Firefighting talk

Essex County Fire & Rescue Service have developed a waterproof data logger to provide training firefighters with a second-by-second record of how quickly and effectively they fought a blaze

Grant Instruments and Essex County Fire & Rescue Service have spent the last 12 months developing a waterproof data logger to provide training firefighters with a second-by-second record of how quickly and effectively they fought a blaze.

The specially modified Squirrel 1000 series data logger is used in training firefighters to control potentially lethal blaze conditions such as flashover and backdraught.The success of the project is the result of a marriage between the practical experience of controlling fires under difficult conditions and the hi-tech expertise to accurately monitor every facet of the development of a fire and of a firefighters progress in controlling it.

Early systems for capturing information suffered from water and condensation damage and were prone to giving inaccurate and inconsistent results. After 12 months the Essex Fire & Rescue Service and Grant Instruments have solved both problems.

Ordinarily, electronics, water and heat do not mix and there is an awful lot of water flying around in a training exercise. Now the squirrel is encased in a robust waterproof case with waterproof power links. To combat condensation, the logger is calibrated and sealed in the comfort of an office rather than on the training ground.

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus and protective clothing often work in smoke-filled environments where visibility is almost non-existent, hearing is limited, the sense of smell and taste is rendered redundant by breathing apparatus and any sense of touch is hampered by the wearing of thick gloves.

Under such conditions, training is paramount for the protection of firefighters. The newly modified Squirrel 1000 series data logger is an important part of a training regime, relying on developing substantial fires in the confined spaces of specially modified steel road haulage containers, in patterns and intensities that replicate realistic conditions and are repeatable, meaning firefighters can effectively tackle the same fires over and over again.

Three sensors are fitted in the containers at head height; standing, kneeling down and in the crawling position. As a training firefighter tackles a blaze, the logger plots the temperature from the three sensors at one-second intervals. The logger is then plugged in to a PC and the data is downloaded. The data from each sensor is displayed on one graph so the firefighter and instructors can analyse performance in the classroom later.

Accurately logged data also has a vital health and safety role to play in the training environment. If an officer is injured during training, the logger can help reveal the problem.

A further modification to the Squirrel measures the pressure of a sealed room during a fire and this is being used to help instructors better understand how to recognise and combat lethal backdraught conditions.

Roger Taylor of Grant Instruments comments: ‘A great deal of expertise went into solving the practical problems firefighters face in the field where lots of water and extreme heat make it a hostile environment for sensitive electronics. Technicians also looked at the practical problems firefighters may face in using Squirrel in the field. So, as well as developing a completely waterproof case for the logger, they developed oversized switches and ports so firefighters with large padded gloves could operate the equipment more easily.

Grant Instruments Tel: 07775 511058