The Erie Fire Department and Mercyhurst University teamed up to test innovative sensor technology designed to reduce the time it takes to find and rescue people from a burning building or other emergencies.

Erie News Now first introduced you to SimpleSense last week.  The company here for the Secure Erie Accelerator is developing the technology.

Two volunteers hid in the Mercyhurst in the Mercyhurst Center for Academic Engagement. First Erie firefighters set out to find them using their usual protocol. That meant searching floor by floor, room by room.  It took eight minutes to find the two men, one in a second floor stairwell, the other in a third floor classroom.

Then different firefighter teams repeated the test, with SimpleSense infrared sensors detecting the body heat of each person, and relaying advance data on the fastest routes to find them, before firefighters entered the building.  This time, finding them took only two minutes.

The results impressed firefighters.  Lt. Tom Majczyk, a firefighter for 25 years was part of the second search team.  "It made it a lot simpler," he said. "We simply went in, we found a stairwell to try to get to the second floor, were just going to check the stairwells on that side of the building on the second floor and he was in the first stairwell that we hit, so it went really quickly."

Deputy Chief Jeff Carroll said it was great to be in on the ground floor of testing the technology.  "To actually know where that victim is possibly instead of searching unknown areas and getting into areas that are dangerous for us, it’s going to be a tremendous help."

Eric Kanagy, SimpleSense CEO said they learned valuable information through the test. "It’s easy to get caught up...in the technology because that’s the fun part, but the hard part is how do you deliver that right information to the right person at the right time," Kanagy said. 

What they learned is that the fire trucks and crew chiefs are not equipped yet with iPad technology, so data they hoped to relay directly to firefighters had to be delivered through the 911 center, but that may change with trends. "So a lot of fire departments are getting iPads in their trucks, they’re giving smart phones to their crew chiefs, they’re getting more of that information directly into the hands of the firefighters because if you add too many steps you’re just slowing down that response," Kanagy added.

SimpleSense is working on plans with Mercyhurst University and other local companies to do further testing on their technology here in Erie.  They expect to take advantage of free office space in the Secure Erie Accelerator for at least the next six months.