Bram Knaapen

Firefighting Beacon

Bachelor Degree Final Project (2007)

Series of beacons capable of showing a preconfigured danger symbol in addition to an auditory warning system when the line of beacons is crossed. This system can be used to border off dangerous areas within the working area of firefighters. It is specifically aimed at firefighters.


Firefighting is a dangerous job. Firefighters are constantly surrounded by hazardous and rapidly changing situations. Communication between the firefighters is essential in order to provide a working situation that is as safe as possible. Through interviews and the conclusion of the report about the disaster at the Koningkerk in Haarlem (3 firefighters died) I found difficulty in the communication of dangerous areas within the working area of firefighters. Examples of these dangerous areas can be exploding gas cylinders, collapsing parts of buildings and leaking hazardous liquids or gasses. When firefighters are not aware of or ignore the marked area and move into that area it can lead to dangerous situations which can lead to injury and even death. This problem occurs in situations where there is a rapidly changing situation and a lot of firefighters from multiple divisions are present (e.g. a large fire). This project was about designing a tool that enables firefighters to mark a dangerous area and once deployed will prevent other firefighters from moving into that area.

Design Proposition

The design proposition consists out of an array of beacons that have to be placed next to each other so that they will form a line; A border between safe and dangerous. These beacons will have to be used when nobody is allowed to move in a specific area. There are two principles that communicate with the firefighter: Auditory and visual.
The visual feedback is specifically used to inform the firefighter about the danger. I believe that when the firefighter knows about the danger it will acknowledge the danger and the restriction faster. The beacons are capable of displaying 5 symbols/animations. Explosion, collapse from the side, collapse from the top/bottom, contamination and no entrance. The beacons will consecutively display the no entrance and one of the other symbols/animations. This in order to clear out that the beacons are there to stop firefighters instead of only inform.

If a firefighter crosses the line between 2 beacons an auditory signal will be emitted. The auditory feedback is limited to trespassing behavior. A moderate signal will be given when somebody trespasses the border and as the firefighter’s distance to the beacons gets larger the sound will become more intrusive. The auditory signal has got another advantage. It can alarm other firefighters in the neighbourhood that somebody crossed the border. The colleague then can get the firefighter out of the area or assist him when he moved into the dangerous area because of e.g. an injured colleague. The auditory signal should be seen as a last resort. The visual signal should be sufficient to update the firefighter on the danger and the firefighter should know that it’s too dangerous to move into such area without more information.