Six firefighters lost their lives responding to a fire in a century-old, abandoned warehouse in Worcester, Massachusetts, in December 1999. Worried that civilians were trapped inside, rescue teams initiated a rapid intervention; but, unfamiliar with the layout of the building, the smoke-filled warehouse became a labyrinth for those that entered. Unfortunately, the brave individuals that answered this call were unable to locate any exits before they ran out of air.
We still remember them more than two decades later, and this incident—along with hundreds in the years since—served as the catalyst for groundbreaking new Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) tracking and location technology. Precision Outdoor and Indoor Navigation and Tracking for Emergency Responders (POINTER) will soon allow agencies to pinpoint their firefighters to within centimeters, helping to navigate them quickly and safely out of potentially disorienting emergency scenarios.