Nothing, and I mean nothing is more ferocious and deadly than a fire inside a building ... it's catastrophic.
With temperatures of hundreds of degrees and noxious, highly toxic smoke, nothing gets out alive. Just three breaths and you're rendered unconscious. If we don't find you quickly ... your time here is over.
Yet regular people, moms and dads selflessly risk their lives on a daily basis throughout the country
My name is Paul Tranter and I'm a volunteer with a local brigade (that’s me in the middle). My team and those across the country enter burning buildings daily. Every time I go to a job I encounter something new, something unexpected. I’m constantly learning and I can see clearly how that process could be made so much easier through a small bit of technology.
Recently, I had to make a delivery. As I stood at the door I noticed something very unusual. There was a glass peep-hole like you get in hotel rooms, nothing unusual about that except this one was at crotch height!
I asked the obvious question and the answer was even more obscure?
"No, he was a dwarf!"
On entering the property I was amazed to see that much of the internal fitting were 'dwarf sized’, including a staircase to the upper bedrooms.
We're highly trained for search and rescue in a smoke-filled building. We have very specific working practices enabling us to progress as quickly as possible in total blackness. Warrens of rooms filled with noxious, toxic smoke. We learn as we go, step by careful step, feeling the floor ahead with our boots hoping to discover weak boards before falling through. We blindly feel the space in front of our faces with the backs of our hands so that if we touch a live wire we don’t involuntarily clamp down on it. We make our way through the property checking behind doors for adult bodies and under beds for little ones. Senses are alive, on the highest level of alert, trying to anticipate the unexpected. The last thing a firefighter would expect to tackle are dwarf sized stairs.
For me it’s hard as in recent years I’ve begun to suffer from claustrophobia. I was a little embarrassed about it at first then I discovered that it’s common, especially when wearing the breathing apparatus. So for those, the process is exacerbated because they also trying to suppress the panic that keeps welling up when they come across something completely unexpected … like dwarf sized stairs!
But we suck it in and do the job.
"Our family unit is not complete anymore, it's broken. Part of my heart has been ripped out and I don't know if I will ever get over it. He was everything to all of us.” The son died in a property with no working alarms.
Twenty people were killed in avoidable house fires in the past 12 months and in most cases, there was no working smoke alarm.
Over the past five years, 97 people have died in avoidable residential fires and in most cases there was no working smoke alarm to give an early warning, he said.
There are still thousands of house fires each year and as individuals and communities, we can do more to reduce this number.
This year, as in previous years, there were no working smoke alarms in 80 per cent of the homes where people died. Smoke alarms save lives and should be installed in the middle of the ceiling of every bedroom in your house" (source NZFS)
The safety message is bing pushed year after year laws and codes are being introduced but along with all of those great efforts people are still dying unnecessarily.
There is no statistical information detailing and tracking smoke alarm installation.
When we enter a situation we do so based on what is known as Dynamic Risk Assessment. We constantly monitor a variety of hazards and act accordingly.
BUT and it’s a great big fat hairy BUT … we can only base our assessment on the information at hand, as we encounter it. Fighting a fire is a live, fluid process. There are a myriad of hazards in any situation that only become apparent as and when we discover them. Unfortunately, on some occasions, this can be too late!
With our new site FireBuddy.co.nz we're hoping to connect in an informal, non patronising environment. My brigade and those across the country enter burning buildings daily and we need YOUR help
The answer is simple!
Information is the key and it is widely available, just not to the people on the front line right now! As a fire grows so does the command and control. Once that arrives the control unit is extremely well equipped.
What isn't available is that critical information such as dwarf-sized stairs, LPG bottles, hazards and obstacles we will face as first responders.
Critical, on-the-ground information on a job saves time and collateral damage (property and lives!). This project is to develop a mobile app that we can take into the field and that delivers information such as:
The information we require is readily available from various sources:
The Potential of Information Discovery
The Potential of Information Discovery
Internet technologies are now mature enough to support Aggregated Information Discovery (AID) in real time.
A user searches for information specific to their location. The ‘query’ is not submitted to a single index, but rather, it is forwarded to multiple providers who respond to our servers with their specific results. Results are aggregated, and returned to the user as pins on a map.
Our goal is to create a central service that provides AID for first responders.
The FireBuddy app and data will be freely available to the 10,000 first responders who protect our communities and although my company and it’s partners have sponsored FireBuddy to this stage we now need your help to put together a marketing and administration budget enabling us to let your friends and families know we’re here … hence this fund raiser.
It's a simple concept that requires US ALL to help and to contribute to the development.
The FireBuddy app is a critical tool. The basic information we require is readily available from multiple data sources.
What isn't available right now is the critical information such as working smoke alarm installation, dwarf-sized stairs, LPG bottles, hazards and obstacles we will face. This has to be supported by homeowners. Once we have developed the app we ask that through FireBuddy website, homeowners upload non-sensitive information regarding anything that might help, or harm us.
It's a simple concept that requires US ALL to help and to contribute just a small donation to our development.
Installing ten year , photoelectric smoke alarms is our main priority right now. By the time the emergency services arrive it's often too late so lets prevent the worst. We have lobbied and according to the then housing minister, Nick Smith, we played a part in new laws requiring rental properties be fitted with them. This is a small step.
These alarms retail between $30-$50, the average property needs up to five alarms. We asked that the government maybe subsidise the cost. They would rather spend the money on enforcement.
The FireBuddy goal is ultimately to encourage corporates to participate in our Adopt a Neighbourhood campaign.
This has worked well in the US and here is an unprecedented opportunity for partners to further subsidise development, sustainability and to interact with homeowners on a national scale building a long-term, intimate relationship through the FireBuddy.
By actively helping to protect homeowners and their families through this initiative offers an huge opportunity to secure brand loyalty for the FireBuddy partners.
There are multiple opportunities to develop the partners’ brands:
Volunteer run brigades across the world face the same unique challenges as ours here in New Zealand. We are passionate about the service the new FireBuddy technology offers and we are acutely aware of the opportunities the application offers in bringing communities and first responders together … across the world.
Our strategy is to set up and iron out any issue through our local technology. Once the systems are fully tested we will introduce the international version.
Throughout Australia there are many volunteer firefighting agencies which are set up by the individual states or territories. New South Wales is serviced by two statutory firefighting authorities and consists of over 70,000 volunteers.
In Victoria, there are three main fire fighting organisations made up of around 61,000 members.
In Western Australia there is an estimated 31,000 members among 585 Brigades, and 2,000 VFRS Members among 88 Brigades.
In South Australia, there are two legislated fire fighting organisations staffed by approximately 13,500 fire fighters. (Source Wikipedia)
We have so much to say and give our time selflessly … and we need YOUR backing.
We are a unique set of people!
Video Credit: Sherbrooke Fire Buffs