Delivering a totally scalable and flexible ‘connected fleet’ solution for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service
As fire and rescue services go, not many can be more diverse and geographically challenging than Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS).
Covering around two thirds of the country and approximately 4,500 square miles (12,000 square km), the service employs more than 1,400 personnel, has 58 stations and has to manage and maintain both urban and rural demographics. With 910,000 people living in 431,000 households, MAWWFRS also works to Welsh Language Standards imposed by the Welsh Language Commissioner.
The service also encounters a whole array of risks that in part are unique. From petrochemical industrialisation in areas such as Milford Haven and densely populated southwest coast with Swansea and Neath Port Talbot in close proximity, to the sweeping rural farming community, extensive coastline and inland waterways, the challenges fire and rescue personnel face on a daily basis calls for extensive management underpinned by the latest technology.
Like most fire and rescue services, the challenge wasn’t just to procure the right equipment and technology, moreover it was to obtain a solution to overcome daily common challenges, which would ultimately be underpinned by technology.
There was a real and definite requirement for MAWWFRS to vastly improve situational awareness and being able to reliable track personnel – including location within a building or when deployed at a whole host of incidents – from industrial and forest fires through to water rescue operations.
One clear issue, that has been brought into sharp contrast with recent events such as the Manchester Arena bombing and the Grenfell Tower fire, was that post-incident enquiries had focused on weaknesses in individual and multi-agency communications. And the ability to seamlessly receive and share real-time data and operational information to support decision-making has become even more critical.
What was severely lacking, was the availability of a network infrastructure within these environments to enable the instantaneous live feed, relay and sharing of data – including live voice and video.
A further challenge to overcome was the ability to take the technology, and the network infrastructure, ‘beyond the vehicle’. In essence, MAWWFRS required a non-fixed and flexible ‘connectivity anywhere’ solution to be able to be deployed anywhere within the incident ground.
- Real-time tracking of fire fighters within buildings and their proximity to prevailing hazards
- The mobile technology to allow the tracking of fire fighters, which can instantly create a ‘digital network’ to share information at all incident locations
- A software solution that enables seamless data collection, access and sharing across emergency responders and partner agencies.
Developing the ‘connected fleet’
- To align with MAWWFRS’s very specific requirements, Excelerate had to provide solutions that both drew upon its current portfolio of products and services, and more crucially, use its breadth of experience in R&D, and collaborate with other partners to deliver tailored integrated solutions, some of which, including Linx Hub, are now being utilised across other emergency services and first responder clients across the UK.Moreover, the requirements enabled Excelerate to deliver on its ethos and mission to provide its ever-growing customer base with a ‘connected fleet’ solution, and supplied MAWWFRS with:Vehicle-based 4G/WIFI connectivity inclusive of GPS tracking for:
- 1 command support unit, fully integrated with 4G / WIFI / satellite and briefing screen inclusive of GPS tracking
- 12 Pumps
- 4 officer cars
- 5 SRT water response vehicles
- 3 turntable ladders
- 16 Skodas
- 6 Ford Rangers
In addition, to fulfil the connected fleet solution, Excelerate provided:
- Multiple portable WIFI bubbles (Linx Hub) inclusive of GPS tracking
- Pooled and unsteered SIM cards, enabling roaming and providing access to any of the UK networks onboard the vehicles
- “One of the key elements that we needed to address to make this work was having the network infastructure across any type of location and environment to allow the data to be transmitted and used on the fire ground and remotely.”
Spokesperson for MAWWFRS
- Dual SIM bodyworn cameras for live streaming of video and to track personnel across the incident ground and within the incident ground software
Integral collaboration, scalability and flexibility
Much of what Excelerate delivered, and indeed developed through R&D as a direct requirement to fulfil a need, tied into MAWWFRS’s Transformation2020 “T20” Digitisation programme. Excelerate worked successfully as part of a consortium to deliver an incident ground technology system and connectivity provision to deliver scalable and reliable connectivity for responder devices operating or seamlessly linking to cloud-based software.
And, in doing so, Excelerate collaborated with other key stakeholder partners such as Unblur, whose IRIS Core platform, underpinned by Excelerate’s reliable communications infrastructure and connectivity eco-system, ensured an ‘always on’ solution to improve on-scene situational awareness, interoperability and operational outcomes for first responders.
The vision of T20, coupled with the development of robust and effective relationships with leading technology partners such as Excelerate Technology and Unblur, has led to a leading-edge solution that has since set the blueprint of how to address national recommendations following the Manchester bombings and the Grenfell Tower fire.
Spotlight focus: Linx Hub
Linx Hub was developed to work in conjunction with the technology in MAWWFRS’s incident command unit (ICU) and fit seamlessly within the existing connectivity solution. The portability of the Linx Hub enables it to be deployed quickly in an incident ground as a communication resource when the ICU is not there.
If and when the ICU becomes part of the response, applications can seamlessly switch over to the ICU solution.
Should the ICU or any vehicle be unable to reach an incident ground, the Linx Hub enables first responders, incident commanders and attending crew to access the data and applications they require to manage the situation effectively – without the need for additional equipment.
The portable design allows teams to access connectivity in far more remote locations than previously possible. It also supports multi-agency collaboration, allowing additional response teams to connect and access the applications they require.
The inception, development and delivery of Linx Hub came about as a direct result of Excelerate Technology reacting to an identified need to fully meet all user requirements. IN particular, the fixed router solution provides a resilient, instantly available core communications infrastructure which is augmented by the SIM-enabled devices and hubs.
Spotlight focus: Shall we shine the spotlight on any other products / solutions?
- A fully connected fleet strategy comprising of 53 vehicles
- Linx Hub – a portable WIFI ‘bubble’ borne out of MAWWFRS’s specific requirements
- A connected solution that’s scalable, flexible and proven to work with third party situational awareness / command software
- Full training provided on the complete solution
- Fully inclusive service and maintenance provision for the complete solution