Introduction to Unified Critical Communications
The Benefits of Unified Critical Communications
Benefits of Unified Critical Communications for Fire Services
It is no surprise that UCC can help fireground communications in ways that are similar to the UCC benefits derived by Law Enforcement. Multi-device talkgroups, automated asset tracking, keeping everybody connected and better informed, and the positive effect on response times are benefits that Fire, too, can enjoy.
Where Fire differs is that fire events drive a different structure of communications. Policing involves a moderate level of 24/7 patrolling communications with small bursts of intensive activity when incidents arise. Fire communications are fairly quiet until a fire is reported. Then it is ‘all go’ as appliances race to the fire scene, a fireground command post is set up, critical data about the fire scene pours in, an initial size-up is made, a plan of attack is shared, and men and equipment are deployed to bring the blaze under control. The incident commander is in contact with all appliances at the scene and in transit, with firefighters via LMR inside the fire and – via the agency comms network – with HQ. Unified Critical Communications mean that fire commanders and personnel do not lose precious time fighting with technology rather than fires.
Frontline staff still rely on LMR which allows them to intercommunicate using talk around (Direct Mode) even when contact with the command post network is lost. But fire communications systems have ceased to be LMR-only as data and data applications have brought CAD-CAM intelligence, GIS maps, images, and real-time video directly to the command post.
Fires can change their behavior quickly, so close monitoring of the fire, the location and status of firefighters is essential for improving situational awareness and obtaining a positive outcome. Better information, constantly updated and widely shared, can make all the difference. This is easier to achieve when a single device can be enabled on multiple talk paths.
Modern personal protection equipment (PPE) increasingly includes some form of physiological and fatigue monitoring integrated with location tracking (via Bluetooth and WiFi) into a firefighter’s comms unit. Cardiac arrest is still the biggest cause of firefighter casualties, so a system which identifies individuals under stress and alerts the command post of the need to get them out can reduce firefighting casualties dramatically.
With UCC, a command post vehicle can become a communications hub or vehicle area network, combining and coordinating the communications of multiple types and devices, interoperating with EMS or other fire services, and even providing local area communications and applications when contact with the agency network is lost or out of range.