What is ResponderX?
ResponderX is a startup company based in College Station, TX. We are made up of firefighters, engineers, and business folks who are developing a tracking system for firefighters. The idea for this product came from the fallout of the 2013 Knights of Columbus Hall fire, which killed two Bryan Fire Department lieutenants, and severely burned two more firefighters.
What is TaskForceTracker?
TaskForceTracker is an electronic tracking and accountability system for first responders. The system works inside or outside of structures and allows an incident commander, safety officer, or both to monitor everyone on scene.
How does it work?
Without going into the basics of radio theory and the physics behind that…The TaskForce Tracker system is made up of wearable devices on each firefighter’s gear that communicate with apparatus-mounted hubs to triangulate the exact location of every firefighter on an incident scene. Location and other information about the firefighters are displayed on a tablet or MDT that the Incident Commander or Safety Officer will manage. The TFT app offers both an Incident Commander view and Safety Officer view so that both positions can coordinate through the app.
Our current SCBA/pass device manufacturer is already doing this.
No other company does exactly what we are doing – other companies have tried, but haven’t yet been successful. Other SCBA and PASS device manufacturers have products that can be helpful in locating firefighters, but we are the only ones that offer real-time location tracking that is displayed on a map. We hold the patents on the technology and the concept, and believe it or not, those companies came to our booth at FDIC 2017 to check out our system to see what we’re doing.
If so many other companies have tried, how have you succeeded where they failed?
We were told at FDIC “lots of companies have thrown millions of dollars and lots of Ph.D’s at this task and have yet to be successful”, followed by this question. First of all, Ph.D’s don’t do what we do; they don’t go into burning buildings and don’t have the skin in the game like we do. Since our product was created and developed by a firefighter, we know EXACTLY what firefighters need. Lots of people have said this can’t be done, but what happens when you tell a firefighter that something can’t be done?
What does it use, Google maps?
It’s not Google maps, but something similar called esri. This is the same platform that many city/county/state GIS departments use for their mapping. If your city building inspector or fire marshal/prevention department has floor plans of commercial structures in your jurisdiction, those can be loaded as a layer on the tablet, allowing the incident commander to see where personnel are inside the actual interior floor plan of a structure.
How many hubs are required for the system to work?
A minimum of three hubs are required to locate a firefighter in two dimensions, and four hubs to locate someone in three dimensions. The more hubs present, the more accurate the system.
Will it distinguish between personnel on different floors?
Yes, with a fourth hub on scene, it is possible to track the elevation of a given device, to see what floor someone is on.
Does it use GPS?
GPS is unreliable inside structures, although there is a GPS component that is utilized to track first responders when they are outside of a structure. It uses radio signals like those used by your handheld radio, and personnel are located by triangulation, similar to the manner in which a cellphone can be located based on its distance from cell towers. This is coupled with readings from on-board accelerometers which help to reduce noise and offer even greater accuracy in buildings where radio signal is traditionally unreliable.
Our handheld radios don’t work very well inside structures – what makes you think this is going to work?
Believe it or not, our firefighters have the same problem with radios, so we are painfully aware of your concerns. Our devices use radio signals, but utilizing multiple frequency ranges – unlike a single frequency range like your handhelds – allows for radio signals from our devices to get out of buildings much better than your handheld radios.
What frequency does it use?
We can tell you that multiple frequencies are used, but the exact frequencies are proprietary. There are no FCC requirements for site licensing nor does the system rely on another radio system or vendor.
What kind of range does it have?
Range is dependent on terrain and building composition, but in the right conditions, the system can work for up to 20 miles.
How accurate is it?
TaskForceTracker is accurate to within 5 feet in most cases but can vary depending on many factors. TaskForceTracker uses a combination of multiple location technologies to ensure accuracy in challenging environments.
Does it work inside structures?
Yes, TFT will work inside structures, including Type 1 and 2 concrete and steel structures.
What is involved in setting up the system on scene?
Your crews have enough to think about when arriving on a scene, so we have engineered TaskForce Tracker to be 100% passive setup. The system is always on, and “knows” when a unit has been dispatched to a call. When the trucks start moving, the hub wakes up and starts communicating with the individual trackers. When personnel get off the truck, the system starts logging data; as additional units arrive, the mesh network automatically activates and begins tracking personnel. When the Incident Commander is ready and activates the tablet he/she sees the tracking already in progress.
Does this meet the standard for NFPA 1982 – Standard on Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS)?
TFT is not a PASS device, and is not intended to meet NFPA 1982, nor replace your existing PASS device – it is intended to work in conjunction with your PASS devices. Although it does have some features in common with PASS devices (the ability to notify command or safety if a firefighter doesn’t move for a preset time), TFT is a completely different animal altogether.
Will it work with my existing radios/air packs/other equipment?
