High-Tech Safety Device Plan
TekAlert is testing its system at the
Defreestville, N.Y., firestation, located near the
Rensselaer Technology Park.
Entering a burning, smoke-filled building is one of the
biggest dangers in firefighting.
“Becoming lost and disoriented as a result of being separated
from a crew is a major firefighter safety issue,” says Ryan
O’Donnell ’04, 22-year-old CEO and co-founder of TekAlert. The
technology start-up company won the 2004 Tech Valley Collegiate
Business Plan Competition for its plan to develop and market
the Team Accountability Buddy System® (TABS).
The wireless tethering system will aid firefighters in burning
buildings from becoming separated from their team. The
patent-pending TABS is designed to constantly monitor each
firefighter, incorporating wireless communications technology,
visible light systems, and audible alarms.
“The current practice for keeping the team together in
zero-visibility conditions is to hold onto the closest
firefighter’s boot. TABS is designed to keep firefighters
together without physically holding onto each other and allows
both hands to remain free for quicker, more efficient
movement,” O’Donnell says.
O’Donnell, who also is assistant fire chief of the Guilderland
Fire Department, graduated this year with a bachelor’s degree
in mechanical engineering. His partner, 21-year-old Keith
Lareau ’04, CTO and also co-founder of TekAlert, graduated this
year with a bachelor’s dual degree in computer science and
computer and systems engineering. Additionally, John Blackburn,
19, a senior majoring in electrical engineering, has become a
third partner, as the company’s chief engineer.
The annual Tech Valley Collegiate Business Plan Competition is
sponsored by the Severino Center for Technological
Entrepreneurship at Rensselaer’s Lally School of Management and
TekAlert will receive $5,000 and has the opportunity to
receive $20,000 in seed funding, $10,000 in legal counsel and
patent application services, $5,000 in accounting services, and
additional resources for ancillary expenses. The final level of
the award is based on the company’s progress in implementing
the business plan. For more information on TekAlert, go to www.tekalert.com.
Originally published in
Rensselaer Magazine, Fall 2004
Photo by Mark McCarty