Fire/emergency medical services Research/studies

Tests show problems with firefighter radios

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Washington – Portable radios used by firefighters may fail when exposed to high temperatures, putting firefighters at risk, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

NIST recently announced test results that identified potential safety hazards for firefighters using portable radios. All seven radios tested by NIST failed within 15 minutes when subjected to a temperature of 320° F, which represents the conditions of a fully involved fire.

The radios help firefighters report their locations and speak with incident commanders and other first responders during a fire. According to NIOSH, problems with portable radios have been known to contribute to firefighter fatalities.

The National Fire Protection Association is developing a performance standard for portable radios. NIST said the existing standard provides non-specific guidance that radios “be manufactured for the environment in which they are used.”

“Realistic and reliable performance tests provide clear design targets for portable radio manufacturers,” NIST fire protection engineer Michelle Donnelly said in a press release. “Standards incorporating these tests provide firefighters with the assurance that their equipment will perform as expected under specified thermal conditions.”