First Responder Call-In Using Google Voice

fire

Firefighters and firehouses are not as glamorous as your kindergarten self would lead you to believe. Most firefighters in the US are volunteers, and most firefighters don’t live in the firehouse. Instead of hanging out at the fire house all the time, they use a call-in system that displays a list on a web page saying, ‘Joe is coming to the fire house’ or ‘Jack will meet you at the scene’. It’s highly efficient given the budgets they’re working with, but as [Andy] discovered, this same system can be replicated with Google Voice.

The system relies on a Google Voice account that’s set to have all calls go straight to voicemail. The missed call sends off a voicemail notification to the Gmail inbox, effectively turning the Gmail inbox into a call-in system for free.

In testing, [Andy] noticed the Gmail inbox doesn’t quite refresh fast enough for his purposes, so he whipped up a simple webpage with a little bit of PHP to parse the emails and display everything automatically. The idea being that this webpage could just be displayed on a monitor in the station, waiting for the next call.

Another improvement [Andy] points out could be setting up several numbers, each for different status codes. It’s an astonishing simple system, and now something that can be replicated for free.

Repairing a thermal imaging camera

[Mike] got his hands on this thermal imaging camera which is designed for use by Firefighters. As he’s demonstrating in the image above, it clips to a helmet and has a display what will let rescuers see through heavy smoke. But this one isn’t working right so he cracked it open and repaired the damaged board.

The hour-long video (embedded after the break) is quite interesting. He starts with a disassembly of the unit, before diving head-first into trouble shooting. There is a PCB inside that fills the entire U-shaped enclosure. The thermal sensor’s habit of cutting out seems to be a symptom of this design. There is one weak point where the board is very narrow. Flexing or vibrating that section will reset the sensor, and [Mike] ends up replacing a couple of components before the thing is fixed. These include a resistor and a ferrite bead both of which are suspected of having cracks due to that board flexing. The rest of the video is spent with an EEVblog-style look that the components and the construction.

[Read more...]

Motion activated monitor wakeup

This hardware is used to keep a computer monitor awake when there is motion in the room. The monitor displays important information for firefighter in the vehicle bay, but only needs to be on when they are getting ready to go out on a call. The solution is a simple one, a PIR sensor combines with a mouse for motion sensitive input. When the PIR sensor detects motion it causes a mouse button click via a 2N3904 transistor. Now the monitor will not waste power or have burn-in over the long term, but whenever someone is in the room it will be displaying the information that the emergency workers need to know.

[Thanks Andy]

Wiimote firefighting robot


Chad brings us yet another use for the Wiimote: firefighting robot. The Wiimote acts as a communications gateway via bluetooth to a host PC. The IR sensor is used to detect the fire, and the commands from the host are passed along via the Wiimote expansion port. The robot is pretty basic, but the use of the Wiimote to relay bluetooth comms via I2C is a fantastic hack.

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