It was 30 years ago at NFPA’s Annual Meeting in Kansas City Missouri that NFPA 1982 Standard on Personal Alert Safety Systems was first issued. Now pass devices are used by every fire fighter in a potentially IDLH environment whether at hazardous materials incidents or at structure fires these devices are counted on by fire fighters to work every day. Despite widespread use and many technological advances over the years many variables and factors are influencing the effectiveness of these devices in a negative way.
NFPA’s Fire Protection Research Foundation set out to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of existing PASS devices and their effectiveness on the fireground. The Foundation has teamed up with the University of Texas Austin and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to conduct this research which is reciving funding through DHS/FEMA. The study is evaluting the overall effectiveness of PASS devices on the fireground with such varriables as other fire ground sounds like chainsaws, fire's impact on sounds and personal protective equipement's ability to reduce hearing capabilites.
At NFPA’s 2013 Annual Meeting, 30 years after the PASS standard was introduced, a presentation was given by Mustafa Abbasi of the University of Texas on the progress of their research and what they have learned so far. Click here to view a copy of the full presentation: Download PASS PRoj Mustafa Draft2. During one experiment a small trash can fire was lit to see what effect a small fire had on the sound of the PASS alarm signal. The sound became muffled and quieter and the fire seemed to merge the multiple tones into one sound. “It did not change beyond recognition but it was an audible change,” Abbasi says. “We believe the effect will be magnified by larger fires,” he adds, as this was just a trash can fire. Below are audio clips of the PASS alarm signal in an open environment and in a compartment at 10 seconds into a fire.
FreeField PASS device sounding with no fire
10seconds PASS device sounding in a compartment 10 seconds into trash can fire.
How big of a difference did you notice? Hearing this really makes me appreciate those out there working to research and study how we can make fire fighting safer, some things like the PASS are easily taken for granted. I myself never once thought about the effectiveness of the PASS device in fire conditions or if it would be loud enough when I needed it until hearing the difference in those two audio clips.
Click here to view the project summary, a final report is due out by July 2014.