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THE SOLUTION: AUTOMATIC ACCOUNTABILITY


We believe that the best approach is to make personnel accountability an automatic part of on-scene operations, eliminating opportunities for human error where possible and providing continuous tracking without interfering with operations or requiring dedicated personnel. OnSite ERT™ provides this with accurate, real-time tracking of personnel and equipment, automatically, at every scene, with minimal equipment and no change in behavior by responders.
The table below shows the issues that prevent tag systems from working effectively, and how OnSite ERT™ addresses each:


TAG SYSTEM
ONSITE ERT SOLUTION
Firefighters forget to bring their tags Wireless tags are “always on” and kept secure in turn-out gear
Firefighters forget to turn in or retrieve tags Wireless tags are kept with the firefighter at all times, not turned in or retrieved
No one is available to manage tags Firefighter movement is detected automatically; system runs unattended
Only shows who is on scene, not current locations System automatically updates firefighter location by “zone” and displays on screen
Does not track both location and function (assignment) in detail Software automatically tracks zones, and allows AO to add extra information such as assignment or specific location (i.e., floor)
Difficult to manage large scenes Automatic integration between departments, plus reduced radio traffic, eases large scenes
Very difficult to play “catch-up” No catch-up required; system operates unattended from the start of the incident
Information gets outdated Automatic tracking maintains accuracy
Radio communication issues; dead spots, heavy traffic Location tracking doesn’t rely on radio contact
No on-scene history provided System provides a “current activity” tab that shows every firefighters history on scene.
No post-incident documentation Every action is time stamped and available via chronological report after the incident is over

HOW ONSITE ERT™ WORKS


OnSite ERT is a unique combination of proven technologies, including wireless ID tags, portable Drop Readers, and the PAR command software.

Wireless Tags . Each firefighter is assigned a wireless tag containing a globally-unique ID number (for security reasons, no personal data is stored on the tag). The tag is typically kept in the firefighter’s turn-out gear, often in a specially-added shoulder pocket. The tags are “always on” (so no need to remember to switch them on and off), and operate for about 6 months on a pair of AAA batteries. The tags are impact and water resistant, and built to withstand typical fire ground environments.

Drop Readers. Drop Readers (DRs) are small, portable, battery-powered units that detect the wireless ID tags and report them back to the command PC. The DRs can be placed around the scene to track various zones, typically including Staging, Hot Zone A-C, Rehab, and so on (these can be easily redefined to fit different operating procedures). As a firefighter moves around the scene, the DR
s report their general location, displaying a given responder as currently being in Staging or the Hot Zone. The Drop Readers communicate with each other and with the command PC by forming an on-scene wireless network. They have a range of about ½ mile line-of-sight, and will automatically expand and reorganize the network as the DRs or moved or as more arrive on scene. The DRs also include other sensors, specifically including GPS.


PAR Software. The Personnel Accountability Recorder (PAR) software, which runs on a command PC on scene, collects, analyzes and displays the information reported by the Drop Readers. The software indicates which firefighters are on scene and in which zone they are located, updating in real time. Zones are color-coded and all lists are searchable, making it very easy to identify and locate firefighters and equipment on demand.

An accountability officer can simply monitor the display, responding to automatic warnings and alarms (i.e., timed PARs), and using the searching, historical tracking, mapping and other features as needed to maintain an accurate, up-to-date understanding of the fire ground for the duration of the event.

SCALABILITY VIA ERT CENTRAL™

Even within a single department, maintaining accountability is a daunting task; when dealing with a mutual-aid or regional response event, the problem escalates dramatically. Many of the responders may be unknown to the Incident Commander, and the equipment and skill sets unfamiliar.

To help in this situation, OnSite ERT was designed for seamless scalability. Every wireless tag is globally unique, and can be read by any Drop Reader regardless of department. Drop Readers brought to the scene by separate departments will automatically and seamlessly join an existing network, providing tracking across larger and larger scenes as necessary.

ERT Central™ provides additional benefits in the case where a department has Internet connectivity, either at the station or when deployed at the fire ground. ERT Central is a single, off-site database of all OnSite ERT users which:

  •  Automatically synchronizes mutual-aid and neighboring department’s equipment & personnel rosters, ensuring up-to-date information between partners

  • Recognize and look up “unknown” tags as they arrive on scene, downloading and displaying the responder’s credentials or equipment load-out
  • Collect and analyze response data (stripped of personal identifying data) for historical archive and reporting, and inter-departmental comparison and research

CONCLUSION

There is a general consensus among professional Fire Chiefs that ID tag systems, the most commonly-used personnel accountability today, are largely ineffective in providing accurate and reliable information. They realize and understand that the lack of that information while deployed on scene has a direct and serious impact on firefighter safety. But they also acknowledge that manual accountability solutions rely too heavily on personnel and operational procedures to be effective in the dynamic environment of an on-scene deployment.

Still, personnel accountability is often considered a “second-tier” problem, compounded by the fact that while significant technological advances have been made in other areas (S.C.B.A.s, T.I.C.s), the most commonly-available technological solutions for personnel accountability (i.e., bar-code readers) still don’t address the core weakness and limitations of manual accountability tracking. Some electronic systems have begun to appear, but these are just partial solutions that offer, at best, a small improvement (i.e., “on scene” visibility, but without location or assignment tracking) while still requiring dedicated personnel and/or cumbersome manual processes.

To best meet the needs of Fire Response, the ideal solution must reside “in the background”, with minimal operational changes and unattended operation. It must keep information up-to-date, accurate, and readily accessible, remaining completely unobtrusive when not needed, but immediately available when the demand occurs.

Incident Commanders are often overloaded with information as they strive to make informed decisions about mission-critical operations. Key to this is having accurate, up-to-date detail about what personnel are on scene, individual credentials, and current locations, assignments, and availability. OnSite ERTTM is able to provide all of this information on demand with little or no changes to operational procedures, making it not just the best personnel accountability system available, but a powerful incident management tool as well.

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