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Performance of Thermal Exposure Sensors in Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) Devices.

pdf icon Performance of Thermal Exposure Sensors in Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) Devices. (2603 K)
Bryner, N. P.; Madrzykowski, D.; Stroup, D. W.

NISTIR 7294; 56 p. September 2005.


fire fighters; protective equipment


Fire fighters can be overcome by heat or smoke of a fire and may be unable to alert other fire ground personnel to their need for assistance. Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) devices are designed to signal for aid if a fire fighter becomes incapacitated. Thermal exposure sensor technology has already been included in a number of PASS devices, but no standard exists for testing the performance of the thermal sensor. A series of static oven, flow loop, and full-scale experiments were conducted to demonstrate the performance of different PASS devices. This limited set of temperature versus thermal sensor activation data indicates that sensors respond differently under static, flowing, and radiation intense conditions. The full-scale data demonstrate that current thermal sensing/PASS implementations are unlikely to provide a fire fighter with sufficient warning of an acute thermal hazard. Current PASS devices may provide information to fire fighters about their longer term exposure to thermal conditions, but there is a significant delay of 25 s to 120 s before the fire fighter receives this alarm or information. This limited series of experiments demonstrates the need to develop a standard testing protocol to insure that all PASS devices provide adequate protection for fire fighters. This testing protocol must evaluate the performance of thermal sensors under a range of fire environments that fire fighters may realistically encounter on a routine basis. This experimental data was used to develop a prototype standard test protocol which can used to quantify the thermal sensor performance.