Our product is engineered to be standalone and completely separate from all other equipment (radios, air packs, PASS devices, etc) for several reasons: first, there are so many different variations of radios, SCBAs, PASS devices, etc, that it would be impossible for us to support every combination of equipment that various departments have. Secondly, we don’t want our system to be dependent on another piece of equipment (if your radios go down, we want our system to still work; if you doff your SCBA during overhaul, or are working an incident where SCBAs aren’t required, but you still need to track personnel, it will still work). Thirdly, TFT gives you a level of redundancy in addition to existing equipment, in the event that another piece of safety equipment fails.
Is cellular service required?
If cellular service is available at the incident scene, data will be transmitted to the Internet for use of the web-based management console and datalogging. If cellular service is not available, the system will still function on scene as a standalone system; datalogging will still occur and be stored locally until cellular or a Wifi connection becomes available, at which time a data burst will be uploaded to the cloud. The only feature that won’t be available if cellular data is not available is the ability to use the web-based console.
Do I have to pay for the cellular data connection?
Cellular data is included in the subscription fee.
I don’t think my IT department will go for this…
Our system is designed to be completely self-sufficient with no need for local IT support. All data is uploaded and downloaded through the cellular connection present on the TFT hubs, and as such, no interface with your department’s network/Internet connection is required.
How long will the batteries last?
Batteries have a four week standby life and 12 hours of continuous run time.
How do I check the battery?
The only interface on the tracker device is a button that activates a LED: Green means you’re good to go; yellow means change the battery; flashing red means the device has experienced a hardware failure.
Can’t I just assign a tag to each seat position on the apparatus, rather than one per firefighter?
We recommend assigning one for every firefighter, rather than one per seat. This allows the incident commander to know *exactly* who is inside the structure in an instant, as opposed to having to look up who is riding in the “C” seat of Engine 4 today. We’re taught in our Mayday training to use the format “Mayday, mayday, mayday, this is Firefighter Jones, I’m separated from my crew and running low on air” – you use your own name, not your seat assignment. If a firefighter gets into trouble, he or she may not remember the seat position he rode in – especially if he’s working overtime or not at his normal station – but they will always remember their own name. Likewise, the incident commander needs to immediately know exactly who he or she is dealing with or looking for in the event of a sentinel event.
How many users will the system support simultaneously?
There is currently no limit on the number of users in the system.
Will it work with my existing MDT/tablet/computing hardware?
Yes, if you purchase our yearly subscription that will enable you to use a web version of the application on your MDT.
Why can’t I load your app on my existing MDT/tablet/computing hardware?
Various Operating Systems (Android, Apple iOS, Microsoft Windows, etc) push out software updates from time to time. Unfortunately, they don’t let small companies like us know that ahead of time, and we run the risk of a given OS pushing out an update that crashes our app, and leaves you high and dry until we get a patch applied. The solution is that if we only put the app our tablets, it allows us to vet OS updates with our software behind the scenes in our office, to make sure it isn’t going to crash your system.
What’s this about an annual subscription package?
If you choose to do so, the annual subscription package price is based on a percentage of your initial hardware cost. With that, you get the ability to use the web-based console, as well as data logging of all incidents which allows you to use data from TFT in your after-action review. By doing so, you can sync up TFT data with your dispatch times and audio recordings to paint a complete picture of the incident.
What else is included in the annual subscription?
The annual subscription allows you to use the web version of the app on any web-enabled device, computer, including your MDT. Also included is cloud-based datalogging of all incidents, which allows you to pull up data from TFT for use in your after-action review. By doing so, you can sync up TFT data with your dispatch times, audio recordings, and any other data obtained during the course of an incident to paint a complete picture of exactly what occurred. The annual subscription is a percentage of the initial hardware cost, and includes overnight replacement of any system components that are damaged through routine use at no charge.
Can I use this for tracking other First Responders or is this only for Fighter Fighters?
Yes! TFT can be used to track anything you’d like to, and we are working on versions for law enforcement (both SWAT and patrol), EMS, wildland, HazMat, SAR, and non-public safety applications, such as the petroleum and mining industries.
Who installs the equipment on our apparatus? How difficult is it?
The computer which controls the hubs is a 12-volt solid state microcomputer, which connects to a roof-mounted antenna with an ethernet cable. We will be developing an installation manual which details how to perform installation so your department’s maintenance personnel, radio shop, or mechanics can install the hardware at your location. It’s no more difficult than installing a radio, lightbar, or any other 12 volt accessory.
Since you are startup, are you looking for investors?
Yes! We are looking for interested investors especially those with knowledge of the emergency services industry. If you are interested in investing, give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org!
When do you expect to begin sales?
We are working on piloting our system with select agencies in the coming months. We anticipate sales to begin sometime in 2018. If you are interested in becoming a pilot site, contact us!
How do I get more information?
Please contact us at email@example.com with any additional questions.