Firefighters from space

The Dublin Fire Brigade is using mobile communication technology originally developed for astronauts on the International Space Station to get crucial information about emergency situations while en route to accident scenes.


The Dublin Fire Brigade is using mobile communication technology originally developed for astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) to get crucial information about emergency situations while en route to accident scenes.


The system allows an emergency crew travelling to a fire to download the layout of the building, identifying where the hydrants are located and what chemicals may be inside and where.


Irish company Skytek adapted the so-called Advanced Procedure Executor (APEX) system, which was originally developed to assist astronauts in controlling and managing the ISS, for use by the Dublin Fire Brigade.


‘This technology was originally developed for space missions where there is a need for control, methodology and procedures that are safe and accurate,’  said Dr Sarah Bourke, chief executive officer of Skytek.


To be used by firefighters, the system had to fulfil four requirements. First, emergency crews needed to be able to report online from the scene of an incident.


Second, emergency plans for public buildings such as hospitals and schools had to be available. This enables firefighters en route to a site to download valuable information, allowing them to hit the ground running with a plan when they arrive.


Third, the system had to have extensive information about different chemicals and how they should be handled.


Finally, the database had to include comprehensive information about all vehicle types and models, which is crucial in responding to a road accident.


The technology transfer adapting APEX to the Dublin Fire Brigade was partly funded by Enterprise Ireland and the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) General Support Technology Programme (GSTP), which is also open for technology-transfer projects. In addition, the Dublin Fire Brigade was involved throughout the technology-transfer process.