University of Pittsburgh
November 19, 1998


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 20 -- New innovative communications technology for firefighters, developed by the Naval Surface Warfare Center for the Navy SEALs in cooperation with the Mid-Atlantic Technology Applications Center (MTAC) at the University of Pittsburgh will be demonstrated at the eighth annual Pennsylvania Fire & Emergency Services Conference, Monday, Nov. 23, 5:30 p.m., Main Ballroom, Radisson Penn Harris Hotel, Harrisburg, PA. The event is open to the media.

The technology, originally developed to help Navy commandos communicate in adverse conditions, is a completely hands-off "head contact" microphone, mounted in the headband of a firefighter's helmet. What's new is that it transmits speech over two-way radio not directly from the voice but from the sounds resonating in the skull, and as a result is easy to use and greatly reduces unwanted background noises common at a fire scene.

The conference, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Fire Services Institute, features a wide variety of seminars, exhibits and interactive apparatus displays designed to bring the latest in fire fighting and emergency services technology and methods to the attention of Pennsylvania's emergency services professionals.

Frank Downs, a research engineer at the Navy's Coastal Systems Station in Panama City, Florida, and inventor of the head contact microphone, will demonstrate the technology at the conference. "It's going to be great," said John Brenner, executive director of the Fire Services Institute. "We're expecting 700 to 1,000 fire fighting and emergency response professionals and public officials, including the governor, to attend. Most of those people have never seen this new technology before."

"Good quality communications is one of the most serious problems facing firefighters today," said Robert Saba, business development specialist at MTAC. "Hopefully this technology and others developed through MTAC's Fire Fighting Task Force will make a real difference in keeping our firefighters safe and helping them do the job better."

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