Tall buildings pose particular challenges for firefighters as they are likely to have little knowledge of the construction and layout. Nonetheless, they must enter the building to fight the fire and evacuate anyone inside. Fire and rescue teams can be spread out and separated from each other over many different floors making communication between them all the more essential.
However, radio signals can be reduced or even blocked entirely inside tall buildings due to height and space propagation issues and difficulties in penetrating modern construction materials. As well as making it difficult to communicate with each other inside the building, it can reduce or prevent firemen inside the building from talking to colleagues supporting them from outside.
Additional mobile coverage can be provided by using a DMR PD985 hand portable terminal in SFR (single frequency repeater) mode or by deploying a backpack portable RD965 DMR repeater to extend coverage for those firefighters within range using DMR portables. The person carrying the backpack repeater can also communicate using a handheld speaker microphone.
For more extensive coverage requirements beyond the scope of a single repeater, small, man-portable Hytera E-pack 100 digital wireless repeaters can be deployed to create an ad hoc network. The E-packs automatically connect with each other to form a wireless mesh, so fire and rescue personnel can communicate with each other over their own network.
The E-pack also features an embedded GSM card slot for backup, so if two meshed networks are separated they can stay in touch via a public cellular 2G network. The repeater’s display shows the caller’s ID, their location within the tall building using the in-built GPS function, and change of talk groups.
Both the E-packs and the DMR portable radios have emergency panic buttons, so that if someone sends an emergency call to other users, their identity and GPS location (if they are outdoors) is transmitted to other users.
Situational awareness can be enhanced by deploying Hytera bodycams to capture events as they unfold. If Wi-Fi or a broadband network is available a live video stream can provide the fireground commander with a better visual idea of what is happening inside the building, thereby enabling them to make more informed decisions.