Feeling the heat during training – manikins with thermal imaging capabilities

Ruth Lee report on creating a thermal imaging suit, allowing for faster and more accurate body searches in poor visibility environments, including urban search and rescue

Often in search and rescue operations, time is critical. The faster a casualty is located, the more likely it is to see a positive outcome and technology is increasingly playing an important role in improving the speed and efficiency of search and rescue.

In recent years, thermal imaging technology has come on in leaps and bounds with some fantastic equipment available on the market… but the technology is only as good as the person using it and, therefore, regular training is an essential part of the process when introducing new tech into operations.

By default, poor visibility environments are dangerous places… and the same goes for search and rescue operations in the great outdoors. It is often unsafe and impractical to expect a volunteer to ‘hang around’ waiting for rescue teams to practise the ‘search’ element of their training. No one wants to wait in a smoke-filled building (even artificial smoke from our Fireware fire simulation kits) or wait patiently on an exposed mountain slope, or crouch under rubble for urban search and rescue.

As manufacturers of rescue training manikins for the past quarter of a century, we have been asked many times in recent years about creating a thermal imaging manikin which would safely replace the requirement for volunteer casualties in complex or dangerous search and rescue training.

After researching thermal imaging within the search and rescue sector, we realised that we could bring this capability to our manikins, without the need for a new manikin model. Instead we created a thermal imaging suit, allowing for faster and more accurate body searches in poor visibility environments within the Fire Service, including the wide range of search and rescue operations undertaken.

Creating a Realistic and Safe Casualty

Realism in training is something we constantly strive to achieve at Ruth Lee Ltd. All of our products are created with the aim of providing a realistic training scenario and our range has developed over the years to encompass many aspects of operational firefighter training – from BA snatch rescues and fitness assessment, to technical rescues such as confined space, flood rescue and working at height. So, the development of a thermal suit had this same end goal – to provide an accurate representation of a human form visible to thermal imaging equipment.

The Ruth Lee Thermal Suit was extensively tested by several UK based fire and rescue services, including Severn Park Training Centre. During testing, the FLIR thermal imaging cameras were used.

The Thermal Suit can be used with any adult Ruth Lee Manikin (up to 90kg) and can be pre-heated prior to use, maintaining an effective heat signature for approximately one to two hours (depending on ambient temperature – the battery life will deplete faster in colder temperatures), or alternatively, the battery is attached in a holster on the side of the leg.

Having the battery attached prolongs the usage time to approximately three to four hours (depending on ambient temperature), especially useful for search and rescue or urban search and rescue operations.

On land and at sea…

The capability for Thermal Imaging Training does not just stay on dry land. Therefore, as part of the development process we also created a thermal imaging hood which can be worn by any adult Ruth Lee Water Rescue manikin, and which allows water rescue teams to search large expanses of open water with a visible heat signature tested up to 2000ft.

For more information about either of these two great new products contact the team at Ruth Lee Ltd on: 01490 413 282; or email: mail@ruthlee.co.uk

Software suite supports agile working

Infographics report that Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service has become the latest UK fire and rescue service to adopt its market leading FireWatch fire service management suite, in another major client ‘win’

The FireWatch deployment will include modules to support human resource planning and management, holidays/absence/sickness management, time management, training and development, and self-service.

Infographics will be providing the software via the FireWatch Cloud, which is a fully managed agile service underpinned by Microsoft Azure. Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service users will be able to access the solution from anywhere at any time via multiple options that best suit their role.

The service will also benefit from the FireWatch cross-platform App for Android and Apple iOS, SMS text interfaces, Web and other clients to further support their requirements to enable a modern, flexible workforce.

Infographics was awarded the contract following a publicly advertised competitive tendering process, building on other recent FireWatch success through sales to new and existing clients across the UK.

Judi Beresford, Director of Corporate Services at Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “With a diverse workforce of over 800 members of staff, working at locations spread across the county and working several different shift patterns, we needed a HR management system that was as flexible and agile as our employees.

