The articulated camera head has allowed us to mount the camera on the helmet, which is great. It’s really important that we get the mounting done properly as we can’t mount it the same way others can. We’re also about to encrypt the cameras, which will give an added layer of protection.Alex Rhodes, Station Manager in Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service
Hampshire Firefighters Pioneer Body-Worn Cameras
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) is the first in the country to be handing out body-worn cameras to its officers.
The 70 Reveal devices will enable users to evaluate and reflect on their own performance and decisions to see if improvements can be made.
On large or sensitive incidents the footage can be reviewed by peers and other managers, providing an enhanced level of tactical advice and debrief.
However, the video could also be used to record evidence for fire service and police investigations, and have training applications.
It may be a media resource too, giving the public a new insight into the various roles of the modern firefighter.
Alex Rhodes is a Station Manager in Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service where they are currently piloting Reveal body cameras. Alex is the body-worn video lead, and we caught up with him to learn more about the project.
Reveal: How did the project start?
Alex: “It started because we were interested in making more use of video for organisational learning and improvement.
“We tried various options and different cameras. What we soon realised is that the management and collection of the data are most important. We had focussed on the quality of the cameras, which was really secondary to managing the videos we had taken.
“We also spoke to Hampshire constabulary about their project, which is part of the reason why we found the Reveal solution to be a preferred option for us. It works well that people in Hampshire see the same equipment across their police and fire services.
“We are currently running a pilot with 9 cameras, but we’ll soon have 70 cameras individually issued to all our middle and senior-level commanders.”
Reveal: Why do you need body cameras?
Alex: “We are using the body cameras for a few reasons. Mainly we brought them in for improving operational effectiveness and command decision making through better personal and organisational learning.
“It’s been useful from a personal reflection perspective, and there have been a number of times where incident commanders who have looked back at footage have expressed that they could have taken a different approach such as communicating decisions in a more constructive way.
“As another example, I attended an animal rescue incident with a horse stuck in a ditch. Being able to view the video was really useful from the point of view that although it was a successful rescue, there were a few areas for improvement which have been shared.
“The video is important where we need to collect evidence. We were recently able to pass on footage of a suspected arson attack because the presence of the suspect in the video linked them to the crime. We foresee instances where body-worn camera footage would support investigations such as complaints, accidents, and near misses.”
Are the cameras making a difference?
“The cameras are doing what we expected them to. There have been instances outside of the pilot where we realise it would have been of benefit if the cameras were in place. For example, we attended an incident where there was an explosion caused by a gas cylinder; it would have been useful to have had a body-worn video of this.
“The articulated camera head has allowed us to mount the camera on the helmet, which is great. It’s really important that we get the mounting done properly as we can’t mount it the same way others can. We’re also about to encrypt the cameras, which will give an added layer of protection.”
Reveal: How do you manage the footage?
Alex: “We started off with a standalone deployment of DEMS, but with 70 cameras we’ll move to our network servers and have set up a client-based version. This will make it easier to upload videos from various locations and review video footage internally across individuals and teams as appropriate.
“With DEMS we’ve been able to set custom retention policies, and the auto-delete feature has been both useful and essential in developing efficient business process. We keep all footage for a minimum of 30 days, and 1 year for anything that could be used for training purposes; 2 years for anything that could be used for the evaluation of equipment and techniques; 7 years if the footage has evidential value; and 50 years if a video has evidence of anything that could have health implications. The footage can’t be tampered with or deleted by our users.
“In addition to body cameras we have access to drones, and we’re interested in combining aerial video records with the footage from the body cameras to get a complete picture. We’ll be able to use DEMS to store and manage the drone footage too, which is important as it will all be in the same place.”
Reveal: How has your experience been working with Reveal?
Alex: “We have enjoyed a very positive and proactive working relationship with Reveal. There have been a few issues to resolve (as expected with something so new to the fire sector), but throughout resolving those they have been helpful and supportive ensuring our learning paves the way for future fire service use.”