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Augmented reality and firefighting

Augmented reality and firefighting: Transforming Rescue Operations with BIM and Headsets

Explore how BIM, combined with augmented reality and headsets, revolutionizes rescue operations in unfamiliar or smoke-filled buildings. Read our in-depth analysis on life-saving technologies.

The technological innovation of Augmented Reality (AR) reaches the construction sector and proves to be strategically effective when combined with Building Information Modeling (BIM). Imagine navigating a maze of corridors in a smoke-filled building where every second counts. In such contexts, BIM, augmented reality, and headsets are not just technological tools but become valuable firefighting allies, ensuring timely and secure rescue operations.

BIM as the Foundation of Safety

BIM, with its detailed digital models, serves as the backbone for emergency operations. In a unified Common Data Environment (CDE), it provides an accurate representation of buildings, from structures to installations, to escape routes. This prior knowledge is crucial, especially when dealing with unknown or complex structures.

Augmented Reality: Seeing Beyond the Visible

When smoke obscures visibility, augmented reality (AR) becomes the rescuers’ eyes, proving essential as a firefighting technique. Through specialized headsets, AR overlays useful BIM data onto the real environment, outlining escape routes, emergency exit locations, and even the positions of vital equipment such as fire extinguishers and valves. In a world where visibility is nearly nonexistent, AR offers a clear and goal-oriented vision.

Headsets: A Window to Safety

Headsets, ranging from highly immersive VR to AR for real-world integration, serve as the means through which BIM and AR data become accessible. For rescuers, they represent a reliable guide through hostile environments, while for building occupants, they can provide intuitive evacuation guidance, reducing panic and optimizing escape times.

Augmented reality and firefighting - escape route simulation

Practical Applications and Life-Saving Potential

In a fire, the combination of BIM, AR, and headsets can literally point the way to safety. Rescuers can quickly identify the safest zones for intervention, while occupants can be guided efficiently to exits. In earthquake or other disaster scenarios, these technologies can rapidly assess structural integrity and plan evacuations or rescue interventions.

How to Create an Emergency Support System in a Building?

To create a support system for rescue operations in buildings, a structured process involving data collection, technology integration, and system testing should be followed. Here are the key steps:

  1. Data Collection and BIM Modeling
    • Building survey: Measure and gather all structural and non-structural data of the building, including plans, sections, construction details, system installations, and evacuation routes.
    • BIM model creation: Use collected data to build a detailed digital model of the building in BIM software, including all necessary information for rescue, such as escape routes, exit locations, firefighting equipment, and critical structural points.
  2. Integration with Augmented Reality (AR)
    • AR application development: Create an application that can read the BIM model and overlay relevant information onto the real environment through AR headsets.
    • QR codes and reference points: Place QR codes or other markers at strategic points inside the building that, when scanned, can provide specific location information or activate evacuation routes in the AR headset.
  3. Headset Technology
    • Headset selection: Choose suitable AR devices that are comfortable, robust, and provide a clear display of overlaid information.
    • Integration with BIM Model and AR Application: Ensure headsets can run the AR application and interact with the BIM model in real-time to provide updated guidance.
  4. Database and Common Data Environment (CDE)
    • CDE creation: Establish a centralized system to host the BIM model and all related information, accessible in real-time by rescuers through AR headsets.
    • Update and maintenance: Ensure the CDE is constantly updated with the latest structural or layout changes in the building.
  5. Training and Simulations
    • Staff training: Train rescue personnel in the use of AR headsets and understanding the BIM model.
    • Practical exercises: Conduct regular simulations in emergency situations to test the system’s effectiveness and familiarize personnel with procedures.
  6. Feedback and Improvements
    • Feedback collection: After each exercise or real event, gather feedback from personnel to understand what worked well and what can be improved.
    • Continuous updates: Implement continuous improvements to the system, the BIM model, the AR application, and devices based on feedback and new available technologies.
  7. Collaboration with Authorities and Professionals
    • Involvement of Authorities: Collaborate with local safety authorities, firefighters, and other rescue entities to ensure the system complies with regulations and is operationally effective.
    • Support from BIM and AR experts: Work with specialists in BIM and augmented reality to ensure the system is technologically advanced and functional.

Creating a support system for rescue operations in buildings is a complex process that requires detailed planning, strong collaboration across disciplines, and a constant commitment to improvement and technological updates. However, with the right approach, it can become a powerful tool to enhance safety and the effectiveness of rescue operations.

The integration of augmented reality into the BIM process in the ACCA usBIM platform introduces the so-called “Visual Site Construction Management,” a visual management system for the construction process usable during all phases of the construction project and even afterward as a useful tool for conducting timely and secure rescue operations.

The Future of Rescue Operations

In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, BIM, AR, and headsets emerge as indispensable tools in emergency management. Their ability to transform complex data into intuitive actions not only saves time but also lives. The integration of BIM with augmented reality and headsets represents a leap forward in firefighting practices and emergency management. It provides tangible hope in situations that demand quick and informed decisions, demonstrating that technology, when used skillfully, can become the most reliable ally in times of crisis.

In the following video, there’s a brief demonstration of the integrated application of AR technology with a BIM model.