In Saarland, the smalles of Germany's federal states, about 13.000 volunteers provide standby fire cover and support for resque service through 52 fire brigades.
Alerting is coordinated centrally via ZRF Saar, Saarland’s Integrated Control Centre. “We are responsible for 210,000 operations a year,” said Rainer Buchmann, its director. “Large volunteer fire brigades here in the region have up to 180 operations per year, including up to 50 at night. That makes it all the more important for us to alert volunteers only when they are really required.”
Speed and resiliency
Saarland’s system had to cover virtually 100 per cent of its terrain, including in-building coverge. “And we need fast alerting,” added Mr Buchmann. “In 95 per cent of all cases, the emergency response forces have to arrive on the site of the emergency within 12 minutes after the emergency call was received.”
Saarland chose a resilient POCSAG alerting system from Swissphone with 75 base stations. Its key advantages are coverage, speed and resiliency, including the ability to tolerate a failure of central components. If a master base station can no longer be reached via its normal IP connection, the system ‘connects’ the lost master base stations over the radio network.
For use on the network, several brigades and rescue services have equipped themselves with Swissphone’s RES.Q pager, which includes a cellular module to provide a return communications path. By pressing a button on the pager, a volunteer can declare that they are ready for action; and then, if an alert arrives, he can notify the control centre whether they will participate. This allows Saarland to alert its first responders in a much more targeted manner and increases the efficiency of their operations. If the pager cannot detct the POCSAG signal from the dedicated radio network, it automatically connects to the control centre via the cellular network. This ‘hybrid paging’ feature ensures that volunteers can be reliably reached even in Saarland’s border areas.
Given Germany’s national TETRA network, why did Saarland choose POSAG for alerting? " To obtain the required coverage, we owuld have had to install far more TETRA base stations due to TETRA's higher frequency". says Buchmann. "The POCSAG network provides us with the necessary indoor coverage at only 20 per cent of those costs. Also, TETRA pagers cost up to three times more than POCSAG pagers. we [therefore] use TETRA for voice radio and POCSAG/GSM for alerting.”
Two-way pagers save time
Because first responders can instantly send feedback over RES.Qs, the dispatcher can immediately follow-up with a second and third dispatch if necessary. Saarland’s integrated control centre has reduced the time to alert the required number of volunteers and send them to an incident by up to 15 minutes.
Two-way pagers save money
The Rhineland town of Sankt Augustin’s fire brigade has cuts its annual wage costs by €53,500. This is due to 125 RES.Qs, which reduce over-alerting by allowing volunteers to quickly notify the control centre of their availability. This reduces the compensation that it has to pay employers when they release employees for fire duty. The cost of two-way pagers and SIM cards is deducted (amortisatised over four years) from these annual savings. The acquisition costs are €17,500 per year for 125 devices (€70,000 divided by four). The net benefit is therefore €36,000 per year (€53,500 minus €17,500). The RES.Q pays for itself within six months.