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Darrell Carpenter, Jan Clark and Alexander McLeod

College of Business grant to assist fire department

By Wendy Frost
Director of Communications, College of Business

(Sept. 8, 2006)--Three College of Business researchers in the Department of Information Systems and Technology Management received a $95,000 grant from the Bureau of Fire Research Laboratories Extramural Fire Research Program to develop a biometric integration system for San Antonio fire fighters.


The project led by Jan Clark, professor of information systems, began this summer and will conclude next year. Additional investigators are information technology doctoral students Darrell Carpenter and Alexander McLeod.

"The primary objective of this project is to demonstrate the feasibility of integrating biometric technology with a fireground accountability system," said Clark . "We are also going to study the impact of biometric technology implementation as it relates to firefighter privacy concerns."

Milestones of the grant include administering pre- and post-treatment surveys to measure initial firefighter attitudes toward privacy and their willingness to accept a biometric authentication system; installing, testing and debugging hardware and software devices; training the participants in the usage of the system; integrating the biometric verification data with fire information systems; and publishing the results.

"The biometric system will utilize digital fingerprint readers to 'log' each firefighter electronically into an incident scene, which will allow incident commanders to better track who is on the scene, and what skills and capabilities they possess,' said Carpenter.

Currently fire fighters use a manual system to check in at the command post upon arriving at an emergency scene. "That system presents a burden for the incident commander and lacks individual identity verification," said McLeod, who previously worked for 28 years with the SAFD as a paramedic/fire fighter. "These problems are of great concern at large-scale emergencies."

The pilot study will be conducted at Fire Station 11, near the UTSA Downtown Campus. If the project is successful it will roll out to the entire department of 1,200 personnel at 50 stations.

"We look forward to working with UTSA on this initiative to improve fire service efficiency and effectiveness," said Deputy Chief Rodney Hitzfelder.

"This grant allows us to participate in meaningful and important research," said McLeod. "We plan on publishing our findings and presenting at national conferences. It also allows us to use this knowledge to benefit the City of San Antonio and our local fire department."

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