Analysis of Firefighting Skills using a teleoperated robot

https://robomechjournal.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40648-020-00177-y


It is common nowadays to employ robots using; to make everything easy and fast. Everyone has always believed that robots can change the working environment because they were viewed as a tool and an assistant.

Firefighting is the organization of the whole fire department, which must act as a single unit to localize the damage caused by fire.

One essential aspect of firefighting is reconnaissance. Reconnaissance was originally a military term used to describe a strategy that involves information gathering about enemy forces and positions by sending small units.

Its main point is to ascertain the enemy’s strength and devise a specific set of strategies and tactics to ensure victory. Firefighting also has the same concept; it’s about pinpointing the best strategic move in a more concentrated manner to maximize resources and ensure the task is carried out swiftly and efficiently.

Figures showing risk that firefighters face while performing their jobs

A report in the US fire departments in 2016 revealed that it had received 35.3 million calls which 1.8 million of these incidents are related to fire and hazardous materials. Another 22.8 million were requested for immediate medical backup.

Among these responders were the firefighters which 67% of these were volunteers. It is noted that firefighters risk the health they incurred during emergency response.

2016 marked some depressing news where 69 firefighters: who responded to the emergencies tragically died while 62,085 suffered different forms of injuries that require attention and treatment by medical personnel.

Although the mortality rate was gone down over time, still it’s not encouraging news to hear that our brave firefighters lost their lives, and their loved ones have to suffer and endure the fact that their loved ones lost their lives while saving others.

Robots to the rescue

The idea of utilizing teleoperated robots is based on the notion that they (robots) can perform risky tasks in very extreme environments like disaster sites. We have highlighted figures where we flashed figures of firefighters injured or dying while they were actively performing their jobs.

Robots can only do so much

But, like any machine, teleoperated robots have its limitation; not very many are using them because it had been reported; they perform poorly compared to their human counterparts.

Most of the reasons; why these jobs are perceived as effective are that a human operator located a few meters away makes these robots effective. A study was conducted, and a comparison was made between expert-level firefighters against the teleoperated robots.

The level of performance of humans was viewed to be miles apart compared to that of robots. When exposed to challenging environments and situations, the robots fared poorly: because the firefighting skills displayed by their human counterparts are something; that is learned by having constant exposure to such stimuli.

Basic Firefighting skills take time to master

Reconnaissance is one basic tactic that is important in firefighting. Most basic firefighting tactics follow principles that firefighters strictly adhere to ensure everyone comes home safe and sound and mitigate chances of incurring large and costly damage.

In this specific study, a comparison was made on - how robots fared with their human counterparts on these variables on actual firefighting operations.

Item name

Description



Location of fire

Whether participants consider the location of the fire

Influence of fire on the environment

Whether participants consider the spread of fire to surrounding buildings

Building entrance

Whether participants check the building entrance to inrush

Rapid combustion

Whether participants consider flashover and backdraft

Influence of elapsed time

Whether participants consider the progress of fire over time

Water utilization

Whether participants check the locations of the water utilization


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Calculate


Item name Description Location of fire Whether participants consider the location of the fire Influence of fire on the environment Whether participants consider the spread of fire to surrounding buildings Building entrance Whether participants check the building entrance to inrush Rapid combustion Whether participants consider flashover and backdraft Influence of elapsed time Whether participants consider the progress of fire over time Water utilization Whether participants check the locations of the water utilization


They recreated a situation based on the table above to see how robots would react when they in are in a controlled situation as this one indicated.


firefighting

***Diagram courtesy of robomech journa***l

In this situation, they recreated a residential area and a commercial facility where there are buildings. In a residential area, simulated rows of houses and condo units are indicated.

What have we found out

While experimenting, we have some bias geared towards the experts - the seasoned firefighters considering the length of time; they have spent working on such conditions.

In reconnaissance operations, we found out; that there was so little to almost no significant difference in water discharge activities. The robot was able to hold its ground quite impressively in deciding the water discharge point.

But the way experts conduct themselves in choosing every step is evident as they show a high level of proficiency in doing the steps to ensure they are effectively putting off the fire in this simulated exercise.

A lot of things were observed in the conduct of these experiments. One significant observation is the way how the experts and our novice firefighter make their assessments on which to put out first.

The novices were watched to check the commercial facilities while the experts - checked the residential areas. The reason for this was: the beginners had preliminary information that influenced their decision to handle the fire issue.

Firefighters adhere to principles in preventing the spread of fire the way - the experts conducted themselves in reacting to the situation shows how experience comes into play.

Our take on this

After comparing the skills of experts and novices who aided with teleoperated robots, we have seen how their behaviors significantly differ in approaching situations. The multi-faceted approach of experts was evident in conducting reconnaissance which led us to think that experience plays a great part.

Developing the human-machine interface of teleoperated robots with the experts' level of proficiency will highly improve the performance of such robots in assisting the firefighters in their operations.

A much better version of HMI with emphasis on multi-faceted perspective in solving everything in a stressful situation was seen to improve the reconnaissance skills of these robots. The robot can only mirror, what it’s fed with, so having the skillset of experts would be an advantage in enhancing the robot's overall performance.