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New technology aims to help save the lives of local firefighters

A Vancouver firefighter with new 'SensorUp' technology that tracks what they are breathing in and exposed to. (Courtesy, Vancouver Fire)

Firefighters across the region are trying new technology to see if they can help save the lives of first responders

SensorUp tracks crews on the scene and records what they're breathing in

The goal is to have the specialized sensors on Vancouver members by next year

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s a first in North America.

Local fire departments are testing new technology with the goal of helping save the lives of those on the frontlines who battle the flames.

It’s called SensorUp. Firefighters are equipped with a device that can track where they are on scene and record what they’re inhaling or being exposed to.

“It can actually say at what concentrate the chemicals are around the firefighters while they’re in buildings. Cancer is a large leading cause of death to firefighters and this can hopefully dissuade that from happening,” explains Vancouver Fire Deputy Chief Tyler Moore.

Moore says currently there is one member of his department, a 30-year veteran, who’s in palliative care with pancreatic cancer which is a result of his work as a firefighter.

“As we start to move toward the future that would be my hope that everyone that’s on scene that could be exposed to carcinogens would have these sensors on them. It also senses vital signs, so for cardiovascular – which is another firefighter issue – so you can not only in the moment take action but you can actually know long-term effects.”

The test run is a pre-cursor to a pilot project that’s expected to start sometime over the next six months to a year, which will also allow local departments figure out how much of their annual budget will be dedicated to paying for the tool.

“Eighty-six per cent of in-the-line-of-duty deaths for Canadian firefighters is from cancer so this is trying to reduce that. We’ve had quite a few different firefighters die from cardiac and cancer related issues,” says Moore.

He calls this an “emerging technology” he wishes would have been in place sooner but is glad it’s being implemented now.

Something else he’s highlighting is using the sensors outside of the fire department.

“The RCMP uses something similar for their recruit process where they put vital sign software on their recruits, so I’ve talked to police agencies that are interested — that’s definitely a thing for them that they may be interested in. Fire service is quite unique to other first responders. We work in quite harsh environments so if we can make it work here, I feel confident that it can work with other first responders,” says Moore.

He adds helping extend the lives of firefighters once they’re off the job is partly the motivation behind using this technology.