Hands-free technology helps Menlo Park firefighters find people “twice as fast” – NBC Bay Area

Firefighters in the Menlo Park Fire Protection District have new technology that helps them navigate burning buildings and find people twice as fast, according to the fire chief.

The technology is called the C-Thru platform. It includes a navigation unit that attaches to the firefighter’s helmet and allows him to clearly see objects in a burning building.

Manufactured by Qwake Technologies, a San Francisco-based startup, the C-Thru Navigator uses thermal imaging technology to help firefighters identify objects in their path, retrace their steps to find exits, and communicate with others. other firefighters. The Menlo Park fire protection district is the first in the country to use the new technology.

Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said he signed a contract on Friday to purchase units for each of their 40 frontline firefighters, for a total of $ 210,000.

“We’re able to find people about twice as fast now as before with this technology,” Schapelhouman said. “He’s a game changer.” Schapelhouman said they have been working with Qwake Technologies for the past two years, testing various prototypes of the C-Thru platform and providing feedback.

With this new contract, firefighters would work with designers to develop the final version of the product.

One of the biggest advantages of the browser, according to Schapelhouman, is that it is hands-free. Most firefighters use a handheld thermal imager or TIC, which attaches to their belt or air pack.

“You have to lift it up to watch it, so it’s not exactly the most practical piece of equipment. But it’s more beneficial than having nothing, which we had when I started. none of that, so you were pretty much crawling in the blind, ”Schapelhouman said.

Back then, with zero technology, firefighters could easily get lost or confused, making it difficult to exit the building when they found someone to rescue. The C-Thru Navigator mounts to helmets with a hanging eyepiece so firefighters can see through.

Schapelhouman said that when looking through the eyepiece, objects are painted with a green tint, making it easy to distinguish furniture from people. Green lasers give firefighters a depth and spatial awareness that they didn’t have before. In addition, lasers are safe for the eyes.

Firefighters can also use the C-Thru Navigator to communicate with other firefighters wearing the device, allowing them to call in with the push of a button. It also broadcasts incidents live to commanders outside the building, who can make tactical decisions based on what they see. The units cost just under $ 5,000 per unit, Schapelhouman said, cheaper than portable cameras which can range from $ 7,000 to $ 13,000 each.

The fire district held a protest for other fire departments and members of the media on Friday.

Schapelhouman said people who saw him were stunned, wondering how something so small and seemingly simple could be so beneficial.

“The answer is amazing technology. You have to take things that we have been thinking or wanting for 10-20 years on many levels and put them together and it works,” Schapelhouman said. “It is not a pipe dream. It is real and it is happening.”

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