Impressions of the Emergency Services Show 2021

I attended the Emergency Services Show yesterday (7/9/21). As in the past this offers access to a large number of exhibitors and a range of short presentations.  I don’t plan my visit very well and just wondered up and down hoping to find all the interesting stalls. This meant I stopped and chatted to random people rather than worked down a list and that this review is therefore rather random.

Themes include vehicles and vehicle fittings, lights (lots of LEDs!), care for responders physical and mental wellbeing, cameras on drones, people, vehicles and poles, more drones with different capabilities, handheld devices to detect and measure threats, PPE & RPE and command and control systems, kit bags, ropes, pulleys etc.

There were several IT systems that allow you to integrate information feeds from cameras and other sensors dotted around the incident, radio messages from those on the ground and geographic knowledge. I didn’t take a close at these but now wish I’d spoken to someone about them. My concern (from a far!) with these is that they disrupt the information pyramid. You need a new team of people to sift through the information and identify what is important and what is changing. Having a sit-rep from the commander on the ground available to all to listen to when they wish is great, but how do you ensure that people are not still interpreting it as hot news long after it has been superseded? Having the reports of all the people on the ground, and all the videos, is also great but again come with a time cost if everybody stops to hear them. Will the remote Gold Commanders be tempted to take time to look at the video feeds and make their own situation analysis, by passing the Command structure on the ground? Is that always good, always bad or does it depend?

There were several immersive training environments, including VR sets and tents with scenes projected onto all the surfaces. These must be helpful in certain circumstances.

Handheld radiation monitors continue to develop with new crystal materials, larger crystals and, more importantly, much more on-board computing capability. Southern Scientific were showing CBRNe handhelds while kromek were showing a range of handheld and wearable gamma and neutron detectors with Bluetooth and USB comms, including some with the ability to identify isotopes. I find some of the claims a little hard to believe but these companies have happy customers whose expertise and judgement in these matters I’d place ahead of mine.

There are also a number of training tools that are realistic looking handhelds, such as those offered by Argon Electronics, that report injected exercise data rather than live readings. Obviously potentially useful.

It was interesting to talk to the people at the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) stand. This organisation tries to find innovations that can be exploited by the UK defence and security services and help with their development. They do this by a combination regional “innovation partners”, who provide advice to organisations and individuals about the potential merits of their ideas and how best to develop them and through more focussed “competitions” to cover identified needs. Funds are available for promising technologies at different stages of development and for the full range of company size. Their website has interesting case studies.

A car sized fire blanket from Fire Hosetech caught my attention. This is designed to manage lithium-ion battery fires which must be contained until they burn out. These reusable blankets can withstand temperatures up to 1,600 degC and reduce the spread of toxic fumes and contamination.

I also stopped to look at Fortress Distribution’s attempt to reduce the world’s usage of disposable shoe covers with plastic “Yuleys” which you step into and out of in a hands-free manner. Their design use seems to be for trades working indoors and out to prevent treading dirt inside but I wondered if they could replace single use shoe covers in contaminated areas. One issue being that they cover the sole of the shoe and the sides to a certain extent but not the top which I suspect is an idea killer. The other questions would include how much work was involved keeping them clean and how many reuses would be required to cover their own environmental costs?

Also worthy of a mention is the National Emergency Services Museum in Sheffield which showed a few of its vehicles. Got to be worth a visit if in the area.

The Emergency Services Show is well worth a visit by emergency planning and response professionals although it is not focussed on us. It gives an opportunity to see how the Emergency Services, with whom we work, are developing and an opportunity to keep an eye on technology developments and themes.

Leave a Reply