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Texas Tech researchers team up with fire crews for their latest project

Lubbock firefighters work with a team of researchers from Texas Tech University to improve the...
Lubbock firefighters work with a team of researchers from Texas Tech University to improve the safety of fire crews' helmets.(Haley Mnick)
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 8:11 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The engineering department at Texas Tech University headed down to the Lubbock Fire Rescue Training Facility to gain first-hand experiences as a firefighter for their latest project.

Suman Chowdhury, with the Department of Engineering at Texas Tech, says the project isn’t actually for a grade, it’s about the safety of firefighters.

“Department of Homeland Security is interested to develop a firefighting helmet,” Chowdhury said. “So, right now, the firefighters’ activities and roles have changed a lot throughout the years. Only 7% of their activities that are mainly fire extinguishing, but mostly respond to the vehicle extrication, automated accidents and, and also, like there are active shooting incidents firefighters are responding to, but they do not have a ballistic helmet.”

These researchers are trying to improve one the most important pieces of safety equipment a firefighter can have: helmets.

“These helmets have been around for, you know, 50 plus years, they provide really good top down impact protection,” Lieutenant Lubbock Fire Rescue, Brady Robinette said.” “But some of the other scenarios we find ourselves in like being on the roadway, we work in car wrecks, they don’t provide as good of side impact protection and that some of the things Texas Tech’s are looking at.”

The first-hand experience these researchers are getting can help improve the safety of fire crews when responding to any call.

“So whatever activity they’re performing, there needs to be a helmet that protects them during those hazards, whatever that activity is, but also it needs to keep the needs of the wearer in mind,” Robinette said.

The group faced different scenarios firefighters could counter. But in this male dominated profession, researchers took into account the female crew members as well.

“There is a growing interest to hire more female firefighters,” Chowdhury said. “So, our helmets will also come up with a prototype for firefighters based on their head telemetry.”

Researchers are hoping their experiences today will help bring more research dollars towards the project. They are expecting to complete the project in the Spring of 2023.

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