RFID Case Study: Safe Working Gear for Fire Fighters

Krefeld Fire Department: Dependable protective clothing for emergency rescue services using RFID

At a glance...

  • Secure fastening of transponders to work clothing
  • Precise labeling of clothing items by transponder
  • Heat resistance and stability in case of disinfecting actions
  • ISO 15693 compatible
  • Automatic control of laundry articles: current user, number of wash cycles and disinfecting actions

RFID Frequency 134.2 kHz (LF)

The challenge

No emergency rescue firefighter at the Krefeld Firehouse has individually owned protective clothing. Each one gets his clothing items as needed from supply, which keeps them ready and sorted by sizes.

The thought that comes to anyone’s mind when the fire department issue comes up is: "The rescuer in times of need." It’s true the fire department’s job is to lend assistance in case of accidents, floods or fires: that means to rescue, protect, and save people, animals, and material objects. But this rescue organization has to take care of setting up its own internal procedures in order to meet its legal obligations. The cleaning and maintenance of its protective safety clothing is just such a job.

Regular washing and disinfecting of protective clothing is required by law. On the one hand, a thorough cleaning treatment of the protective clothes is indeed crucial; on the other, every laundry/ disinfecting action damages the clothes to a certain degree so that each item can only withstand a certain number of cleaning treatments. Therefore, how often an article of clothing may be cleaned is specified. In this way the significant functionality of the emergency rescue services’ special protective clothing is guaranteed.

The implementation

Data Collection
For this reason, control here is absolutely essential. Each individual item of clothing has to display its individual "history" in some way or another: Who was the last one to wear this jacket? How often has it already been disinfected? When was it? How often has it been washed and when was the last time that happened? To whom is the jacket issued right now? Clothing nametags, as was the practice in the past, are no longer of any assistance in this case. The Krefeld Fire Department prefers to opt for high tech in the case of laundry documentation and has assigned this job to the Brooks Company:

A laundry transponder has been sewn into each article of protective clothing. They are resistant to high temperature and also come through the disinfecting process trouble-free. The laundry drop-off and distribution points have been provided with special RFID table scanners. With the aid of this technology every article of clothing now reveals its past – fast and simply. Whether it is dropped off, distributed, brought in for laundering or disinfecting – the data for all these processes are automatically collected by the scanner.

Control Function

The precise identification number that distinguishes a transponder makes it impossible to confuse laundry items. Relevant data like user or the number of washes/ disinfecting actions already performed are stored in a database. Fresh data records can always be added to it or it can be updated. In the example of the Krefeld Fire Department, the software was programmed according to its needs and requirements by its own in-house development.

The distribution points are now capable of immediately detecting whether the article of clothing is in the condition required or whether it has to be withdrawn from use. By means of stored data the Krefeld Fire Department after access is able to easily obtain reliable and substantiated information on the status of the work clothes administered during its routine inventories of supply.

The Krefeld Fire Department’s request was to save time with significant administrative tasks and in this way to be able to concentrate on the areas of its actual basic expertise. Our control system has contributed a great deal to fulfilling this request.