When a fire breaks out inside a large structure like a mall or office building, firefighter safety is often at the mercy of blueprints or hand-drawn sketches to figure out the safest way to navigate the smoke-filled corridors.
From an article in Route Fifty by Andrea Noble.
In Memphis, officials envision a new approach using light detection and ranging, or LiDAR, technology to create 3-D maps for first responders.
Researchers working on the new building mapping project said law enforcement and firefighters could both benefit from the technology, which would not only help them navigate unfamiliar structures but also enable agencies to track first responders’ movements inside the buildings.
Funded in part by a $450,000 grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Memphis is one of three cities engaged in a research program to test and refine LiDAR capabilities. The city contributed approximately $400,000 to the effort as well.
Working with the University of Memphis, the city deployed 3-D mapping technology to scan the interior of seven large buildings, including the National Civil Rights Museum, Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.
“We are creating digital 3-D models of the buildings and we’ll be providing that to the first responders so they can become familiar with the space without actually having to go visit,” said Mike Rodriguez, chief information officer of Memphis.
While LiDAR has proliferated recently, such as with its use by autonomous vehicles, the technology has not been deployed much for mapping indoor spaces. But those involved in the Memphis project believe it could revolutionize emergency response capabilities.
“A map is only good if you know your position relative to the map,” said Chris Wilson, a division chief with the Memphis Fire Department. “I think that once it gets locked down and refined, it will truly change how we fight fires or even respond to medical calls or how police officers respond to calls.”
Rodriguez believes the data could eventually be used to pinpoint and locate people inside a large complex during an emergency.
“Let’s say you are in room 305 and there’s an active shooter going on. You call the police and say ‘I am in room 305.’ That really means nothing to them,” Rodriguez said.
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