFSAS allows the incident commander to:

* ID firefighters by activating the Emergency Alert Button on their radios, which displays their company, position and name.
* Manually ID firefighters transmitting a verbal Mayday message via their radios * Conduct an emergency electronic roll call.
* Review radio transmission history

The project -- which first began testing in November 2010 -- has progressed quickly, and after a pilot program was executed between February and March, a citywide rollout began in April.

Hoffman said she expects training on the system to be completed by all department members by early July.

"The reason why it was quick is that it was decided to be such a valuable safety application that as long as it was stable in the environment, we wanted to push it out as fast as we could," she said.

While all of the department's personnel will complete training on the new system by early next month, Hoffman's team will still be busy looking at ways to improve it.

"We've been working out the glitches," she said. "The next phase is to bring the project team back in and integrate it more on the backend and look at the GUI (Graphical User Interface) to see if the team is pleased with what they see on the screen."

The next phase of the project will include a "new build" of the standalone device that incident commanders work off of.

"They might not see differences to the screen, but the backend will become more robust," she said, adding that her team will use newer technology to make it stronger.

The team will have to present its plan to department officials and then acquire funding to complete the project.

Hoffman said she doesn't believe the new build will require new hardware and that extra training will depend on what changes are made to the system.

While the software for the system was created by a third party, a majority of the work has been done in-house; something that differs from past technology projects the FDNY has been involved in.

Hoffman said that she has dealt with firefighters and incident commanders directly on this project, something that has made it that more meaningful to her.

"The EFAS project is one of very few projects that has been a privilege to be involved in," she said. "The fact that it has the ability to keep the firefighters safer and helps build the safety net that much stronger; it has been an honor. It has become a labor of love."