“Developments in technology mean people are more connected than they have ever been, using mobile technology to access information instantly. This appetite and need to be connected is by no means limited to people’s personal lives, they expect the same level of accessibility at work too.

“We are excited to be launching FireWatch, a bespoke HR platform for the fire and rescue sector, and know that it will not only add value to our employees’ experience of accessing their own personal data, but it will also add value to the service, allowing more efficient and effective HR planning and management of information.”

Russell Wood, Commercial Manager at Infographics, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to work in partnership with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service and welcome them into the FireWatch family.

“This is an exciting project involving the deployment of our leading technology, including our cross-platform mobile phone and tablet app, and taking advantage of our FireWatch Microsoft Azure Cloud platform. We are confident that it will help Derbyshire make a real difference in terms of supporting an agile workforce, managing risk and increasing efficiency across its operations.”

For more about FireWatch and Prevent + Protect, visit: www.firewatch.co.uk. For more about Infographics, visit: www.infographics.co.uk

Smoke alarm specialist secures triple award win

Aico report on winning three awards at the Shropshire Chamber of Commerce Business Awards

Aico were shortlisted for a record-breaking five awards at the virtual awards ceremony, Aico were triple winners, scooping the Workplace Health and Wellbeing award, Corporate and Environmental Responsibility award and the coveted Company of the Year award.

Aico Managing Director Neal Hooper with Shropshire Chamber CEO, Richard Sheehan

The Workplace Health and Wellbeing award is given to the company that recognises the importance of both the physical and mental wellbeing of their staff through management-backed initiatives and staff training. Aico demonstrate the importance they place on wellbeing through the input from colleagues on the design of the workplace, incorporating a relaxation room, games room and gym for staff to unwind. Aico also have a dedicated team of trained mental health first aiders that provide a weekly stand-down afternoon to promote the importance of speaking openly about mental health and reducing the stigma associated.

Aico also won the Corporate and Environmental Responsibility award for their commitment to sustainability and continual improvement of their environmental efforts. Through evaluating and developing products, services, waste and energy usage, Aico strive to reduce their overall environmental impact.

Finally, Aico were awarded the coveted Company of the Year award for flying the flag for Shropshire business excellence. Aico are the market leader in domestic fire and carbon monoxide protection, with turnover increasing each year and even doubling every five years. Aico’s core ethos is education, quality, service and innovation, a culture that translates to every part of the business.

Managing Director Neal Hooper commented: “We are delighted to have been shortlisted for no less than five awards, to then go on to win three awards, including Company of the Year is astounding. We are a strong company of good people doing their best, to achieve this recognition is great. Thank you to all at the Shropshire Chamber for a superb evening and congratulations to all of our fellow winners.”

The Shropshire Chamber of Commerce Business Awards recognise successful businesses in the county. This year, the awards were held virtually to celebrate the adaptability, resilience and innovation of Shropshire businesses.

Home pillow alarm to wake hard of hearing

Fire technology innovators, Geofire, report on launching the Deaf Alert, a safety device for the deaf and hard of hearing

The Deaf Alert is a digital, vibrating pillow alarm that uses ‘listening’ technology to activate on the specific sound of a home smoke alarm.

Geofire has manufactured fire safety products in the UK since 1972. The Deaf Alert will join the Agrippa acoustic product line which includes the battery powered fire door holder and closer. The acoustic technology used among Agrippa’s wire-free products allows the unit to learn the specific sound of the smoke alarm ensuring activation upon hearing only the specific sound rather than any loud noise.

In the event of the smoke alarm sounding, the Deaf Alert unit wakes the user by displaying a visual ‘FIRE’ warning, flashing high intensity LED lights and vibrating the pad under the user’s pillow.

A shocking statistic from the Home Office reported that house fires without a working smoke alarm are around eight times more likely to result in a fatality. As one in six people in the UK are living with hearing loss, a staggering amount of the population is vulnerable in the event of a house fire.

