1101 Seventeenth Street NW, Suite 1100
Washington D.C. 20036-4798
United States of America

RTA on fire: Used to dispatch fire fighters




Vienna is the capital of Austria and at the same time it is the biggest town in the country - 1,7 million inhabitants living in a very congested urban area. If a fire breaks out here it can be disastrous. So it is necessary to provide all essential information for the fire brigade instantly. Data of 24,000 street names, 35,000 intersections, 2,000 sensitive locations and other relevant location information, more than 200 vehicles stationed in 25 fire stations are providing security for the city. More than 1,000 sites equipped with numerous fire and smoke detection systems are connected to the fire brigade too. 480 firemen are doing service in Vienna every day a year - 24 hours per day. They are organized in units. Each unit is assigned to one or more (alternative) cars. The dispatching officers alarm the units differently if it is nighttime or daytime.



But what has this to do with RTA?

Well, what is when Vienna is on fire? Or just something is on fire? Humans would simply not be able to process this huge amount of necessary information in such a short period of time.



The Viennese fire brigade was aware of that since a long time and that is why they operate one of the worlds most sophisticated Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems since over 12 years now. Four redundant servers support the CAD system and provide all essential information to the dispatching officers in real-time from all different sources like via radio, remote data transmission lines, LAN, WAN etc.

Seven dispatching officers are able to work simultaneously on dedicated dispatching stations. Supporting personal can, in case of high emergency, operate additional supporting terminals.

An integrated real-time Decision Support System (DSS) automatically determines and selects all the resources in real-time that are required for a specific emergency call. Once an officer has decided which type of emergency he has to deal with, e.g. fire in a room, fire under the roof, person stuck in elevator etc., the system automatically allocates all the necessary resources and recommends it to the officer. The officer can change this recommendation, but in most cases he won't. With a click of a button he is able to launch the alarm and dispatch the forces



During the alarm the CAD servers automatically establishes all necessary means of communication to all concerned units. E.g. a unit that is currently on the road will automatically be alarmed via radio while the same unit, when it is back at the fire station, will be alarmed via the fire brigade's own transmission lines that interconnect all fire the stations in Vienna. The CAD also monitors if vehicles are leaving their fire station timely (30 seconds during daytime, 60 seconds during nighttime) and notifies the dispatchers if there are problems with vehicles getting to the scene. The whole system is designed to maximize performance, in all aspects, from the security to the comfort for the inhabitants AND the fire fighters as well.



The most challenging part of the system is the one that provides most of the support to the dispatching officers - the DSS. It is based on complex rules, which are processed in real-time in order to determine which forces have to be allocated. To achieve that the DSS has to process a lot of real-time information like:

  • Type and status of vehicles (e.g. is vehicle ready or is it currently at the scene?)
  • Locations of vehicles (e.g. is an available vehicle close to the scene?)
  • Status of fire stations (e.g. are enough vehicles left for nearby interventions?)
  • Location of emergency (e.g. which units are closest and have to be alarmed?)
  • Type of location (e.g. is the location residential area, a theatre, a chemical plant?)
  • Current date and time (e.g. if the location is a theatre, do they currently play?)

Out of all that options the DSS has to determine in a second how many forces and which forces to allocate and to provide it's recommendation to the dispatching officer. On top of that the DSS has to take care of resource sharing problems. Since the seven main dispatching stations can operate simultaneously the DSS has to make sure that it does not allocate resources, like vehicles, twice even if alarms are being executed at the same time. This means that even milliseconds matter since all that has to happen in real-time and as fast as possible.



Here the RTA (Real Time Architecture) plays a major role. It's Real Time Database allows very fast access to all that information and at the same time distributes this information in real-time over the LAN to all 4 CAD servers. This is critical because the redundant servers have to stay up-to-date with all process information. Humans would simply not be able to process this huge amount of information in such a short period of time - that what we said before. This makes the DSS, which is based on RTA, a powerful tool for the dispatchers. It allows the officers to work more efficient and to concentrate on the real issues - talking to the people on the phone that place the emergency calls and finding out WHAT is really going on - WHAT type of emergency do we have to deal with. This is still the most important decision to make in the whole process. And it is still left to the dispatching officer. A computer will never do this decision because it requires 'human' skills - a lot of skills. The whole CAD system was put into operation in mid 1988 and was never shutdown since - thanks to the redundancy concept of the RTA. That's what fire fighter call security!



FLOWSYS is a registered trademark of Real Time Solutions of America Inc. All other products mentioned are registered trademarks or trademarks of their respective companies. Questions or comments regarding this web site should be directed to Copyright © 2005 Real Time Solutions of America Inc. All rights reserved. Last modified: December 9, 2005