Improving the safety and efficiency of First Responders: The benefits of the INGENIOUS high-end technologies from SBFF’s point of view
SBFF is one of the three largest fire and rescue brigades in Sweden. We cover 10 municipalities with 650.000 inhabitants in the southern parts of Stockholm County. With roughly 500 staff members, we have a large capacity, ranging from volunteer stations to specialized National Search and Rescue Units.
We are at the frontier, nationwide, utilizing members of the public that respond to incidents in areas where the response time would otherwise be longer. Civil responders participate on a volunteer basis but are equipped and trained by us to do a first assessment and life-saving tasks. Τhis summer a specially trained task force from this group will support us with wildfires, should the need arise.
SBFF has a long tradition of testing and developing tools on every level, from hands-on equipment for firefighters during an incident to support systems for command and situation awareness. Although we do not yet have UAV (commonly known as drones) within our organization, we are active in the community and are on the frontline when it comes to the legal, licensing and technical aspects.
With this mindset, it is only natural for our organization to participate in Horizon 2020 EU projects. Currently, we are running INGENIOUS and ASSISTANCE, and many of our current and previous partners have asked us to participate in the latest Call for H2020 for yet another project.
If you are interested to see where we are located, please click on the map. Yellow dots show the locations of our civil responders. For the interactive map, please click on the link.
As an end user within INGENIOUS, we are engaged throughout the whole process from defining our requirements/wishes to testing and evaluating. The second half of last year was hectic, as we were responsible for writing the end user requirement document, that is an important cornerstone within the project. Everything else is built on this document, from what we actually want the tools to do to how they technically need to be designed to meet the requirements and needs. As part of this process, we hosted a physical workshop in Stockholm before the world went into lockdown.
Scouting testing sites
We are now entering into a more resource-demanding period of the INGENIOUS project where the project will test the tools developed throughout a series of laboratory and field tests. All in all, 47 tests will take place over the remaining two years of the project’s life cycle and we will participate in 18 of them.
Next year SBFF will host three of these tests in Sweden. Recently we met with the Swedish Rescue and Contingency Agency (MSB) to plan how this can take place at their biggest training center in the south of Sweden. The facility is large, with many different sites and buildings that can be adapted to the specific needs for the testing/training of not only firefighters but all types of first responders. As a whole, within two weeks almost all INGENIOUS partners will participate in one or several of these tests.
For this, we have formed a pool of experts, that normally work operationally as firefighters, station officers and senior officers. This will assure that we can send the most suitable competent people to several tests at the same time.
Within our organization and the INGENIOUS project, gender equality and its aspects are important. Compared to both European end users and national end user organizations, we have a relatively high number of female operational staff and work continuously on keeping and increasing the number of women within our organization. When new positions open, gender aspects are always highly prioritized. Therefore, our expert group is 50/50 when it comes to gender composition and more specifically women hold 12-13% of operational positions.
Volunteer firefighters have a normal job on the side and need to be at the fire station within five minutes when dispatched. This is how Anna started her career 15 years ago. She is now working as a senior officer and responsible for developing our tactical responses and part of our internal instructor team.
Even though it is early in the season for wildfires we have already experienced several fires where we have had to call in helicopters to assist. Here it would have been very beneficial to use the tools that are being developed within INGENIOUS for better tactical information using UAVs and sensors mounted on uniforms on the personnel on the ground.
Our neighbouring fire brigade has a specialized unit with advanced chemical indication and are experts on detection and handling of chemical incidents. They are one of several specialized units that are shared between the fire brigades within the county. SBFF also has one unit that can bring equipment to handle chemicals and sanitize equipment, victims, and personnel on the site of the accident. These two units will always be dispatched when chemicals are involved to work together since within our region we have several SEVESO chemical plants and their expertise is needed from time to time.
Tools being developed within INGENIOUS will greatly improve our and all our European colleagues’ capability to respond to, and handle chemical incidents in a safe manner with enhanced situational awareness in order to protect our personnel and our citizens.