FIRED-uP is a three year project investigating innovative ways to reduce the environmental impact of fire service fleets.
In June 2012, London Fire Brigade, UK began work in partnership with the City of Ghent Fire Brigade, Belgium on FIRED-uP. The project won financing under the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), which is meeting the staff costs of the project as well as contributing to procurement costs. The CIP is a European Commission (EC) funding source designed to support innovation activities including eco-innovation, to provide better access to finance and deliver business support services across European regions.
The programme offered the Brigades an opportunity to meet some of our wider objectives to reach the market and increase competition while making a positive impact on the environment.
Specifically, the programme is helping us to foster competitiveness including amongst small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and to promote innovation and more sustainable use of resources within our frontline fleets.
Having the opportunity to work with a partner in another brigade in Ghent, Belgium, was an added bonus, as it gave us a chance to gather ideas and share best practices. In addition to the partnership, the EC grant extends the opportunity to hold seminars and workshops with fire and rescue service professionals from across Europe so we have learnt about what other professionals as far apart as Ireland and Poland have done to improve the environmental performance of their fleets.
The EC funded the project with the expectation that we would conduct three main strands of work that could benefit other emergency services across Europe, namely:
- An investigation into innovative market solutions to increase fleet sustainability and reduce the environmental impact of large vehicles
- Guidance on how to manage risk in innovative public procurement
- Conducting one or more actual procurements.
Investigating innovative market solutions
We completed our initial investigations into innovative fleet technologies and processes in early 2013 and used the results of this work to inform the rest of the project. We wanted to identify which technologies can be targeted to bring the biggest gains in improving fleet environmental performance.
This initial investigation allowed us to baseline the performance of our fleets and identify state-of-the-art technologies in the market. This involved internal and external research, formation of an Expert Advisory Group with representatives from other fire and rescue services and the university sector, and a workshop in which the potential options were evaluated.
We were also able to showcase the project at larger events such as the Emergency Services Show in the UK, and see demonstrations of new technologies.
The research identified a number of potential technical options that are either new or emerging in the market place and can fit into three broad categories:
- Alternative fuels/propulsion (e.g. biofuels, electric, hybrid-electric, hydrogen)
- Construction and components (e.g. light-weight body, particle filters, pumps, tyres)
- Data, logistics and life-cycle (e.g. on board telematics, eco-driving, vehicle retiring)
It was clear from this investigation that in common with many brigades, LFB and Ghent are already taking some steps to increase the sustainability of our vehicles, such as adopting light weight materials in new vehicles and replacing some of the older environmentally damaging equipment. For example, LFB has begun to adopt rechargeable scene lighting, which takes up less space on the vehicle, reduces weight and increases safety for fire fighters by eliminating the trip hazards associated with cables and petrol driven generators. Research indicated that the market for some of the more familiar environmental technologies such as electric, hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles was too immature for fire service vehicles, would be prohibitively expensive and could not yet meet operational needs. For example electric and hybrid vehicles have a limited battery life, which may not be appropriate for protracted pumping operations.
This led LFB to identify vehicle telematics systems as a promising area for further research and the potential for innovation and Ghent fire brigade to recognise the role which second-line support vehicles may play to reduce environmental impact and increase sustainability.
The market is developing quickly and many fleets have already realised benefits from telematics. LFB has spoken to fleet managers from police and ambulance services who have achieved fuel savings of up to 20%. For LFB, the biggest gains may be from reducing wear-and-tear when vehicles are operated off blue-lights, as well as fuel savings. Other potential benefits include improving maintenance cycles, reducing accidents and a longer life span for components and tyres. Information about pump usage could also contribute to more efficient and effective use of water in fire-fighting.
Guidance on managing risk
A component of the grant funding from the EC is for LFB and Ghent fire brigade to undertake procurement exercises. We are delivering these in parallel and will use the outcomes to provide additional guidance to other public sector procurers on good practices. Some of the issues to be addressed by this guidance include how to get the most out of market consultation, writing specifications which are innovation-friendly, using flexible procedures such as the competitive dialogue and dealing with risk and intellectual property rights.
In LFB’s case, we have commenced a procurement exercise to pilot-test data telematics and equipment tagging on a number of front line appliances in 2014. Ghent fire brigade have begun a market consultation exercise to engage with potential suppliers and to debate the technological feasibility and related risks of innovative second-line vehicles.
We are also looking at how to facilitate better market engagement and reduce risk by using mechanisms such as framework agreements. LFB is establishing a framework agreement in several lots which can be used by any other European fire and rescue service or authority. The framework is designed to provide greater flexibility in sourcing telematics and equipment tagging requirements; and allow small and medium-sized operators to compete directly, as they may be in a position to offer value for money for certain system components or services.
The existence of the framework will be publicised under the FIRED-uP project in order to encourage other fire and rescue services to award contracts as appropriate to their needs. This includes Ghent fire brigade and other European brigades who have been following the project, but is also designed to be open to other fire and rescue services currently unaware of the project.
2014 and beyond
In 2014, the FIRED-uP partners will continue to work with other fire and rescue services and suppliers to keep up-to-date with technological innovations in the market place. LFB will undertake the data telematics pilot over a period of six months to collect a wide range of data about the way pumping appliances, ancillary systems and equipment are being used.
This should allow us to track fuel and power consumption, emissions and the use of operational systems and equipment and to identify ways of reducing the cost, burden and amount of maintenance for each vehicle and piece of equipment due to more accurate monitoring of usage. If we can monitor which vehicular systems do not need to remain on during training and incidents, this could lead to lower fuel use and better power management. This in turn could reduce the high costs and environmental burden of vehicle replacement, by increasing the life span of individual vehicles.
Sophisticated monitoring of the fleet could also reduce the overall number of vehicles by allowing smarter use of reserve vehicles and reduced maintenance events for front-line appliances.
In future, the results of FIRED-uP will contribute to operational objectives for other brigades, for example by analysing vehicle use it may be possible to improve response times by mobilising vehicles more quickly based on location, availability and specialist purposes in a fleet.
LFB is looking forward to understanding how data telematics can contribute to these core objectives of all fire and rescue services, and to sharing this knowledge and procurement capacity with other brigades.
We will have an opportunity to begin sharing the results in September 2014 when FIRED-uP takes part in EcoProcura 2014 in Ghent (24–26 September). The EcoProcura conference is a European-wide forum to promote exchange and dialogue amongst purchasers from all levels of governments, suppliers, policy-makers and multipliers on strategies and the latest practical solutions on sustainable public procurement and procurement of innovation. LFB and Ghent fire brigade are pleased to be taking part in the conference leading a session dedicated to the project and taking part in a plenary panel. It is hoped that we will also be able to give a demonstration on the progress of the project and undertake a visit to see local fire–fighting facilities and how manufacturers are meeting the challenge of reducing the environmental impact of large vehicles and increasing sustainability.