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Verint video technology gives NIFRS a clearer view of fire fighting incidents

Published on 3 August 2011
Verint logo, Verint technology is being used by fie and rescue crews in Northern Ireland
Verint's video surveillance system provides a great tool for debriefing fire and rescue trainees

Fire and rescue crews in Northern Ireland are using advanced video surveillance technology from Verint Systems to fight fires more effectively and help reduce risk to their officers.

The Verint technology, which forms an essential part of a new fast-deployable communications solution for the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS), enables live video of an incident to be relayed both to a Command Support Unit (CSU) at the scene and back to central command suite at Headquarters, from locations in Ireland and potentially anywhere across the globe.

NIFRS serves the entire population of Northern Ireland, providing them with a range of fire and rescue services. It is the only regional Fire Service in the UK, and the only one with an international frontier where the Service attends incidents along the border with the Republic of Ireland.Thanks to Verint, images from rugged pan tilt zoom (PTZ) cameras mounted onto a command vehicle, tripod units, or aerial ladder platforms (ALPs) can be viewed locally or transmitted securely to headquarters or other ‘gold’ locations where senior commanders can provide strategic support to the commander on the incident ground.

Use of this technology on ALPs has proved especially effective in that they can relay both thermal and optical images, looking down on a scene to identify ‘hot spots’ or hazards such as building integrity failure, gas cylinders in need of priority attention, or to identify people who may still be trapped inside a burning building.

“When managing an incident which requires a large number of firefighters, safety is paramount,” explains Robin Bigger, Assistant Group Commander with NIFRS who leads the Command Support Unit project. “The CSUs provide us with an important component within a safe system of work, and with pictures and audio transmitted from the incident this offers the incident commander enhanced situational awareness in order to manage the situation and available resources most effectively.

“Incident imaging, incident command applications and firefighter risk critical information, such as knowledge about chemical hazards, CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) data, locations of stored gas cylinders and building floor plans can be exchanged within the incident environment and with HQ or other locations. In fact, using latest satellite technology, these images can be relayed instantly across the globe.”

Verint Systems’ encoding technology and Nextiva video management software was recommended to NIFRS by Verint Partner 802 Global. “We have worked with Verint on a number of similar specialist projects,” says Simon Twigg, Technical Director, Special Projects Group, 802 Global. “Their encoders have the performance, reliability and stability that we were looking for. They are also easy to integrate with other technologies as part of a wider solution.

“The Nextiva Video Management Software is similarly proven,” he continues, “and implemented in a great many CCTV environments. The development of its new remote access capability – the Nextiva Web Review – is particularly beneficial, providing greatly enhanced flexibility and control and the opportunity of reviewing images anywhere in the world.”

The Nextiva Review Application is easy to use by the operators controlling the system. “It works on a ‘one switch one light’ scenario, where start up is simple and the operator needs only to click on the screen to review a particular image. No technical knowledge is required, which again suits a rapid deployment situation. Nothing is missed, which means commanders can instantly retrieve and review footage to make better informed decisions,” says Simon.

In rapid deployment situations, reliability and ease of use is crucial. No matter how effective a system is, if it is difficult to you use or unreliable, firefighters won't use it

“The beauty of the software is that all the images captured by CCTV are readily discoverable, meaning that they can easily be used for training or evidential purposes,” continues Robin.  “Fire and Rescue Services train continuously, so the system provides us with a great tool for debriefs as we can show new trainees footage from actual incidents to work towards best practice.”

In September 2010, the technology was used as part of a major European exercise, Exercise Orion, a multi agency disaster exercise to test resilience and European partnership working. More than 37 international countries were involved in the testing with 800 emergency respondents to the test situation. “The entire operation was controlled from the Nextiva platform,” says Robin, “which enabled the senior officers to proactively control and coordinate the response to the test situation.

“The system is effective as we believe we have found the right blend of specialist software and support,” Robin concludes. “In rapid deployment situations, reliability and ease of use is crucial. No matter how effective a system is, if it is difficult to use or unreliable, firefighters won’t use it.

“By working in close partnership with Verint and 802 Global, we are proud that we now have a system that goes above and beyond that which we hoped for,” Robin concludes.

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