Last night as part of his state of the union address, when President Obama said:
"...it's about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device."
I was so happy that I paused my TV and immediately updated my Facebook status. This prompted a discussion of what firefighters need in terms of design data as part of putting out fires.
George Fournier Jr. is a volunteer fireman. He described what happens today.
- A firetruck pulls up to burning building within 5 minutes of the dispatch.
- Screaming people pull at firefighters to save their babies, home, furniture, etc.
- Chief arrives and establishes "command" and does a "size-up."
- 2nd Chief (Safety Officer) walks the property to look for dangers, exits, victims, etc.
- Additional fire apparatus arrive and go to work.
- Chief may have time to review his pre-plans which sometimes have the construction plans for when the building was built 25 to 75 years ago.
- Those plans are usually left in the truck since they are highly inaccurate and do not reflect the current construction of the building and its interior.
|For buildings that were built many years ago, George noted that AutoCAD nor Revit designs exist for these structures. I suggested that the owner could use Project Photofly to create a 3D model of the building using photographs taken by an ordinary web camera. Although helpful, George pointed out that to be really meaningful to assist the firefighter in his job, the design needs to have metadata such as what type of sprinklers and fire suppression systems are in place, and are they working? Where are the exits/entrances? What illegal construction was done since the building was built? To get a Chief to bother downloading a design to his mobile device, the design needs to provide more info than he can get from walking around the building he is standing in front of.|
|In NYC when there is a big fire the building department shows up with the architectural plans of the building. They were doing that on 9-11 as well. George noted that iPads and iPhones are rarely used in the fire service due to cost and reliability. Most times firemen have Sprint/Nextel that is weather resistant and usually intrinsically safe. As a volunteer firefighter, George is all for anything that makes his job safer and easier. But also, as a volunteer, he is painfully aware that everything has a cost. Firemen go door to door every year to get funds to buy the basic tools they need to protect the residents. Software, PCs, and the manpower to enter the info and maintain the info are costs most departments can never afford regrettably.|
|At this time, the state of the practice for viewing designs on a handheld device is AutoCAD WS. President Obama's point was that he wants the world to be connected. Autodesk is helping in this regard. AutoCAD WS connects architects and engineers with other consumers of the design. Easily keeping that information up to date post construction is another part of the equation that will also improve over time.|
Working to be part of the solution is alive in the lab.