Mid and West Wales Fire Service - one the largest in the UK - is going digital, by using Microsoft Surface, M365 and Teams to help respond to emergencies and to train new recruits.

The service, which looks after approximately 12,000 square kilometres of Wales, is supplying its officers with Surface Go devices so they can view information about specific vehicles as they are travelling to road traffic collisions.

This means that when they get to the scene of the incident, they can tell firefighters the best places to cut vehicles to free trapped passengers and how to disable undeployed airbags to avoid injury. They can also see live information about the incident, which can be shared instantly with colleagues.

The technology will be used alongside the mobile data terminals found in all fire appliances, which allow firefighters to stay in contact with their control centre but can’t be removed from the vehicle.

Chris Davies, chief fire officer said: “By using Surface Go, our officers can now see all the safety features of a vehicle involved in an accident, wherever they are. This gives firefighters more information about the situation as they safely extricate casualties.

“The use of real-time data and Power BI has transformed what we do. Whether that’s information from an emergency or a live feed from a drone searching for someone injured on a mountain, information allows our staff to understand situations in more detail.

“Technology is also helping us with more straightforward activities, such as using Teams to hold training sessions for firefighters across Wales.”

With 1,400 staff employed in 58 Fire Stations across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Swansea, arranging for everyone to be in the same place for training is difficult.

“It’s simple uses of technology like that which are really changing how our service operates to meet the needs of today’s world,” he said.

The chief fire officer is now looking to build on these successes by using Microsoft HoloLens to create life-sized holograms of some of the buildings in mid and west Wales, which firefighters can look at and interact with during training at their station or on the way to an emergency. This will allow them to understand potential risks, identify safe routes through those buildings, and learn the location of hydrants and sprinklers.

Currently, firefighters look at single line drawings of buildings on a computer screen.

HoloLens could also be used to train officers in how to respond to emergencies at Wales’ oil refineries.

“We have a number of oil refineries in the area, and historically we've always trained on those sites,” Davies said. “What HoloLens will enable us to do is actually put incident commanders into those scenarios, in an almost live experience but in a safe environment.

“I firmly believe this is going to change the way that we train and maintain the competencies of our firefighters. My vision of what is possible has been completely blown away.”