Andy Collinson, CEO at Geofire, said: “We are proud to launch the Deaf Alert and extend our innovative fire safety product offering into the home. Since the launch of the original Agrippa Pillow Alarm into hotels and commercial buildings in 2015, the demand for a product that could offer the same peace of mind in the home was staggering.

“During a time where more people are at home than ever before, it is an honour to be able to provide a solution that protects as well as solves a problem for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

“Thanks to our distributors and online retailers, we have been able to ensure our products are available and accessible to all online during the pandemic.”

Powered by mains, with a backup battery supply, the Deaf Alert ensures fail-safe operation should power be lost and requires next to no installation. The compact and unimposing unit includes a LED time display and alarm clock function.

The Deaf Alert is available to buy online and through a network of approved distributors.

Visit: www.geofire.co.uk

Embracing digital transformation to help firefighters

Microsoft Stories Podcast report on how Chief Fire Officer Chris Davies, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, talked about how his service are using the latest technology to help its firefighters at incidents and in their training in the ninth episode of the podcast

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service is one of the largest fire services in the UK. It looks after 12,000 square kilometres that includes numerous mountains and 650 kilometres of coastline. It is also an organisation steeped in tradition. So when Chris Davies became Chief Fire Officer, he made it his mission to drag it into the 21st century. Now, the firefighters are using Microsoft Surface devices to help them free people trapped in car accidents, and HoloLens to provide remote training.

You will hear from Chris in this podcast, as well as Ryan Lewis, Microsoft’s National Technology Strategist for all the public sector organisations in Wales, about how the country is increasingly embracing digital transformation.

View the podcast at: https://news.microsoft.com/en-gb/2021/01/18/microsoft-stories-podcast-episode-9-mid-and-west-wales-fire-and-rescue-service/

Insights from the field: Preventing failure

FLIR reports on the diverse applications of thermal technology in security, safety, and equipment protection for critical infrastructure

Thermal cameras are not only used to safeguard property and people but also to protect mission-critical equipment. At manufacturing plants, maintenance teams want to aggregate data to continually evaluate an asset’s health and know if it is about to fail. Production managers are keen to catch process anomalies that result in faulty products or packaging before these products leave the production line. Safety managers need to detect excessive heat build-up on fuel, hazardous material and electrical components before combustion occurs and a fire breaks out. By deploying thermal cameras for condition monitoring, process control and fire prevention applications, plant managers ensure maximum uptime and avoid catastrophic events.

Why Thermal?

Because temperature changes, non-uniform temperature profiles, or a hotspot area can be an early indicator of equipment deterioration, thermal automation cameras are a premier choice for plant managers. Radiometric thermal cameras yield a temperature value for every pixel in an image and clearly visualise the temperature differences of a surveyed area. Upon exceeding a specific temperature threshold, a thermal automation camera sends an alarm, or, if integrated with other control processes, triggers an action to deescalate the situation.

FLIR automation cameras in action

FLIR offers an array of radiometric thermal cameras that are highly effective automation solutions. Here are three examples of how FLIR automation cameras made a difference for critical facilities in the industrial sector.

Steel Mill and Condition Monitoring: Few equipment failures are as dangerous and damaging as a steel breakout at a steel mill, where a ladle or torpedo enclosure ruptures and pours out hundreds of tons of 1,400°C (2,552°F) molten iron onto the plant floor. Because hotspots can occur on this machinery in less than a minute, engineer service company ANT Automation provides its steel mill customers with a Continuous Infrared Analysis (CIRA) platform. The cornerstone of the CIRA solution is reliable thermal imaging from a FLIR automation camera, which monitors the entire surface of ladles and torpedoes; it provides historical temperature data to distinguish between typical splashes and hotspots and sends an alarm to personnel to act upon true hotspot detection. As a result, ANT Automation customers experience heightened equipment protection, cheaper insurance premiums, and greater peace of mind.

