Advertorial: Tait and telent redefine fireground communications

The fire rescue experts at Tait Communications have developed a holistic communications solution specifically for the fireground, providing greater protection of firefighters, increased operational efficiency, and ease of use.

Already selected by East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (ESFRS) to improve the safety of its firefighters on the ground, Tait fire expert and business development manager Richard Russell, and Barry Zielinski, operations & services director at telent Technology Services, explain how fire and rescue services will benefit from this approach.

Can you tell us about the typical challenges of fireground communications?

The digitalisation of incident ground communications can provide key operational benefits. However, in most cases intelligibility is poor due to limitations of analog radios and the limited transmit power they provide. Careful consideration needs to be taken with regards to the proximity of Breathing Apparatus (BA) wearers, who often have zero visibility, the busy and often noisy environment experienced by Entry Control, discreet communications requirements of officers, and the unique needs of Incident Command Units. Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) masks can create communication challenges as they cover the mouth, which affects the clarity and volume of the voice.

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 (due to compact size) and battery performance. The culmination of these factors compromises the ability to communicate, the communications flow and, ultimately, the safety of firefighters.

What do you mean by holistic fire ground solution?

At Tait, we’ve taken a holistic view regarding different users, such as BA wearers, Entry Control Officers, Incident Command Units, and their respective requirements when designing the solution. We have therefore concentrated on accessories like the breathing apparatus, remote speaker microphones, earpieces and batteries. In addition, we’ve focused on providing a high-performing, stable and reliable connection between the entire fireground and the command control centre.

We also incorporated the ATEX Directive 2014/34/EU for intrinsic safety of the whole SCBA radio and accessory communication solution.

What elements does it consist of?

Tait has taken every step to ensure an optimised solution combining radios, accessories and configurable radio features to complement and enhance operational safety and ease of use for every firefighter.

The radios are available in two variants: ATEX radios for the firefighters, and non-ATEX radios for Incident Command Officers and Entry Control Officers (ECOs). At its core, the solution consists of two key elements, the Radios and Remote Speaker Microphone (RSM), although there are a number of other peripheral aspects too.

No firefighter wants to be caught inside a burning building without communications. As mission critical operations depend on reliable and effective coverage, in addition to ensuring greater transmit power, Tait has developed an optimal receiver design. It’s able to outperform analog radios by receiving usable signals as low as -122 dBm, which is typically 4 dB better.

To further enhance the ECO and Incident Command Officers’ communication experience, a range of secondary headsets and earpieces have been selected after careful user trials. They provide hands free operation and exceptional voice communication quality to increase speech intelligibility and discreet communications.

The Tait Unified Vehicle solution will enhance incident ground communications by converting the firefighter vehicle into a network of networks. Tait Unified Vehicle combines multiple radio frequency (RF) 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.

What accessories do you use for the fire solution and why do they make the solution safer?

Specialised audio enhancements, such as the Tait C-C550 Remote Speaker Microphone (RSM), for both ATEX and non-ATEX radios, ensures that voice is captured loudly and clearly for transmission, as it can be positioned at an optimal operational position for the user and easily connected to a radio with a lead routed through the BA harness.

Dual PTT Buttons have been included with the RSM for enhanced safety, as they make it easier to operate the radio in zero visibility. The two buttons are large, providing excellent tactile feedback, and can be operated with either the palm of the hand or fingertips, providing a significant advantage over the existing RSM. There’s also a second PTT button located at the top of the RSM for added safety.

The Tait TP9300 portable radio solution offers a number of enhanced operational features, such as Voice Announcements, which loudly and clearly identify 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.

Audible battery status announcements indicate current capacity at four stages, indicating how long any radio may stay in use before recharge. As battery performance is a crucial safety component, the solution improves upon ESFRS’ batteries and delivers 500mAh (27%) more capacity at 2300mAh. The batteries can also last several hours longer per shift, and the efficient design reduces self-discharge when stowed in vehicles for weeks at a time, which is another key benefit independently verified during early engagement tests by ESFRS project management.

Further safety enhancements of the TP9300 radios include a programmable minimum volume level to ensure received calls will always be heard, preventing users from reducing volume to zero and missing vital calls.

telent recently won the tender to migrate East Sussex FRS from analog to digital DMR Tier II. How will you ensure that the migration goes smoothly and why did telent and ESFRS select the Tait solution for this project?

The solution delivered to ESFRS has been designed in consultation with the service to ensure it can be incorporated seamlessly to meet the specific requirements and challenges it was facing.

Throughout the past 12 months, we have supplied a high degree of consultative support and knowledge transfer. This is based on years of manufacturing and user engagement knowledge, combined with solution design experience, specifically around Fireground Communications, which helped develop proven working solutions for ESFRS.

Following successful simulated incident trials, telent will supply 350 Tait handheld digital radios to ESFRS and provide ongoing support and maintenance of the radios. ESFRS highly appreciated our engagement and I think that this was decisive for them.

telent has already provided successful communications projects to ESFRS, as part of an ICT managed service, so ESFRS was familiar with telent’s reliable and trusted solutions for the emergency services sector. The sector is a key focus for telent and we’re proud to be able to deliver communication services to support fire and rescue services across the country as they carry out their crucial work.

We are also very pleased to be partnering with Tait for Fireground Communications, as they have vast experience in digital migration projects and have proven that they go the extra mile to ensure optimised solutions for their customers.

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