West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, UK
West Sussex Fire Rescue Service (West Sussex FRS), located in the south of England, serves a population of just under one million people.
Their area of operations covers almost 2,000 square kilometers (770 square miles) of forest in the South Downs National Park and large populated areas which include an international airport and popular coastal towns along the English Channel. West Sussex FRS face a variety of complex and specific challenges on a day-to-day basis.
Moreover, they wished to invest in a future-proof digital communications solution that would support their future choice of Breathing Apparatus (BA), whilst providing interoperability with adjacent Fire Rescue Services.
Tait Communications and partner Affini Technology Limited – a pre-qualified supplier to the Crown Commercial Services and supplier of the Tait Fireground Solution – responded to West Sussex FRS’ request.
Working in partnership with West Sussex FRS, a holistic view of the entire fireground was taken, carefully considering each operational task, including BA Wearers, Entry Control, Officers, and Incident Command Unit vehicles. The solution, jointly developed by Tait and Affini, addresses specific issues that this analysis identified.
One key requirement was to simplify and standardize the radios, batteries, and user experience across the fireground – keep it simple!
The solution includes the installation of 12 LMR sites strategically placed throughout the County. Utilizing narrowband UHF channels operating at 22 kbps over-the-air, these “high sites” extend the radio signal far beyond that of low-level infrastructure offering greater range with fewer sites. In addition, the sites were hardened, well-protected and within the secure confines of the Department’s facilities, adding another layer of security.
Each site was equipped with a Tait TB8100 base station radio and RadioMobile 2212 Base Station Controller (BSC) that links the site to the computer aided dispatch (CAD)/AVL network via the IP backhaul. The TB8100 was selected for its selectivity, sensitivity, and adjacent channel interference specifications, ideal for use in high-noise environments like Los Angeles County.
Mobile units and apparatus are equipped with a mobile data computer connected to the network via a Tait TM8100 Mobile Radio that includes an integrated RadioMobile IQModem. The IQ Modem converts data from a digital format into a format suitable for analog transmission. In addition, the Department’s 220 fire stations are each equipped with RadioMobile’s IQ Fire Station Alerting System (IQ FSAS) that utilizes the mobile data network as its primary resource for communicating alerts and information to and from the stations. Again, an integrated TM8100/IQ Modem device receives the data call and passes it to the station hardware for immediate alerting.
Finally, the RadioMobile IQ Mobile Server intelligently switches between available networks to ensure that data is transmitted between communication end points as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
The solution was supplied and implemented to a very high standard by Affini. 400 portable radios with a 50/50 mix of standard and Intrinsically Safe (IS) ATEX-rated radios and accessories were supplied, effectively addressing both safety and operational requirements.
The digital radios comply with the UK FRS National Operational Guidance configuration and are backward compatible with analog radios still used by neighboring Fire Rescue Services, ensuring essential interoperability.
Careful consideration was given to minimize acoustic feedback when implementing enhanced safety features, to prevent loss of communications. All radio configurations are securely managed with the Tait EnableFleet cloud device management tool, providing complete control over the West Sussex FRS fleet of radios.
For BA Wearers, high-powered ATEX IIA radios provide increased protection in hazardous environments, delivering enhanced range and speech quality, with reduced background noise. This is combined with a glove-friendly Blue ATEX Remote Speaker Microphone (RSM), and an option to integrate a future BA Mask upgrade. ATEX IIC 1 Watt radios support staff working in environments containing volatile gases. Specialized Ballistic Headsets were provided to Marauding Terror Attack (MTA) officers.
Entry Control received an upgrade consisting of high-powered red non-ATEX radios, large glove-friendly red RSMs and lightweight noise-cancelling headset, which significantly improves communication with Breathing Apparatus wearers.
Officers also use the red non-ATEX radio with Bluetooth® RSMs and earpieces providing discreet communications. Both BA Wearers and Officers use a common ATEX IIA battery, simplifying the battery choice on the fireground, which is a huge benefit to firefighters.
The Incident Command Unit vehicles were equipped with ‘system grade’ fixed repeaters to extend range and coverage. In addition, ICU operator positions use TAIT AXIOM Mobiles, a converged mobile radio providing narrowband voice for traditional UHF Fireground radio, and 3G/4G broadband data services with an integrated router, WiFi bubble and Long-Range Bluetooth® headsets & PTT for ICU operators. A Voice Recorder records and stores all transmitted and received voice communications onselected channels, and a robust ICT policy protects the recordings with restricted access for training or incident investigation purposes.
The TAIT AXIOM Mobiles Linux operating system enables custom embedded applications to enhance efficiency and provides West Sussex FRS a flexible platform for future digitized operations.
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