The cloud comes to the rescue of the fire department

Published on 18/03/2013 in Customer Stories

The cloud comes to the rescue of the fire department

Within a context of national reforms, in the near future, the emergency services of zone Hainaut-Centre will incorporate the fire departments of 10 municipalities, each of which have their own infrastructure and ICT tools, of varying complexity. vContainer was chosen as the solution for unifying them.

Since 2010, the PZO Hainaut Centre has been working on creating, ‘from scratch’, an overall integrated infrastructure – including LAN, WAN, servers, applications etc. – for the 10 future sites of the zone. “Because our needs were difficult to gauge, the future solutions had to combine scalability and flexibility. We also had to take into account the rigid and slow procedures for public contracts and the limited number of ICT specialists we had to accomplish the project”, comments Lieutenant Christel Scarnière of the Mons Fire Department. “The solution chosen also needed to ensure the  department’s capacity to evolve. The first software to be installed is just one piece in a long series of steps.” The aim of this first project for ICT integration was to urgently make available a common application for the entry and management of intervention reports, with a specific model required from then on. If the PZO had opted for a classic approach of infrastructure, the application would require the purchase of several servers,meaning a wait of between one and two years.

The cloud as obvious choice

The PZO Hainaut Centre quickly abandoned the idea of building their own redundant server infrastructure between the sites. It needed to be outsourced. “This was at a time when the cloud was just starting to be popularized and, moreover, we had been interested in the flexibility of virtualization since 2009. But building a private cloud would have meant too big an investment. Not to mention too much maintenance and too much technical expertise”, recalls Captain Daniel Jonas, coordinator of the PZO Hainaut Centre. Given the needs and resources of the zone, focusing on solutions ‘as a service’ was, therefore, the obvious choice. Scarnière: “The demos confirmed that the solutions would supply the necessary flexibility and scalability while, at the same time, giving small organizations access to cutting-edge technology, at an affordable price. vContainer was the least expensive of the options that met our criteria in terms of time-to-market, pay for use, convenient increase of virtual resources, accessibility and geographic and technological interoperability. Its management interface was also extremely easy to use”.

Speed of implementation

Fifteen days after the agreement was signed, in March 2011, the Mons Fire Department received the access codes, and the virtual resources were made available. “Implementing the application in vContainer then took only a few hours! What’s more, we can create an additional virtual machine whenever a new need arises, of any kind. It’s load is distributed automatically. And without additional costs”, explains Jonas explained, who envisions the creation of ‘dormant‘ applications (Disaster Recovery Plan, tools for risk calculation and analysis, information campaigns for the public about CO2 emissions, prevention of chimney fires, safety recommendations for Christmas decorations etc.) which could be activated as necessary. The cost aspect is also a plus: “they are significantly lower than with traditional physical infrastructure. And manageable thanks to the system of a monthly fee. There is no need to allocate an extra annual budget for investments, it’s all part of the operational budget. This is a lot easier to work with and better suited to the way that administrations function”, Scarnière added.


Ready for more

The PZO Hainaut Centre also plans to take advantage of the integration of vContainer with the Explore services by installing its PABX in the cloud and using unified  communications. “It takes several days simply to agree upon a date for a meeting … We need to put in place efficient tools for collaboration, for which we only need to pay a license fee per user. SaaS (Software as a Service) is the fastest model for unifying our software and allowing everyone to work in the same way which is, after all, the aim of the reform”, Jonas concluded.

Company profile

Each year, the PZO Hainaut Centre (700 firefighters, 40 officers, 32 municipalities and 10 sites) performs 12,000 fire interventions and 29,000 ambulance rescues, for a population of 570,000 residents.

Business benefits
  • Time to market (immediate availability)
  • Lower cost than a physical infrastructure
  • Cost management
  • Flexibility and scalability of the infrastructure
  • Focus on core business
  • Outsourcing of redundancy, access security, cooling, power supply …
More info?

For more information on vContainer, visit the Belgacom website or contact your Account Manager.


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