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Acting as the ‘eyes’ of the brigade, the portable ROV1 robot can be deployed to get closer to a burning building than is physically safe for firefighters.

How the UK fire service is revolutionising situational awareness

The latest advances in thermal imaging and gas detection now enable firefighters to interpret a scene from safer distances, helping to eliminate the need for high risk ‘fast attack’ entry to burning buildings and keeping firefighters safer as they save lives.

Brought to the UK’s fire services by Scott Safety, a leading innovator in equipment for firefighters and first responders, the technologies can be fixed, portable or even deployed via a robot to provide intelligence on the specific makeup of the fire and highest risk factors.

Developed to help build the ‘bigger picture’ of every incident and how to best tackle the blaze, new solutions have been developed to reduce user burden and incorporate real-time telemetry, situational intelligence and communications in hazardous environments.

Already a global leader in the design, manufacture and supply of respiratory protective equipment, recently Scott Safety acquired two companies whose design, technology and product creation capabilities complement and enhance those of Scott Safety: thermal imaging company ISG and gas detection specialist IST Group (GMI, Oldham, Simtronics and Detcon). In bringing these two world-class companies together, and with the launch of this new X-380 camera, Scott and ISG customers now have an exciting new range of thermal imagers from which to choose.

For firefighters entering the unpredictable environment of an inferno, the latest X-380 thermal imaging camera powered by ISG Technology, now utilises both hot and cold spot tracking to enable firefighters to navigate in the safest areas. Using this technology, firefighters can instantly see and create paths through cooler spots and avoid the highest risk areas such as floors or ceilings likely to collapse in the blaze.

The cold spot tracker enables first responders to locate and pin point thread or valve gas leaks as gas in general will be colder in temperature than the environment surrounding it.

The X-Series X380N camera which is NFPA 1801 compliant, provides the perfect combination of technology, lightweight design, and robust features to enhance situational awareness. In addition to achieving NFPA compliance, the X380N offers high resolution detection, superior image quality, Intelligent Focus™ to clearly see at temperatures above 1000C°and transparent colourisation.

The X380N allows firefighters to fully interpret a fire scene and make better, safer, more tactical decisions.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1801 standard provides rigorous environmental and durability testing such as impact, flame and heat similar to SCBA durability tests. The standard also defines performance requirements around image quality and fixed location of onscreen symbology to enable training and facilitate mutual aid situations.

ISG has more than 20 years of thermal industry firsts and has always manufactured cameras to its own tough standards. Many of its original models like the Talisman and K-Series are still in operational use around the world today. The X380N camera is available through Scott Safety’s network of global distribution partners.

The X380N allows firefighters to fully interpret a fire scene and make better, safer, more tactical decisions.

The X380N allows firefighters to fully interpret a fire scene and make better, safer, more tactical decisions.

Manufactured in both the UK and US, ISG advanced thermal imaging cameras have fast become the camera of choice, winning all major UK tenders this year. In 2014, the company has gone from strength to strength, taking extensive market share from its competitors and traditional UK incumbents. For example, 54 X-Series cameras are now in operational use at Suffolk FRS and over 30 X-Series cameras are in use at Staffordshire. Both brigades, plus many others, have made the recent move to ISG to improve firefighter pre-emptive ability and safety.

UK brigades are calling the X-Series a tactical camera. Scott Safety has had great feedback from many of its UK customers who tell them firefighters are getting a much clearer understanding of a fire scene using the X-Series, compared to traditional thermal cameras. The X-Series enables firefighters to make better tactical decisions because it has a unique ability to provide clear and precise image data during firefighting.

Advancing the capabilities of these technologies, robotic technology is now working to reduce the exposure of human firefighters to fires.

Imagine this scenario: A building containing potentially explosive cylinders is engulfed in flames, the sound of fire sirens drown out voices, and firefighters are putting their lives on the line close to the blaze.

But what if, hours before, the Incident Commander had deployed a small robot with a built-in thermal imaging camera and gas detector to gain a close-up view of the building? And what if those images were logged into a database and accessed by firefighters planning to tackle the fire?

This technological innovation is now being put to the test by British firefighters who are working with Scott Safety to integrate the latest thermal imaging and gas detection technology with the unit’s ingenious ROV1 robot.

Acting as the ‘eyes’ of the brigade, the portable ROV1 robot can be deployed to get closer to a burning building than is physically safe for firefighters and provide imagery and data that would otherwise be unattainable. Using thermal imaging, firefighters can pinpoint the centre of the fire and essentially ‘see’ through the smoke to plan their extinguish plan.

Also used by the police force as a counter terror device, the robot will soon incorporate gas detection technology. This is essential in situations where gas canisters are present to both evaluate the risk of explosion and to measure potentially harmful chemical combinations ‘boiled up’ in a fire. Going one step further, the ROV1 now uses the latest Cobra Cold Cutting Extinguisher which can break through a wall to extinguish or calm the fire, making it significantly safer for firefighters to enter.

Scott Safety introduces CODFM; the first ever telemetry system to attach to a thermal imaging camera.

Scott Safety introduces CODFM; the first ever telemetry system to attach to a thermal imaging camera.

The future

Looking to the future, it is expected that more firefighting equipment will become wireless compatible and join ‘the internet of things’ where devices are linked together through the cloud. Items including gas detectors and thermal imaging cameras could then talk to each other. For example, location and gas detection data could be overlaid to enable the mapping of gas concentrations across an area in real-time, providing insight into the developing situation inside.

In the case of robotics like the ROV1, future wireless capabilities could enable firefighters to access buildings from even further away. Currently operated via an optical cable with a reach of up to 100m, the ROV1 is limited in the distance it can be deployed. In the case of cylinder fires or high risk explosive environments, wireless technologies could help mitigate the risk to firefighters and the public’s lives even further.

In September Scott Safety introduced CODFM; the first ever telemetry system to attach to a thermal imaging camera. Previously, this technology has only been used on perimeter cameras outside of a fire scene. For the first time, firefighters will be able to view images of the inside of a burning building, providing an even deeper insight into the individual risks presented. This advancement in technology will enable fire officers to more accurately predict hazards such as flashovers and brief their team accordingly. Greater situational awareness is the future of firefighting and will help to ensure that every fire fighter comes home after the job is done.

Scott Safety is breaking new ground as recent acquisitions have enabled the company to discover connections between seemingly unrelated technologies or concepts to create
brand new solutions.

This innovative approach opens up a world of new thinking. Could we be looking one day at headgear for example, that integrates a plethora of traditionally handheld technologies such as thermal imaging or gas detection, freeing up safety professionals get on with their jobs more efficiently?

For more information, go to www.scottsafety.com/emea

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Tony Pickett is Global Product Manager at Scott Safety. Tony has worked in Product Management at Scott Safety for over 18 years primarily focusing on the Air Supplied range, which includes SCBA, Escape sets and Airline sets, as well as products that provide fire fighters with support and protection such as thermal imaging cameras and accountability equipment