Mesh communications for large scale emergencies

Draeger Safety UK Ltd
Bespoke intrinsically safe (IS) radio transceiver module
Mesh comms for fire fighter personal
Industry / Vertical:
Emergency Services


The unprecedented scale and complex challenges that 9/11 in New York and 7/7 in London represented for emergency responders has highlighted the need to improve the control of radio spectrum used and the interoperability between the emergency services. For such large-scale scenarios, incident planning demands that available crews turn up not only from all local divisions, but potentially much further away.

To avoid tenders operating in isolation without central co-ordination, ‘meshing’ has been introduced as a means to ensure that emergency service personnel are automatically embedded into the communications structure on arrival at an incident. Delivering this capability to users is of critical importance to Draeger Safety, a leading international safety technology company. When Draeger Safety sought to provide wireless telemetry for fire crew monitoring, it chose to partner with Wood & Douglas to develop the necessary bespoke personal radio transceiver technology with mesh capability.


Wood & Douglas designed and manufactured an Intrinsically Safe (IS) wearable radio transceiver for a fire fighter communications system. The radio transceiver required a new operating band and a complex mesh networking protocol embedded in the system architecture, enabling integration with existing third-party radio protocols with their own challenging compliance issues.

All assets operate on a single RF frequency, with the mesh technology algorithm conceived by Wood & Douglas allowing users and assets to automatically log on and off from the network no matter what other radio devices are being deployed at the scene. The polling mechanism which monitors fire crews auto-adjusts to the number of assets at the scene, instantly adapting as new crews arrive and others leave.

The system learns the poll timing and dynamically recognises if an asset has missed a poll and could be out of range or in danger from a hazard. The system also monitors the ambient temperature and movement of a fire fighter: if a result is out of established safe limits, or an evacuation alarm is issued, these will automatically override the regular polling sequence.

This algorithm has proved resilient and robust in the field, and provides the ability to accommodate repeater stations deployed within or around an operational scenario to ensure full coverage and accurate monitoring of individual fire fighter locations. The result is solid event coverage and automatic healing of the network when a new tender appears on the scene, delivering automatic acceptance of the new control and operators.

The new Wood & Douglas-designed radio meets the latest demands of Fire Brigade mesh communications, delivering real-time data communications from individual fire fighters to command and control. It correctly meets existing protocols and is able to accommodate the shortcomings in other, third-party, communication systems. The radio transceiver enables Draeger Safety’s personal protection systems to operate across regional brigades, as was required at the Buncefield disaster, or even across international boundaries, should there be a repeat of large-scale fires or flooding witnessed in recent years throughout Europe.

By exploiting Wood & Douglas radio expertise, fire fighters can now be deployed rapidly and effectively and, if seriously endangered, be safely extracted before becoming harmed in the course of duty.

  • Meshing to automatically embed personnel into a communications structure
  • Intrinsically Safe bespoke radio design, manufacture, testing and refinement
  • High levels of specialisation deliver full integration with third-party protocols
  • Delivers mission-critical reliability in the field for preservation of life

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