Whatever the origin of an emergency, a response fast and effective enough can drastically change the resulting losses. Rescuers know well how to do, however there is still room for improvement. In particular during the first phases, when the first few responders have to assume more risks having the opportunity to block the escalation of the incident into a higher scale emergency, and after on, when the increasing number of responders from different organisations boost the confusion and the complexity of the coordination tasks, what you really need is to know where your operators are and to communicate with them, reliably, anywhere, anytime.
Unsurprisingly, a good deal of R&D effort has been spent on these issues over the past years. Several solutions have been proposed, but none of them could really solve the problem. Almost all of them show (very) poor performances indoor and deep-indoor: exactly where you need them, where the life of the rescuers is at stake.
In fact every solution is challenged with a very physical problem: walls. As smart as a solution may be, waves cannot propagate through several walls and concrete floors without requiring power to be increased over acceptable limits.
As a result, the only viable solution is to have devices/repeaters installed inside the target buildings. This proved not to be the major problem Fire Safety Authorities are used to require the installation of Fire Safety Devices exactly inside those infrastructures which worry the rescuers. The Authorities we contacted so far are ready to issue official regulations about the installation of such devices. But exactly what kind of device?
As a matter of fact, rescuers cannot bring with them a different device each time they moves to a different building, where first responders from a number of different organisations will operate.
To untie the knot, interoperability is the keyword. Against the unstoppable ‘technological divergence’ of rescuer’s organisations, the only guaranteed common elements in the chain are the infrastructures, which are all subject to the Fire Safety Regulation everywhere. Safety Authorities will be able to impose Fire Safety Devices compliant to a set of standards and protocols able to assure interoperability between all rescuer on the scene.
For this very reason, a group of First Responders Organisations are planning to emendate European and National Fire Safety Regulations so as to enforce the embedding of location and communication emergency devices into Fire Safety devices whose installation could be made an obligation.
Whit this in mind, the such group of users started the REFIRE project aiming at avoiding the proliferation of independent solutions to the need for effective location and communication services for indoor and deep-indoor emergencies and define a set of standards and protocols able to enable daily use of interoperable systems.
REFIRE builds on the results of previous R&D projects and available industrial solutions to offer a solution ready to for the market, thus paving the way for a day-to-day use of effective location and communication services for indoor and deep-indoor emergencies.
In a nutshell, REFIRE project is aimed at tailoring existing capabilities to a specific package and at integrating them in a reference implementation.
Such reference implementation will be developed around a non-proprietary standard for data and equipment interfaces, so that future interoperability of devices manufactured by any vendors across Europe is ensured.
The proof-of-concept implementation will be validated in real trials. In parallel, a first industrial set of prototypes will be developed and testeds, so that the validity of the protocols set out by the project will be demonstrated.
The validation of both the reference implementation and the pre-industrial prototypes in complex trials will further demonstrate such points, eventually boosting an early adoption of integrated tools and devices at European level.

On 10 January 2012 at the Istituto Superiore Anticendio (National Fire Academy) in Rome it will be held the Kick-Off meeting of the REFIRE project (REference implementation of interoperable indoor location & communication systems for FIrst REsponders), co-funded by the European Commission, Directorate-General Home Affairs in the framework of the call “CIPS Action Grants 2010”.

Project partners:
1) IES Solutions srl
2) Dipartimento dei Vigili del Fuoco, del Soccorso Pubblico e della Difesa Civile
3) Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma
4) BECAR – Gruppo Beghelli
5) INDICOD-ECR Servizi – GS1 Italy
6) RADIOLABS – Consorzio Università Industria – Laboratori di Radiocomunicazioni

The Dipartimento dei Vigili del Fuoco will act as representative end-user supporting the project in defining , testing and pushing for the adoption of innovative Fire Safety devices able to deliver the indoor location of rescuers in complex building and facilities such as tunnels and hospitals.

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