Portuguese Firemen Begin to Test New Vital Jackets™ on the Field

 Vital Responder project logoAn interdisciplinary team under the Carnegie Mellon Portugal program is currently working on a project that will provide real time bio-feedback for First Responders.

Five Portuguese firemen from Amarante, Portugal, are already using Vital Jackets™ when in duty. An experience within the interdisciplinary research project Vital Responder - Monitoring Stress among First Responder Professionals, which seeks to change the way First Response Professionals are able to do their work. The end goal is to produce a new garment in the form of a t-shirt that monitors the vital signs of First Responders, while still comfortable and non intrusive to their work.

 Firemen from Amarante

Currently, these jackets are only collecting ECG data, because the purpose is to make sure that those jackets are wearable during stress situations. "The jacket should not interfere with all the equipment that the fireman uses during his task," said Pedro Gomes, researcher of the Vital Responder project.

Bruno Pinto, Diogo Pinheiro, José Ribeiro, Luís Martins, and Rui Ribeiro are from the Permanent Intervention Team from the Firemen Corporation of Amarante, on the North of Portugal. This team works night and day to rescue people in car accidents, put out forest and building fires, and many other activities.

"Using the jacket is a very positive experience which allows us to contribute to the development of innovative firemen protective clothing," said Ribeiro, adjunct of the firemen commander and leader of the team. "[The jacket] will aid the firemen in high temperature situations, and also will aid the commanders to make decisions according to the real health condition of the firemen." Ribeiro’s hope is that if the jacket works, it will provide crucial information that can help save many more people’s lives.

At this time, the research team has over than 140 hours of data. The target is to create a large database of sensor data which will allow them to answer the question: "How can we use a variety of sensors such as the ones present in the Vital Jacket™ technology to quantify, detect, and predict physiological stress on first responder professionals?" The answer to this question will be given by part of this research project team led by Miguel Coimbra, from the Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto.

The project Vital Responder - Monitoring Stress among First Responder Professionals, in Portugal, is led by João Paulo Cunha from IEETA. This team is composed of researchers from the Faculdade de Ciências and the Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto, Instituto de Telecomunicações, IEETA, Universidade de Aveiro, Carnegie Mellon University, and partner companies like Biodevices, Petratex and McLaren. Engineers, computer scientists, clinical consultants and Ph.D. students are working alongside to achieve the same goal: "Explore the synergies between innovative wearable technologies, scattered sensor networks, intelligent building technology, and precise localization services to provide secure, reliable and effective first-response systems in critical emergency scenarios." (Extract from the project proposal)

The team responsible for this project envisions two modes of operation: offline and online. In the offline mode, data collected from the First Responders under critical situations is used to post-analyze their health status and reactions to different stress situations and infer their fitness for further service in these situations.

The online mode will enhance its usefulness even further, enabling the management of their effort, life threatening alarms to the First Responders coordinators and nearby colleagues and facilitate intervention for rescue in case of life threatening events.

In addition to the ECG sensors and embedded electronics already present in the Vital Jacket™, the Vital Responder research project team will embed oxygen saturation, body and ambient temperature, 3 axis MEMS accelerometer, gyroscope, humidity, and sweat level.

More information about the Vital Responder project available at http://vitalresponder.cmuportugal.org .

April 2010