The Volunteer Forest Protection Team (VFPT) of the Municipality of Kesariani has a long history during the last decades on the protection of Hymettus forest. It is a self-organized team of citizens (70-120 persons) who every year offer their free time in order to protect the forest in the summer months with basic support with resources and infrastructure from the Municipality. They developed through years an extensive communication system by using analog radio waves as well as basic digital infrastructure to facilitate their everyday activities and shifts in the mountain. On many occasions, a better information flow between members of the team is needed and a more instant update about the weather conditions in the area of their responsibility is necessary.
Existing radio wave communication infrastructure
Support actions and activation of resources for the Volunteer Team of forest firefighters of Kesariani
- Maintenance, upgrade and activate existing DIY systems and infrastructure
- Communication systems
- Meteorological stations
- Personal equipment
- Facilitate organizational issues and tasks such as work shift schedule generation, re-arrangements, coordination and weather conditions data visibility
- Create archive for educational aims and resolve transparency issues of communications during crisis management
_Framework of the pilot service
Based on the interaction with the Volunteer Team of forest firefighters and Municipality officers, OLA team acknowledged that the existence of an active community could lead to a broader approach of civic technologies co-production, by the development of new digital tools that are not included in the Mapping of Technologies of NLAB4CIT. In addition to that, the field of Forest Protection has become more important in recent years because of the acceleration of the climate crisis, creating a privileged field for social innovation by combining outdated (but efficient) technologies developed by the community with more advanced civic technologies. In that way a common space has emerged, where researchers and citizens are sharing knowledge and experience from different perspectives over diverse problems. Consequently the educational part of engaging citizens with digital civics is integrated in an extended co-design and co-development phase where technology is discussed as a tangible and accessible field to address the challenge of forest protection. At the same time the NLAB4CIT Technologies will be enriched with a toolkit that will include digital services, and technical knowledge, and could be adapted to improve coordination between citizens and institutions in order to address challenges of climate crises or other physical disasters. More specifically community infrastructuring will focus on the following areas:
- Support in the installation of an archiving system of the communications during shifts in the forest. Digitalization of radio waves through the integration of hardware on the existing equipment.
- Creation of a meteorological station with sensors and arduino micro processors in the forest.
- Development and prototyping of the digital and physical infrastructure with the involvement of VTFFK members and students.
- Development of an efficient model of the infrastructure to be replicated and easily reproduced by communities
- Development of a digital coordination platform for the VTFFK.
You can read more on our relevant publication “Living labs for civic technologies: a case study. Community infrastructuring for a volunteer firefighting service”
_Co-design Workshop on 5th of June 2022
On Sunday the fifth of June, an NLAB4CIT-workshop took place in the Kaisariani Museum of National Resistance. The workshop was aimed at co-designing services for the local Volunteer Fire-fighting Group. This group is responsible for guarding the Kaisariani forest while it also conducts fire-fighting operations in the area and other areas in cooperation with the professional public fire-fighting service.
There were 6 members of the fire-fighting group. 5 employees of the Municipality (three from the IT department, one from the civil protection service and one from the administration) and 3 members of Open Lab Athens. The workshop lasted approximately 3 hours and had two sessions.
- In the first session they worked on a map of the area where we mapped places of interest in the area (e.g fire fighting headquarters, watchtower) and problems regarding these spaces.
- In the second session, they co-designed sevices in order to assist the fire-fighting group in their everyday operations. They ended up with three services:
- A system to record operation data transmitted through the VHF radio
- A weather station in one of the watchtowers that can transmit the data to the headquarters
- An application to gather data of the team such as swifts, members and provide notifications.
_Engagement and training action on 29th of September.
On the 29th of September Open Lab Athens visited the headquarters of the volunteer firefighters of Kaisariani. We had an extensive discussion on how we will proceed with the tasks we are currently working on.
Firstly, we visited some of their outposts in the forest of Ymittos trying to decide where it would be best to set up a weather station which was co-designed by the volunteers with the help from researchers of Open Lab Athens. Apart from looking at the astonishing view from the mountain we tried to come up with solutions on the optimal place to situate the station. The weather station will improve their operational capabilities as they will be able to follow phenomena in a timely and precise manner. For the station we are going to use Open Hardware (Arduino) and make the design available for other teams too. In the next sessions we are going to work to co-develop the station with an IoT expert and the volunteer firefighters.
Following that we delved into their needs and how we could help them improve their digital infrastructure. After several sessions we helped them design a platform whose development by Open Lab Athens will upgrade the firefighters day-to-day workflow. Through this system they will be able to monitor their equipment and decide on their needs, organize their stations and personnel more efficiently and finally they will be able to have a more concise and secure way of communicating with each other. This system will include a web based CRM and a mobile application that the members of the team will use to sign-up for shifts and receive important notifications. The system will be open source and available for use by other firefighting teams. We are going to use the Strapi Open Source CMS and Angular to implement the system which will be self-hosted.
In the next couple of months through this lab we will be able to implement and evaluate the results of our work with the volunteer firefighters hoping that we will have done something to support their great and very important work.
_Civic Technologies under development and training sessions
Training sessions with the volunteers for the assemblage of the parts of meteorological station.