With an average of 100 line-of-duty deaths and tens of thousands of injuries per year, approximately half of which occur on the scene of emergencies, firefighting in the United States continues a long trend of being a very dangerous occupation. The overwhelming number of firefighter deaths that occurred during the terrorist attacks on 9/11 brought more attention to the fact that firefighters, who put their lives on the line every day to save others, need and deserve the proper tools and training for the job. Unfortunately, few fire departments have access to essential modern equipment required for safe and successful emergency response. Instead, they are attempting to do a job demanded by the new environment with the tools of the old.
According to the April 2002 "FEMA/USFA Firefighter Fatality Retrospective Study 1990 - 2000," the incidence of firefighter fatalities per 100,000 incidents has increased over the last five years. There are numerous technological advancements that are currently available that could improve firefighter safety. These technologies have been in wide use in the military and the aerospace industries for many years but further development, adaptations and testing are needed prior to their implementation in the fire service and other emergency services/homeland security organizations.
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:
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.