The REACT project involves the project consortium working with the Irish Dublin Fire Brigade to develop a system that will ensure constant and reliable communication for exchange of real-time information between deployed emergency response personnel and its relevant command centre during a crisis or disaster situation.
The REACT project proposes to address the limitation of the current dependence on mobile technology by developing a hybrid solution for the emergency services that intelligently combines the usage of mobile and satellite communication for transmission of information. The system will be designed for use not only in rural areas where standard mobile communication may be limited or unavailable but also during a major crisis when standard networks are overloaded.
The major objectives of the REACT system are as follows:
- Development of an end to end solution for communication of critical information between first responders deployed at the scene of a major emergency and the local crisis Command and Control centre.
- Communication within the REACT system will use a variety of available technologies ranging from wireless broadband, TETRA through to satellite communication with the automatic switching and selection of the communication network.
- Analyse and selection of the most appropriate satellite infrastructure based on the end users bandwidth needs, information communication requirements, deployment and usage costs.
- Installation and integration of the end user REACT hardware and software onto the Dublin Fire Brigades specialised incident response vehicle so that video feeds, voice communication and crucial captured data can be sent to the Command and Control centre.
- Installation and integration of the end user REACT hardware and software into the local Command and Control centre.
- Implementation of REACT system services for both the scene commanders deployed in the incident response vehicle and the personnel in the Command and Control centre to enhance the procedures, processes information analysis and support during a major crisis.
- Usage of the REACT system during the project pilot phase for system testing and validation. The piloting will be performed by Dublin Fire Brigade personnel and involve both normal training activities in addition to usage during major emergency simulation events at identified Irish SEVESO sites.
Key issues affecting the development of the system have been identified to be the following:
- The selection of the most appropriate satellite architecture (star or mesh) and terminal equipment to meet the requirements of both the incident response vehicles scene commanders and command and control centres personnel.
- Resilience and reliability of the different REACT deployed communication mechanisms during a major crisis especially during loss of ground based infrastructures.
- Security of communication and automatic switching of active network selection.
- Development of the user interface and support services for scene commanders.
- Service implementation for personnel in the command and control centre.
- Successful integration of REACT system into the Dublin Fire Brigade infrastructure.
- Piloting of the system and feedback capturing and analysis.
Some of the expected major benefits of the REACT system are:
- Provision of multiple means of communication, including non reliance on radio and ground based mean during a major incident or crisis.
- Allow real time video capture and streaming of information from the incident to the Command and Control centre.
- Provide voice based communication from the scene commander and personnel in the Command and Control centre.
- Automate the capture and transmission of information and incident data to the Command and Control centre.
- Provide action and updated pre-emergency plans communication from the command and control centre.
- Archiving of all communication feeds, video feeds and data from a major incident for later analysis.
The key features of the REACT system include:
- Satellite communication,
- Provision of incident report information in real time from the fire fighters to a central command point in real time using either satellite or land based wireless communication.
- Automatic adaptation and selection of the best mechanism for communication based on availability, bandwidth and cost.
- Optimisation of information being transmitted to make the best use of the available bandwidth, taking into account latency, information importance and priority.
- Integration of information sources deployed at major emergencies such as video surveillance into the REACT system for streaming of additional live information on the crisis to a crisis control centre.
- Ability to display information in the crisis control centre that is streamed back from the remote location and for command decisions to be sent back to the remote fire crews.
- Functionality to allow updated pre-planned emergency response plans to be sent to remote emergency crews by the crisis control centre and for synchronisation of the latest pre-planned response to guarantee all crews are using the latest plan.
The selected architecture agreed for the baseline design review is to provide a means of communication between the incident response vehicle and the command and control centre even when ground based communication isn’t available. The selected architecture provides a balance between functionality required by the Dublin Fire Brigade and cost of deployment/usage. The architecture consists of a ‘star’ topology in backup mode using a VSAT network. The backup mode allows for communication to continue between the incident response vehicle and the command and control centre even if the land line between the Network Operator Centre and the Command and Control centre is disabled. A graphical overview of the architecture is shown below:
The REACT project is divided into five distinct phases, which are:
- Phase 1: Analysis and specification of the current and future requirements of the REACT system. In parallel a review and selection of the most appropriate satellite hardware and infrastructure will be performed. This phase concludes with the baseline design review (BDR).
- Phase 2: Analysis and review of compatibility with current Dublin Fire Brigade crisis infrastructure and development of a REACT system detailed design. This phase concludes with the critical design review (CDR).
- Phase 3: Development of the REACT system, including communication module, external hardware interfaces, information management and display and extensions for data compression, selection and transmission. This phase ends with the pilot qualification review (PDQ).
- Phase 4: Integration and validation of the system in the Dublin Fire Brigade infrastructure. This phase ends with the System Deployment Acceptance (SDA).
- Phase 5: Operation of the pilot and provision of support. Based on analysis and feedback from the pilot production of the pilot review and final report. This phase ends with the Final Presentation (FP).
The REACT project has completed its first stage during which a set of user were captured and agreed with end users. End users range from scene commanders, command and control centre personnel, incident scene vehicle engineers, DFB IT personnel and government department representatives. Based upon the captured user requirements, system requirements were derived. System design and software development activities were conducted and completed.
With regards to the satellite telecommunication service that will provide enhanced data connectivity to the Incident Response Vehicle (IRV), a Ka-band based satellite telecommunication service was preferred over the initially proposed Ku-band. Avanti was selected to provide the Ka-band satellite broadband service via the HYLAS 1 satellite. The HYLAS 1 satellite includes a Ka-band spot beam that supports complete coverage of Ireland.
The REACT project is currently completing the system deployment stage whose major activities include:
- Deployment of the satellite infrastructure and hardware on the Incident Response Vehicle (IRV).
- Deployment of the satellite infrastructure and hardware within the Command and Control (C&C) centre.
- Integration of REACT software solutions both within the IRV and C&C Centre.
- Validation of the system integrated with the target operational environment in view of the System Deployment Acceptance (SDA).
The System Demo Acceptance milestone was completed and the pilot period is ongoing. This pilot stage assesses the benefits of the REACT system for the Dublin Fire Brigade encompassing both usages during standard training exercises and during major SEVESO site emergency simulations.