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Photo of firefighters using C-THRU technology

Will C-THRU Help Firefighters Navigate Smoky Indoor Environments?

Posted: Nov. 16, 2023

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C-THRU technology is a real-time, indoor visualization system that enhances firefighters’ situational awareness in low-visibility environments.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) conducted a field test of this new technology in August 2023 with fire departments from California, Chicago and New York participating in an operational field assessment at the San Diego Fire-Rescue Training Facility in California. Overseen by S&T’s National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL), 3 different scenarios subjected C-THRU to the punishing realities of firefighting.

NUSTL is currently developing an Operational Field Assessment report on C-THRU, which will incorporate the feedback from responders during the August field assessment. The feedback will be used to further refine the product for successful commercialization in 2024.

DHS S&T also leveraged its First Responder Resource Group (FRRG) for input that helped to refine the interface for the technology. The FRRG helped DHS S&T design an interface with ergonomic, well-placed buttons that can accommodate firefighters’ large gloves and can be operated using tactile feedback without having to see the interface.

About C-THRU

C-THRU works as an augmented reality tool that uses raw, thermal images within the firefighter’s visual frame to create a visual overlay of the edges of all objects within the field of view. The system consists of 2 components: the Navigator (worn on the helmet) and the Visual Command (a tablet used by Incident Commanders (ICs) to see what their crew members are seeing). The system also has many communications features built in, such as the ability to communicate status to the IC.

The goal of the technology is to give responders more usable information than they currently get from thermal imagers for situational awareness in low-visibility indoor environments. While thermal imaging cameras are indispensable for locating other responders, raw thermal images are not necessarily the best tool to help firefighters navigate around the walls, doors and other objects in an unfamiliar indoor environment.

The developer of this prototype, San Francisco-based Quake Technologies, Inc., is also developing an additional backtracking function that provides turn-by-turn guidance, allowing a responder to follow the path they took into the building back out to safety.

For more information

The DHS S&T feature article “Picturing the Future of Firefighting” includes details on the technology and testing and a short video featuring responder testimony.


This article is based on content in the
Nov. 16, 2023 InfoGram.

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