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UK fire service goes digital with, holograms?

Yes, you heard right, using Microsoft Surface, M365 and Teams (with sights set on the implementation of HoloLens) one the UK’s largest fire services is going digital to help respond to emergencies more efficiently and train new recruits.

Looking after approximately 12,000 square kilometres of wales, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service is giving officers Surface Go devices that will provide them with information on specific vehicles as they are travelling to road traffic incidents.

This means by the time they arrive at the scene, fire fighters are already privy to the best places to cut the vehicle to free any trapped passengers as well as disable any undeployed airbags to avoid further injury.

The devices also allow officers to see live information about the incident, which can be shared instantly with colleagues.

This Microsoft technology will be used in tandem with the Mobile Data Terminals found in all fire appliances, which allow firefighters to stay in contact with their base, but cannot be removed from the vehicle.

Chris Davies, chief fire officer at Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said, “The use of real-time data and Power BI has transformed what we do.

“Whether that’s information from an emergency or a live feed from a drone searching for someone injured on a mountain, information allows our staff to understand situations in more detail.

“Technology is also helping us with more straightforward activities, such as using Teams to hold training sessions for firefighters across Wales.”

With 1,400 staff scattered across 58 fire stations across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Swansea, arranging for everyone to be in the same place for training as you can imagine is fairly difficult.

With few motorways in Wales, firefighters can spend up to six hours travelling to a training session that lasts an hour or two. Davies has found Teams to be a far more efficient – and safer – solution.

Davies, who took over as chief fire officer six years ago, is now looking to build on the success the service has had with Teams and Surface.

He wants to use Microsoft HoloLens to create life-sized holograms of some of the buildings in mid and west Wales, which firefighters can look at and interact with during training at their station or on the way to an emergency. This will allow them to understand potential risks, identify safe routes through those buildings, and learn the location of hydrants and sprinklers.

Currently, firefighters look at single line drawings of buildings on a computer screen.

HoloLens could also be used to train officers in how to respond to emergencies at Wales’ oil refineries.

“We have a number of oil refineries in the area, and historically we’ve always trained on those sites,” Davies said.

“What HoloLens will enable us to do is actually put Incident Commanders into those scenarios, in an almost live experience but in a safe environment.

“I firmly believe this is going to change the way that we train and maintain the competencies of our firefighters. My vision of what is possible has been completely blown away by Microsoft.”

Chris Perkins, general manager of Public Sector at Microsoft UK commented, “There has never been a more important time for companies and organisations to use technology that helps staff collaborate, communicate and gain insight into the world around them.

“This is even more critical when those people are employed by our vital public services, which work tirelessly to keep us all safe and well.

“Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service is adopting technology at scale, allowing firefighters and officers to create a network of information that can be shared and acted upon.

“It is a fantastic example of how placing cutting-edge technology in the hands of skilled people can lead to ground-breaking solutions.”

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