With the construction of the first German Nuclear Research Reactor (known as the "Atomic Egg" in common parlance) near Garching, Munich in 1957, the original Technical University of Munich laid the foundation for today's extensive research site. The late sixties saw the construction of a new site and annex buildings, as well as the migration of further Institutes and scientific facilities from the original site. In response to this infrastructure growth, the supervisory authorities (i.e. Government of Upper Bavaria, State Office for Fire and Civil Protection, Munich District Administration and many more) voiced their demands for self-management of the fire protection and rescue service. This led to the subsequent establishment of its own 'Corporate Fire Brigade' for the University and research facilities.
Following years of expert hearings and legal due diligence, the start of the new build of the Faculty for Chemistry, Biology and Geosciences in the years 1975-78, as well as the stricter requirements in nuclear law, tipped the balance towards setting up a Fire Brigade on equal terms with the public Fire Brigades.
In May 1979, 18 of the required 48 Fire Brigade officers of the 'Corporate Fire Brigade' already met all requirements according to civil service career law, as is usual with the communal Fire Brigades (full-time Fire Brigade, voluntary Fire Brigade with full-time employees). They attended the same training courses and are subject to the same examination conditions. This was also necessary since, with recognition of the Fire Brigade, the Corporate Fire Brigade was assigned the same tasks and responsibilities, including the obligation to provide neighbourly assistance.
After a large proportion of the vehicles and equipment required, as well as the facilities for organised guard duties, had been procured, the first of three guard shifts with six Fire Officers (1 senior Fire Chief and 5 Fire Officers) were able to take up their 24-hour duties on 1 June 1979.
Today, the Corporate Fire Brigade is one of the most up-to-date Fire Brigades in Germany. The Fire Brigade is deemed a think-tank where new, innovative products and applications for supporting the daily life of the Fire Brigade are evaluated and developed.
The innovative application centred upon the Atlanta PDA from TouchStar, as described below, originates here and now enjoys popularity among German-speaking Fire Brigades, and also in Austria, Northern Italy, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
Fire Brigade Tasks
The tasks of the Technical University Fire Brigade primarily include preventive and defensive fire protection on the Garching campus, as well as rescue services, but also general assistance typically provided by the Fire Brigade, such as for traffic accidents etc. Core activities are fire protection training and respiratory protection training of the University employees, approval of fire alarm systems, maintenance of 3,000 fire extinguishers and the checking of hydrants on the campus.
As the premises to be maintained include the former Munich Nuclear Research Reactor and the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Research Neutron Source, the fire-fighters have been specially trained in radiation protection.
The Fire Brigade Mobile Data Collection Application
Since, in case of emergency, all equipment and systems must be operational around the clock, it is necessary to maintain and inventory them accordingly.
For this, the University Fire Brigade uses a special software program which, on the one hand, ensures complete monitoring by means of barcode or RFID chips and, on the other hand, enables administration of proper "histories" of fire fighting equipment which must be regularly checked. This includes respiratory protection devices, fire extinguishers, hoses, pumps and power units etc.
Regarding these devices, it is particularly important not only to monitor them but, in case of doubt, to also prove their proper functionality. In this respect, legally flawless documentation becomes increasingly more important.
The inventory of material and machines is important in three respects.
- Financial planning and administration
- Warehouse control, i.e. stock control for consumables (such as sand and extinguishing agents) and also drugs and disposable material for the ambulances of the Corporate Fire Brigade
- Checking the particular vehicle loads for completeness and subsequent documentation.
For mobile work, the Technical University of Munich 'Corporate Fire Brigade' uses the ultra-robust Atlanta mobile computer from TouchStar. The Atlanta has proved itself extremely effective in the sometimes very harsh environment. Neither shocks nor dropping, nor exposure to water and other liquids have ever affected the operation of the Atlanta 'in the field'. The sunlight-readable display facilitates working outdoors e.g. for the checking of hydrants and fire extinguishers. In addition, both RFID transponders (125 kHz) and barcode labels can be processed simultaneously in the one device, which was an additional factor in the decision to use the product. The compact PDA fits in any (Fire Brigade) trouser pocket and works either in batch or online WiFi mode.
With this project, which started back in 2006, the Technical University of Munich's 'Corporate Fire Brigade' pioneered the use of mobile PC/PDA technology in the area of inventories and device checks. Subsequently, over 150 Atlanta mobile computers are used by German Fire Brigades in the manner described above.