Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) around the UK have deployed a tablet-based training app, designed to enhance firefighters’ ability to do their job and save lives.

The Android-based app was developed in partnership between Cardiff University, the National Fire Chiefs Council and Bristol-based innovative enterprise app development company MyOxygen.

Aptly named THe INcident Command Skills (THINCS), the app will be used as a training and observation tool for six FRS’s initially, from this month onward.

The FRSs involved are: Hampshire, Scottish, South Wales, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, and Tyne and Wear.

Professor Honey, one of the researchers who developed the THINCS system, explained “THINCS measures the personal, social and cognitive skills identified as essential for the delivery of safe and efficient operations in high-risk industries such as the Fire and Rescue Service.”

The six FRS’s will use the app to help evaluate the system in ESRC-funded research, led by Cardiff University PhD student Phil Butler and supervised by Professor Honey and Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton.

James Courtney (QFSM), Chief Fire Officer of South Yorkshire and Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council’s National Operational Effectiveness Working Group, said “The THINCS mobile app gives the UK Fire and Rescue Service a new, practical tool to measure the command skills of its incident commanders.”

The app is already making waves, and has contributed to the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Innovator of the Year 2018 award to Prof Honey (Cardiff University) and Dr Cohen-Hatton (London Fire Brigade and Honorary Fellow at Cardiff University).

The idea for the app was borne from a skills gap Butler noticed in the fire service; namely the ability of firefighters to understand behavioural capabilities during live incidents and training.

Through his research, Mr Butler identified areas to observe and score during these events. Following this, he created a paper-based system to capture the observations, but the need for a digitised app soon became clear – laying the paving stones for the collaboration and app’s launch.