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When IoT Saves Lives: Regenhütte Fire Brigade Adopts AIM-65 and UTC-520

Author │ Thorsten Kraus

Images │ Regenhütte fire brigade

When it comes to firefighting, there is no room for mistakes. The effects of a fire can be way more dramatic than what is shown in the movies. The Inhalation of smoke, gases, vapors and toxic materials that exist in household & workplace objects and devices as well as the reduced visibility during fires, kills more than 4000 people every year in Europe. That’s over 10 people per day.

For firefighters every mission is different and unexpected; besides being quick they to be well informed for every incident. Today, there are six known classes of fires including gases, liquids, metals or oils and each of them require different approach. Every second counts when lives are on the line.

The Regenhütte Project

With more than 100 years in service, Regenhütte fire brigade has almost 25 active volunteering firefighters, responsible for a region in the southeastern part of Bavaria, Germany. Their tasks range from firefighting to technical assistance and further services, critical for the local community. Regenhütte station faces diverse missions, from highway to tourism, industrial and workplace accidents that not only require immediate response but also preparation in advance.

Traditional Analogue Alarm System

Until recently the way that the volunteering firefighters were notified for new incidents was using an analogue alarm system. The central emergency dispatch was sending a distress signal to the fire station via Fax, triggering the local siren and a beep alarm to each firefighter’s radio pager. With the pager’s alarm, firefighters were presenting at the station and upon arrival, they had to read the details of the incident on the fax, locate the exact position on the map, change clothes, get in the firefighting truck and drive to the destination. Very often though, the volunteering firefighters were at their regular workplace and not in the station already. In this case they had first to drive to the station to get the mission briefing and then head to the incident’s location - losing valuable time in the process. In this case, the response time after the initial distress signal (fax) could end up to 20 minutes to have the crew complete at the incident. The truck itself with a minimum crew always will be at the incident within the legal response time which is 8-10 minutes – but until all crew members are at the incident it could take up to 20 minutes.

Digital Signage Alarm System

To shorten actual response times, ensure the safety of the firefighters and to provide all the necessary information regarding to each mission, Advantech applied a turnkey digital alarm solution that takes advantage of the versatility of its digital signage computers and rugged tablet pcs.

UTC-520 signage terminal, acts as a server and alarm monitor

AIM-65 tablet loads navigation and takes the crew to the location of the incident.

 UTC-520 Signage Terminal

At the heart of the system, you will find UTC-520. This i5 equipped, windows-based and IP65 rated touch-screen signage terminal, acts as a server and alarm monitor. Upon receiving an emergency signal from central dispatch, UTC-520 triggers the local siren and the analogue radio pagers of firefighters, notifying them about the new incident. Next, it triggers an immediate alarm to all smartphones with details about the mission and it provides navigation to the location to the emergency. Using their smartphones, firefighters can confirm their availability for the mission – information which in turn is displayed in the central UTC at the fire station, further contributing in the efficient allocation of resources and early planning. Moreover, the volunteering firefighters who happen to be at their regular work but they are able to help, now they can directly go to the emergency location, since they have all the mission details, not only saving more time but also making themselves available in time. When firefighters are by the fire station, the UTC displays all the mission critical information for the arriving personnel and continuously repeats the incident details using text to speech, broadcasting the necessary information to firefighters, saving more valuable time.

AIM-65 Provide Mission-Specific Information to the Firefighters

Fire fighting vehicles are equipped with the robust & IP65 certified AIM 65 tablet pcs. Equipped with Intel processors, they support dual OS, dual-cameras, and a multi-touch, Gorilla glass IPS full-HD screen. Besides the above, they offer a wide range of industrial accessories and certifications to match every application (view more). Upon a new mission, the AIM tablet loads navigation and takes the crew to the location of the incident on the fly. At the same time, the tablets constantly repeats the mission’s details using voice messaging. In addition, AIM 65 can be used to provide mission-specific information to the firefighters (vehicle data regarding cables, airbag positions, battery, fuel tank) or maps of buildings (ex. Hotel maps), saving further valuable time and contributing to the mission’s overall effectiveness since crews are able to prepare en route and have all the crucial information about the specific mission. This solution is using Alamos FE2 platform on UTC-520 (server) as well as Alamos aMobile on AIM-65 and Alamos aPager PRO app on the firefighters’ smartphones.

AIM-65 searchs closest water supply.

AIM-65 provides maps of buildings.

The alarm is broadcast in time to all firefighters and while they prepare for the mission, they have all the information about it available already. Next, the crew is ready to leave for the location of the incident, knowing who will turn up. Once in the vehicle, the crew receives all the information on the tablet and they can find further mission-critical details (closest water supply, maps, escape plans of building, vehicle information in case of traffic accidents), preparing them in advance for the mission. The UTC signage computer at the fire station and the AIM-65 tablet are constantly connected and the crew can search for further information from the server while on the move.

AIM-65 loads navigation.

AIM-65 provides vehicle information.

Five minutes Are an Eternity

Thanks to Advantech and the generous donations of the local community, Regenhütte fire station has deployed and IoT solution that saves valuable time and above all, lives. After testing the new IoT alarm system, the firefighting team confirmed that they can save at least 5 minutes compared to the old alarm system – and when saving lives 5 minutes are an eternity.