The combination of the extreme conditions of a fireground and handling the necessary PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) makes the environment for effective communications exceedingly challenging. To address these challenges, the fire rescue experts at Tait developed a communications solution that provides greater protection of firefighters, increased operational efficiency, and ease of use.
A partner specializing in the effective operation of the UK’s critical national infrastructure recently won the tender to migrate East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) from analog to digital DMR Tier II. For this new safety-critical communications solution, a Tait fireground solution was selected because it could be incorporated seamlessly to meet the specific communication requirements and challenges ESFRS was facing.
The Typical Challenges of Fireground Communications
For services such as ESFRS, the key issues that often cause poor communications are acoustic feedback caused by two radios operating in close proximity, difficult to use audio accessories because they are too small or the PPE prohibits effective use, and battery performance. As a result of these issues, the ability to communicate, the communications flow and, ultimately, the safety of firefighters is compromised.
To tackle these issues, Tait took every step to ensure an optimized solution that combines radios, accessories and configurable radio features to enhance operational safety and ease of use for firefighters. It was crucial to provide a high-performing, stable and reliable connection between the entire fireground and the command control center. To achieve this, special attention was given to optimizing accessories like the breathing apparatus, remote speaker microphones, earpieces and batteries.
The Elements of the Fireground Solution
At its core, the solution Tait engineered consists of two key elements; a radio and a Remote Speaker Microphone (RSM), complemented by other peripheral aspects. The ATEX Directive 2014/34/EU was incorporated for Intrinsic Safety of the radios and accessories.
The radios are available in two variants: Tait TP9361 Intrinsically Safe ATEX radios for the firefighters, and non-ATEX TP9300 radios for Incident Command Officers and Entry Control Officers (ECOs). The TP9300 series radios offers a number of enhanced operational features, such as Voice Annunciation, which loudly and clearly identifies the radio type when first switched on, the selected channel when it’s changed, and the battery status, mitigating the risk of user error and enhancing firefighter safety.
Further safety enhancements of the TP9300 series radios include a programmable minimum volume level, preventing users from reducing volume to zero and missing vital calls.
After careful user trials, a range of audio accessories were selected for the solution; the Tait C-C550 RSM for firefighters on the front-line, high-performance headsets and earpieces for Incident Command Officers and ECOs, and high-capacity batteries. The Tait C-C550 RSM can be placed at an optimal position for the user and easily connected to a radio. Two large PTT Buttons have been included for enhanced safety, providing excellent tactile feedback to make it easier to operate radios in zero visibility.
The efficient, higher capacity batteries last several hours longer per shift, and the reduce self-discharge when stowed in vehicles for weeks at a time – another key benefit that was highlighted during early engagement tests by ESFRS project management.
Tait Unified Vehicle
Tait Unified Vehicle enhances incident ground communications by converting the firefighter vehicle into a network of networks. It combines multiple communications bearers and integrates these into a compact vehicle mounted mobile radio. Tait Unified Vehicle is capable of Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) and analog radio communications, whilst integrating Wi-Fi, 3G/4G/LTE and Bluetooth for extra connectivity.
The solution was designed and delivered in consultation with ESFRS to ensure it met and exceeded all their communication and safety requirements. Throughout the past 12 months, a high degree of consultative support and knowledge transfer was supplied by telent and Tait engineers.
Tait provides this support based on years of manufacturing and user engagement knowledge combined with solution design experience, specifically around Fireground Communications, which helped develop the proven solution for ESFRS.
Following successful simulated incident trials, ESFRS will deploy 350 Tait handheld digital radios and receive ongoing support and maintenance of the radios.
Learn more about what Tait is doing to support Fire Services around the world, with Solutions for Fire & Emergency.