Fire safety is a major concern. We’re living in a world that has been shaken by technological advances, in cities and buildings full of cutting edge innovations where one of the most pressing dangers is still the threat of fire. No matter how much we focus on technology, and how far we take our software and hardware, urban density and our current modes of living and working remain vulnerable to a simple office fire that can bring businesses to a halt at best and cause real loss of life at worst.
It’s the responsibility of the spaces we inhabit to look after us. Invest in our safety, through the right systems, the right processes, the right infrastructure and – ideally, inevitably – the right tech. That seems obvious, but the opportunity to do that is still wide open.
In any office building today, you’ll have heat detectors, smoke detectors, sprinklers, sirens and some signs, and a fire warden, if you’re lucky enough to know who that is on your floor! You’ll have a plan of evacuation that may or may not be followed in every drill, that will probably be a point of some confusion in the case of a real emergency, and you’ll have powered exit signs with a back-up battery that can provide some guidance to people inside the building for up to 30 minutes after a loss of electricity due to a real fire.
If that did happen, a feed of information could be drawn from some smoke alarms and disseminated to the right fire truck on its way to your location, but once they arrive, it’s up to human instinct whether or not people in the building have reached safety or followed procedure, or are able to provide the crucial information that the fire crews will need to save lives and protect property.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. That’s the basic picture of where you’ll be at, if the worst comes to the worst, and if it appears to be a little haphazard – that’s because it is.
And every single aspect of it is open to disruption.
1. The PAM Box
We have a vision of a product called the PAM box. This is something that we’ve been able to build to apply to a range of different industries, from tourism to retail to healthcare. The PAM box is an affordable, scalable device with 4g connectivity, its own built in battery back up, wifi connectivity, data input and output and complete customisation. Paired with multiple screens in any space, the PAM box can turn the area into a completely connected, optimised smart environment that can communicate with users, share crucial information and diagnostics and act as the ultimate window into every element of the surroundings.
The PAM box runs on a centralised system, and can work in any environment. It has the potential to completely change the way we approach fire safety.
Let’s look at the example above. In an office building where a fire has broken out, the PAM box is already providing information on every single screen, contextualised to its location to provide information and exit/evacuation instruction to every person on the floor. Maps can be shown as soon as a fire alarm is triggered to guide all users to the correct meeting point, through via the safest exit route. Information fed to the screen by sensors and fire alarms can modify this route depending on potential obstructions or changes in the environment. The escape plan can be generated in real time and shared in an accessible, visual way that will actually protect the lives of everyone in the floor by giving them the knowledge they need.
In addition, the boxes can be used to send alerts and updates through to the screens. If fire crews are on the way, if they are following a certain rescue plan, if there has been internal damage that could block important pathways, or even if the fire has lead to the introduction of deadly chemical elements and toxins, you can share that information immediately and accessible. The problem of information flow to fire survivors can be completely removed.
If power is shut off from the building, the back up batteries in the PAM boxes will provide power to both the devices and the screens throughout the crucial 30 minute time frame from the outbreak of a fire through to the closure of critical survival windows. They can keep functioning for as long as they’ll remain useful, and the difference that could make to survival for people experiencing a fire is immense.
The PAM boxes can also highlight exactly who the fire warden is on each floor, who has first aid knowledge and certification and where they are located based on their pre-determined fire safety plans, so that people on the ground are better positioned to seek and access short term help before the arrival of emergency services. In the confusion of a fire, this would reduce panic, maintain a sense of order and contribute to optimised systems and processes that aren’t abandoned as soon as they become useful!
The data sourced and streamed from the PAM boxes can be accessed by the arriving fire crews, through either the wifi if it remains connected or the inbuilt 4g connection. Information is key when highly trained professionals first engage with a crisis. Having the right information will mean the difference between life and death for some people in the worst case scenarios, and major property damage. Additionally, if the fire alarm has been a system error, that can become clear in a shorter time frame. The information that can be accessed from the PAM boxes will include head counts of people at key gathering points, routing and locations, fire origination points, threat levels, crowd movements and danger spots. When the information is easily accessible, faster decisions are able to be made.
Cameras built into the PAM boxes can also serve as the fire crews’ eyes inside the building, particularly in difficult to reach areas as they try to take stock of the scenario and plan out their entry points and evacuation plans. Being able to see inside the environment before they move through it can also protect the lives and safety of the fire crews, as they carry out their duties.
One of the subtler benefits of the PAM system is that it can create and manage an audit trail. While most fire safety systems are measured, monitored and tested once a year, this can happen almost in real-time. Rather than having the systems manually checked, they can be checked through the PAM platform and records can be created so that the health of the system is tracked and preserved. When there are any issues in the system, the correctly recorded information can be used to solve them, streamline them and inform all stakeholders of the health and reliability of the entire fire safety framework.
An effectively integrated PAM system is able to use information, communication and data to change the way fire safety scenarios are solved and protect lives.
Implementing a PAM system is an affordable option. The PAM boxes can be connected to standard or pre-existing screens, customised for the environment and its information, and loaded with floor maps, evacuation plans, complete visualisations and representations of the building and its locale, and organisation specific data. The PAM platform that manages the system allows for centralised management of all information and assets. The customisation for each system will be an important part of the process, but it also ensures that the information the boxes can share is context sensitive and is designed to protect property and lives.
When the system is integrated with existing fire safety alarms and processes, it becomes a tool that crisis managers will be able to tap into instantly. But in addition to the safety benefits, there are non-crisis advantages and use cases as well. Wayfinding for users of the space is the most obvious, as the mapping information and alerts can offer the right resources to guide people throughout a standard working day. But there are health and well-being benefits, accessibility and inclusivity methodologies and personalisation opportunities that are also useful to manage the experience of the entire connected environment. When these are effectively applied, hand in hand with a complete disruption and transformation of the fire safety procedures, the ROI can be lives saved, property preserved, and users served in the best possible way.
For more information, go to Pam.co