South Wales Fire and Rescue Service responds to more than 60,000 emergency calls every year, ranging from fires to road traffic collisions, rescue operations to chemical spills.
It is essential that fire crews attending this variety of calls are able to access as much information relating to the individual call-outs as possible.
Although much of this information is available on the Service’s Intranet, via the Control Room and in hard copy documents, it is not always practical for crews to access this data whilst travelling to, or in attendance at an incident.
To address this issue, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service has installed sophisticated computer systems in the cabs of all frontline fire appliances, 80 in all, which include a wireless data link to ensure firefighters can access real-time information held at Fire and Rescue Service headquarters.
These Vehicle Mounted Data Systems (VMDS) feature sturdy touch-screens, which allow firefighters to access a wealth of potentially life-saving information – including building and risk plans, design specifications of most cars manufactured between 1990 and 2003, road maps and the properties and risks associated with more than 30,000 chemical substances – direct from the fire appliance cab.
Each cab is fitted with its own computer printer to allow fire crews to make a hard copy of the information en route to, or during, an incident.
All of the data is stored on a central Intranet system, so that it can be accessed by both mobile and PC users back at the Fire Stations, which allows for some of the data, such as the standard operating procedures, to be updated regularly from just one site.
To provide the VMDS with wireless connectivity, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service worked with IT provider Computacenter, Imass, Trinity Expert Systems and Vodafone, who were tasked with putting the right technology in place to deliver the information to the cabs.
One of the main issues was to ensure that the technology was robust enough to ensure a continuous link between the information source and the fire appliance cabs, and the systems themselves could withstand different working conditions experienced by firefighters.