Boston 2016

The Question

How can the City of Boston reduce carcinogenic exposure for firefighters, who are diagnosed with cancer at greater rates than the general population?

The Team

  • Sean Cochran
  • Neel Mehta
  • Algirde Pipikaite
  • Charlie Sellew
  • Chanteclaire Swett

The Story

Captain Mark Corwin pointed out the third story window of the Boston Fire Department’s headquarters building toward an older industrial building in the distance. He described a nine-alarm inferno that in 2002 threatened to engulf the building—tamed only by the valiant efforts of 200 firefighters. He told us that many of the firefighters have now been diagnosed with various forms of cancer.

By interviewing and observing firefighters in their everyday environment, we hope to learn more about the barriers to hazardous material exposure reporting. Our ultimate goals are to improve the quantity, quality, and usability of exposure reports to protect the health of individual firefighters and to enable long-term analysis of cancer trends.

Above all, we want to leave the city with practical, actionable recommendations that outlast the class.

Using human-centered research, design thinking, and agile prototyping methods we have come up with a series of recommendations that will help the Boston Fire Department reduce hazardous exposure while streamlining reporting. These recommendations can be seen in our final presentation, policy recommendations, and technical spec documents linked in our final blog post.

It was truly an honor for the team to spend several months learning from the selfless firefighters of the Boston Fire Department and committed civil servants of the Boston Department of Innovation and Technology. We look forward to witnessing further advances as Boston—one of America’s most historic cities—continues to reinvent itself as one of the most innovative.


final insights presentation

user insights presentation