Paper Mill and Process Control: At paper mills, calendaring – or the process of putting paper webs through hard pressure rollers to smooth the paper – is important. However, excess moisture can occur on the paper web between the rollers, damaging roll covers and causing downtime. One North American paper manufacturer experienced an average of 30 moisture events annually where each event equated to $100,000 in losses. To remedy the situation, the manufacturer turned to Eigen, an AI-enabled vision solution provider. Eigen provided a platform that featured FLIR automation cameras, an edge computing device, and analytics software. The FLIR cameras continuously monitor the paper web prior to it entering the calender machine and upon detection of cold streaks, trigger an unload alarm so that calendar stacks are opened and roll covers are cleaned. Eigen estimates its automation solution will result in 300 unloads for a total savings of $1.2 million.

Waste Facility and Fire Prevention – Based in the town of Legnago in Northern Italy, Ecologica Tredi operates an 11,000 square metre facility that specialises in the recovery and treatment of special, hazardous, and non-hazardous waste. Should material combust and cause a fire at the plant, the consequences include unwanted pollutants released into the environment, damaged equipment and lengthy business interruptions. To enhance workplace safety and meet regulation compliance, Ecologica Tredi partnered with Thermostick Elettrotecnica, which specialises in unconventional fire detection systems. Thermostick Elettrotecnica provided a comprehensive monitoring control and alarm system based on FLIR automation cameras. These FLIR cameras monitor work and storage areas and upon specified alarm events, can activate sprinklers or cannons. Thermostick Elettrotecnica also deployed a FLIR AX8 camera to survey material on the conveyor belt coming out of a shredder. Upon identifying abnormally high temperatures, the belt stops. After completing its audit of the facility, the Ministry of Interior said Ecologica Tredi was one of the most equipped for fire prevention.

These are just a few deployments that demonstrate how automation solutions, like the FLIR A400/A700 Smart Thermal Sensor camera, can be used to avoid unplanned outages, production line shutdowns, fires, and other “surprise” events that cause substantial disruptions and financial loss.

For more information visit: www.flir.com

Norfolk’s digital radio upgrade

Radiocoms Systems Ltd report on Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service awarding their long-standing partners Radiocoms Systems Ltd and Entel with a contract to deploy a digital radio upgrade across their 42 stations

Speaking about the contract, Steve Mulka, Entel, Global Product Manager, commented: “Working closely with the team at Norfolk FRS and after a rigorous evaluation process related to fireground trials for suitability the Entel DX485 and DT985 series were found to meet all the required parameters.”

As part of the fire service’s digital transformation plans, several hundred hand portables will modernise Norfolk’s FRS, offering a specification to meet and exceed the hazards they will encounter in their field of operation. Entel’s technical support team have demonstrated their adaptability as an organisation by tailoring the devices’ configuration to meet the exact requirements of the brigade. This included:

  • Audio optimisation for direct lead connection to Draeger COM 5000 – ensuring the best audio clarity and quality in both digital and analogue modes when used with breathing apparatus
  • Simplified asset management of the brigade’s radios – ensures radios are returned to the correct station/user after a multi-station incident response
  • Enhanced user interface including custom sounds, voice annunciation and LED behaviour.

Other key benefits included the radios extreme ruggedness and IP68 (two metres for four hours) submersibility rating, high quality loud audio, easy to read OLED display and future-proof design.

Working together, Radiocoms and Entel will continue to provide an ongoing service and support to the Brigade.

Perry Smith, Technical Support Officer, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service has been using Entel devices for their fireground communications since 2006. In this time, we have progressed through several different models and have found that the quality and performance offered by each of the Entel products to be of a very high standard. Over the last two years, we have been working with Entel to develop a digital product, tailoring the software to specifically meet our requirements as a fire and rescue service.

“The DX485 and the intrinsically safe DT985 digital models have been selected for our latest migration and both have been configured to allow us to come in line with National Operational Guidance relating to incident ground communications. This will help to future-proof our inventory of radios, thereby enhancing firefighter safety and ensuring our preparedness for the wide variety of incidents that we attend.”