Rescuing people and extinguishing fires faster

The fire brigade of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) is digitising its information on operational locations on the research campus. To do this, it relies on the services and advice of the LRZ.


TUM plant fire brigade: 66 firefighters ensure safety on the Garching research campus.
Photo: Florian Vogl/TUM

A fire alarm at the Garching Research Centre: now every second counts. The fire brigade of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) is on its way. 2,500 times a year, the department takes an emergency call over the phone. It monitors around 30,000 fire detectors in the research centre and ensures the safety of 270 different institute and company buildings, including the research reactor, the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) and the underground station. And this involves not only fire protection, but also emergency medical services. "This is a place where researchers do what they are supposed to do: They try out new things with a wide variety of materials. In the process, things can sometimes go wrong," says Jürgen Wettlaufer, head of the TUM plant fire brigade. "My team has respect for these risks, but no fear." 14 of a total of 66 firefighters are always on site. All of them are intensively trained as full-time emergency personnel. Most of them, says Wettlaufer, have "turned their hobby into a profession, just like me".

Digitalisation saves time

When the alarm goes off, things have to happen fast: Within 90 seconds, the fire brigade has to assess the current situation. To do this, it checks for information such as plans of the emergency site and the fire extinguishing systems available there, it identifies acute and potential hazards and it prepares the necessary keys to institutes and buildings. In the meantime, the team is getting ready. The fire brigade must be on the scene within eight minutes. Computers, mobile devices and digital technology are becoming more and more important - a development in which the LRZ supports the campus fire brigade. Information on buildings and institutes is currently being digitised.


The plant fire brigade also helps in the event of accidents. Photo: A. Heddergott/TUM

Every building in the research centre has a fire brigade information centre (FIZ), i.e. floor plans and maps. These show the shortest route to the scene of an accident or to the fire alarm. They are available in paper form, but increasingly they are also available in a digital and mobile format. For this purpose, the firefighters have tablets at permanent charging stations in the emergency vehicles: "This saves us several minutes because we no longer have to search for the maps by hand," says Wettlaufer, who is pushing ahead with several digitisation projects at the TUM fire brigade. In digital form, the route maps and other plans can be updated more easily and synchronised more quickly, providing a better, more up-to-date overview of the building's condition and the hazard situation. Data from motion detectors and sensors could be used to supplement the content of the maps - showing the current whereabouts of people, for example. "This would revolutionise the work of the fire brigade, but unfortunately it is not yet possible for reasons of data protection," says Wettlaufer. This vision still needs some technical and legal preparation. The plan is to make the tablets capable of communication, so that the control centre can send more information to the vehicles, and the vehicles can contact people on the ground. This requires the development of exclusive and secure communication networks, as well as special IT services and tools.

Digitising together

The LRZ provides support in the selection of technology and tools. The campus fire brigade already uses the services of the LRZ: For example, the tablets are networked with all the buildings in the research centre via the eduroam network. Maps and other information are stored in the LRZ cloud and via Bayern-Share, making them accessible at all times. The LRZ also advises the fire brigade on safety issues. " Our cooperation is going very well," says Wettlaufer, "but I would still like to have a direct contact person for our two IT specialists, so that we can better implement concrete digitalisation projects and thus reduce emergency response times even further. The TUM fire brigade is in a state of flux: despite all the digitalisation efforts, the analogue paper plans are still being updated and used. For security reasons, eduroam and the Internet can fail, but most importantly they fail to convince: "In contrast to younger colleagues, older incident commanders prefer to use analogue information," says Wettlaufer. "You have to build up trust in the technology. We have always stood for innovation. Wettlaufer is confident that the time savings and ease of use of tablets and digital technology will win them over in the long run. (lu/sschl)


Jürgen Wettlaufer, head of TUM fire brigade.
Photo: Andreas Hedergott/TUM