Firefly

(Patent 7,614,765)


History

Around the world Firefighters risk their lives by blindly entering smoke filled structures hundreds of times a day. To avoid the choking smoke which obstructs their vision they often crawl along the floor.  This helps them evade the intense heat as well as thick smoke. Innovation has provided this profession with many tools to deal with these harsh environments, protective garments, oxygen masks, helmets and flashlights. These tools provide some aid in their endeavor to save lives and property. However, there are problems with the existing technologies.

Many people believe the greatest danger to fireperson is the risk of the fire itself. True being burned is a hazard but smoke claims more lives than the flames; when firefighters become disorientated and are unable to find egress or be rescued.

When attempting to navigate a smoke filled structure the best flashlight on the market today is not able to provide much help. This is due to the use of white or coherent light. This full spectrum light illuminates the smoke molecules and reflects light reducing penetration. Several innovations have been introduced in recent years. Things such as rope light that the firefighter must pull along the floor when entering a burning structure in an attempt to mark his path to egress and indicate to others where he/she has been. Difficulties with this solution are several fold among these factors are the limited length of the rope as well as, the additional weight of the rope itself the longer it is.  


The Invention

To better provide fire personal a manor of finding egress in smoke filled environments and also aid in their rescue in the event of disorientation or injury. This invention provides each firefighter with a small self-contained laser illumination devise. This devise can be placed along the floor or adhered to the wall as the firefighter enters a structure, thereby marking his/her path to egress and at the same time indicating his/her location. Additionally, this will show other personnel areas already searched. In the event a firefighter becomes disabled or injured the laser marker will aid others to locate him/her providing more efficient and timely rescue. 

The ‘Firefly’ is a small, lightweight unit about the size of a cigarette pack consisting of a heat resistant housing containing a switch, battery and lasers at each end of the unit.

The use of laser light in place of coherent light provides deeper penetration in smoke (the single frequency of laser light becomes brighter with an increase in particulates in the environment). Due to the compact size and lightweight a firefighter can carry multiple units to place at various distances along their path into a structure.  Additionally, by placing the units in differing configurations they are able to use a code system to indicate many different messages to other firefighters. The direction of the beams might show areas already searched or number of personnel that have passed in that direction. Different colors of laser could be used to indicate which team placed them or where individual personnel may be located i.e. a supervisor, lead person or medical team. 


The Test

The Firefly has been tested several times at the Community Fire Academy of Aurora, Colorado. The Firefly has been sent into burning buildings at 800° allowing firefighters the ability to see through the smoke. At 800° NO damage was done to the devices.