The Incident Command Unit supplied by WH Bence to Cleveland Fire employs a new concept. Cleveland Fire’s remit to Bence was to create an Incident Command Unit (ICU) that took advantage of the latest technology to provide genuine value to managing an incident, whilst ensuring that the internal space and layout could be multifunctional. Cleveland FRS required meeting room facilities, communications stations and the ability to create closed areas for security briefings.
Often ICU vehicles have ended up being too complex, needing ongoing operator training and expensive support and are therefore under-utilised. However, the Bence solution for the new Cleveland ICU changed all that. W H Bence, as main contractor for the project provided coach building expertise and worked in close co-operation with RedFoot who supplied the technology. The two worked together with Vector Command, who provided the command software to integrate the whole process from the start.
The completed vehicle meets all the functional requirements expected, such as a dedicated control centre, a conferencing facility and a command area. With Bence’s know-how the ICU is powered by an efficient generator built into a bespoke sound proofed locker. CFRS staff on board work in an environment uninterrupted by the noise and vibrations of the power generator. However the Brigade’s ultimate vision was for the vehicle to operate in “real time”.
Normally the ICU arrives after initial operational assets have been at the scene of an incident for a while; and then begins an administrative exercise to build a picture of risks, decisions, resources and personnel accountability.
Through the technology embedded on the Cleveland ICU, all the incident information accumulated is “pulled in” on arrival from mobile tablet PCs being issued to all front line appliances. This is done seamlessly as soon as the ICU is within Wi-Fi range. The vehicle creates a secure Wi-Fi bubble for authorised access, which can be extended over significant distances. It can feed video from any source to any screen or tablet; data from anywhere to anywhere; interface with HQ or others via SIP phone or radio or video conferencing. The information on the Incident Command System is networked to any Brigade PC that has the appropriate level of access. This has opened up opportunities to share the real time common operating picture at all levels of command, improving interoperability and inter-agency data sharing. It does it in an uncomplicated, intuitive way that leaves operators free to concentrate on the incident rather than on the technology.
Step on board the Cleveland ICU and the first thing you see is the incident. Large touch screens dominate the internal command area allowing the commander and staff to display any aspect of the incident at the touch of a finger. Working with Vector Command means intuitive handling of the incident, with every action logged automatically. Meanwhile the external briefing area features a large screen that can be operated from inside or out.
On-board the vehicle, new resilient power management systems coupled with the silent RedFoot PC’s and systems deliver a much quieter working environment with a significantly extended operating span when working on batteries alone. By supplying new high capacity satellite bandwidth, there is always sufficient capacity for all of the systems.
The simplified operation means that the training cost and requirement is hugely reduced; crews can operate the vehicle intuitively (a bit like using a big iPad); therefore the vehicle gets used more frequently and effectively. The combined Bence/RedFoot support is provided through one contact number regardless of the problem; and real value for money (based on average cost per incident) is achieved and delivered.
The ICU also brings with it an improvement in resilience cutting across communications networks and the Fire Control function. In the future, the ICU will have the capability to become a ‘Secondary Fire Control Room’ and WH Bence, RedFoot and Vector Command have worked effectively with the Brigade in order to make that vision a reality.
In summary, Mick Picknett – Head of Resilience at Cleveland Fire says: “People should not be fooled into thinking that complexity equals effectiveness or cleverness. Having an ICU that delivers every piece of communication and information you could want, exactly where you want it, but in a way that normal fire personnel can understand and work with – now that really is effective. We use this vehicle day in and day out already”.