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The future is now: Improving firefighter safety through connectivity

The Connected Firefighter Platform helps keep teams safe, accountable and able to make data-driven decisions on the fireground

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MSA Safety’s Connected Firefighter Platform provides accountability and situational awareness so incident commanders can make informed decisions in a mayday incident.

MSA Safety

Sponsored by MSA Safety

By Robert Avsec for FireRescue1 BrandFocus

“Mayday, mayday, mayday!”

Is there any more terrifying radio traffic on a fire scene?

What comes next? The incident commander (IC) attempts to pinpoint the firefighter’s last known location and condition over the radio – provided the firefighter can continue to communicate verbally –activates the RIT and sends them off in search of the firefighter in distress, all while trying their best to continue with the original scene operation.

A successful rescue depends on those involved being able to remain calm, make confident decisions and verbally communicate effectively over land mobile radios (LMRs).

“Did you know?” #1: For 40% of mayday calls, the firefighter declaring a mayday was on the wrong radio channel.1

“Did you know?” #2: The RIT reached the firefighter in distress for only 10% of mayday incidents reviewed. In the other 90% of cases, the firefighter self-rescued (22%), was assisted by the same crew they were working with (25%) or was rescued by an adjacent interior crew – other firefighters in the structure (30%).2

The future is now

Firefighter Redmon of Engine 12 falls through the second floor of a two-story structure. Detecting that the firefighter is now motionless, the PASS alarm on Redmon’s SCBA automatically activates. Simultaneously, the IC receives an alert on the tablet they’re using to manage the incident, including – and most important – personnel accountability. The IC can see Redmon’s status on their tablet has changed to red and he is motionless, his estimated available air supply and the estimated amount of time he’ll have breathable air.

Redmon is also wearing a wireless device connected to his SCBA that alerts all other devices of its kind in the vicinity from Engine 12 that he’s in alarm and needs to be located for rescue. In addition to Engine 12 being on scene, Truck 2 is as well, and their handheld wireless devices also display that Redmon is in trouble. Redmon’s chief officer (CO) sees on his wireless device that he’s within 30 feet of Redmon, and the device begins displaying directional feedback and thermal information, aiding in reaching Redmon.

Truck 2’s crew is also searching; on their devices they can see they’re within 60 feet of Redmon and heading in the right direction. In little more than a minute, Redmon’s CO has reached him, followed by Truck 2’s crew just a minute later. Redmon’s CO tells the IC over the radio that they’ve got Redmon, will get him out of the hole, and to have EMS ready to take Redmon because it appears he has broken a leg.

Sound far-fetched or too futuristic? Well, it’s not – because the technology is here.

The Connected Firefighter Platform from MSA Safety

Enter the MSA Connected Firefighter Platform – MSA’s newest solution that enables more informed, proactive and safer decisions on emergency scenes. The Connected Firefighter Platform delivers the information the team needs to make more data-driven decisions by bringing together information from MSA’s cloud-connected products.

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The components that make up MSA’s Connected Firefighter Platform.

Robert Avsec

MSA’s G1 SCBA is the center of the Connected Firefighter ecosystem of technology-enabled tools. A firefighter using a G1 can continuously view the unit’s battery life, available air supply and estimated breathing time using the unit’s control module. When used with the MSA HUB, the G1 SCBA sends key SCBA data (e.g., air status, alarm information) to the IC, giving them information they need to make more informed data-driven decisions on the emergency scene. The MSA HUB is a wireless gateway to the cloud that creates its own hotspot to allow local and remote monitoring as well as reporting.

The MSA HUB is just one technology solution in the Connected Firefighter Platform. LUNAR Connected Device is an additional solution that provides enhanced connectivity, search and rescue technology, and situational awareness – on and off scene. LUNAR helps keep the entire team connected and can locate a downed team member, account for the entire crew (including mapping their estimated location) and automatically notify all team members, including IC, that there is an alarm. LUNAR has a direct cloud connection that provides device data to IC on MSA’s tablet-based local monitoring application, FireGrid Monitor, and is available for use on FirstNet, ensuring priority on AT&T’s cellular network.

With MSA’s Firefighting Assisting Search Technology (FAST), LUNAR also provides direction and distance data and integrates it with its own thermal imaging capability during search and rescue. In addition to searching functionality, LUNAR also serves as a personal thermal imaging camera enhanced with edge detection to provide situational awareness much needed in challenging environmental conditions.

That’s the kind of information that becomes critical when a firefighter declares a mayday. Remember, in 55% of mayday events studied, the firefighter was assisted either by a member of their crew who relocated or by personnel from another crew already in the building.

And that’s where LUNAR can really shine, because all active LUNAR devices on scene create their own self-forming network for constant communication without the need for cellular service or hotspot – even operating in areas with challenging infrastructure. ICYMI, that equipment Redmon was using in the mayday scenario at the beginning of this article? That was a wireless LUNAR device connected to a G1 SCBA.

Always-on communications, always available to assist

The final connected device in the Connected Firefighter Platform is the ALTAIR series of portable multigas monitors. ALTAIR Bluetooth-enabled devices provide IC real-time gas readings from all the active units on the emergency scene paired with a G1 SCBA. That gives the IC the information they need to ensure their incident action plan is congruent with the environmental conditions when working an incident where hazardous materials are on site or have been released.

Another critical component of the Connected Firefighter Platform is FireGrid, a suite of cloud-based applications that brings data from all devices together. It is composed of various mobile, tablet and web applications to enable greater fleet management and data-driven decisions through increased device usage, personnel and incident awareness. It introduces remote monitoring functionality, automatic report generation and advances in inventory management, local monitoring, device personalization, configuration and firmware updates.

MSA’s applications leverage on-scene device data to enable ICs to make more-informed decisions and aid in reducing cognitive overload through increased situational awareness of devices, personnel and event data. Post-scene, FireGrid provides automated report generation, capturing detailed device and personnel data from cloud-connected devices. On-scene product usage information is automatically stored in the cloud to access from anywhere. Inventory management is enabled by a centralized, cloud-based digital asset management and compliance application. Simply using the connected devices drives usage-based preventative maintenance, enhanced fleet management, improved resource efficiency and the ability to avoid overservicing product due to the on-scene data automatically documenting and storing in the inventory management application. FireGrid aids in ensuring all products are compliant and ready for use through summary dashboards and assigning inspection and service procedure reminders. Dashboard analytics visualize department trends to help ICs understand what’s happening over time.

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FireGrid brings data from all connected devices into one view.

Robert Avsec

FireGrid’s latest enhancement is FireGrid Map View, and it’s a big step toward better personnel accountability and situational awareness. With LUNAR’s embedded GPS technology and Google Maps, IC is able to see each firefighter’s estimated location outside the structure or last known location.

As an incident commander receiving a mayday declaration, wouldn’t you want to have as much data as possible to make an informed decision? Wouldn’t you also want to know the status of devices and personnel? Wouldn’t you want to know what personnel are already in the structure, who may be able to assist, where they’re located, and aid in directing them to the mayday firefighter to assist?


1. “Firefighter Mayday: Reality vs. Myth.” Billy Goldfeder. Fire Engineering. April 2016.

2. “Project Mayday.” Don Abbott. 2019.

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an instructor for fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Beyond his writing for and, Avsec authors the blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS and has published his first book, “Successful Transformational Change in a Fire and EMS Department: How a Focused Team Created a Revenue Recovery Program in Six Months – From Scratch.” Connect with Avsec on LinkedIn or via email.