Potentially life-saving technology to track, find firefighters in testing phase

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Phoenix fire crews are testing cutting-edge technology that could be a game-changer when it comes to keeping firefighters safe.

Valley-based Honeywell created a GPS system called the GLANSER firefighter locating and tracking system. GLANSER is an acronym for Geo-spatial Location, Accountability and Navigation System for Emergency Responders. It's still in the research-and-development phase, but it's already showing great promise.

"The quality of it is so intense. It's like a video game, but it's so specific and precise," Phoenix Fire Battalion Chief Shelly Jamison said. "I've never seen anything like it."

Phoenix firefighters tested the system at their Lower Buckeye Training Facility Wednesday and Thursday.

So how does GLANSER work? 

"Every firefighter wears a unit, that unit communicates with each other's units and they all communicate back to the commander," Claire Miller with Honeywell First Responders explained. The commander is in a truck, keeping track of everyone on a computer.

While there are many layers of protection for firefighters already in place, this adds even more.

"Radios fail. Things happen -- flashover, collapses, etc... there's communication issues. A firefighter gets injured. That's where something like this helps," Jamison explained.

As long as you have electronics, they fail. That's our one link that goes wrong -- it's the radio. ... Typically that chain of failure, once it starts, is very difficult to recover from. Something like this [GLANSER] would make a difference.

- Shelly Jamison, Phoenix Fire Battalion Chief

"My sole role on the fire ground is to keep my employees safe," she continued. "Something like this would ensure that. ... Any layer of safety that you can build in, and something like this would be the ultimate layer of safety, is helpful."

Because it's still in the testing phase, GLANSER is at least two to three years from being deployed in the field.

"The first thing we need to do is make sure this works, and it works reliably in every possible situation," Miller said.