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Conker rugged tablet helps to keep the river safe for Tees River Rescue

This case study shows how the right mobile hardware can offer improved functionality for in-field personnel and improve crew safety

About Tees River Rescue

Tees River Rescue is an independent rescue charity based on the River Tees in the North East of England. The charity provides search and rescue services, patrolling the river at peak times throughout the year and offering education, support and reassurance for river users.

Run by volunteers, the charity carries out a range of activities, and over the course of 2021 searched the river and its’ banks for missing people, injured animals, damaged or sinking boats and missing paddle boarders.


Facing communication challenges – keeping crew safe

Deploying rescue boats on a long stretch of river means the Tees River Rescue team are often out of radio range and unable to get updates, including changes to search plans unless they use their mobile phones. Using phones on a boat comes with risks, as volunteers could easily drop their phones into the water, or damage them. They also need to be able to inform other emergency services of the boat’s location and having reliable GPS and access to maps is crucial to keeping crews safe.

Rob Lynas, Trustee and volunteer crew, Tees River Rescue, said: “We are at the mercy of the weather and keeping people on the river and our teams safe is imperative.”

To alleviate this problem the charity was searching for a suitable big screen device that they could munt and use out on the boat to send messages, view maps and to utilise as a fail safe for communications, in case anything went wrong.


Searching for a ‘rugged’ solution

Finding something suitable was a challenge, as Rob Lynas, explained: “Some of the companies I contacted didn’t get back to us, as we are a small charity we will never be able to buy large quantities of their products.

“We also needed a device that was good value, and incredibly reliable – able to deal with the difficult conditions our crews can be exposed to, including the great British weather.”

“When I first viewed the Conker rugged tablets on the website, they seemed to tick all the boxes. We needed rugged, waterproof, removable, good battery, and visibility in sunlight with a mount and they matched all those requirements.”

Having spoken to the Conker team to ascertain the best product for their needs, Tees River Rescue purchased the Conker SX82 8 inch Android tablet. The tablet has ruggedness at its heart; a huge battery offering over 24 hours of video play time, IP65 rated (being completely dust proof and able to withstand low pressure jets of water), an operational temperature range of -10oC to 50oC, and drop testing of 1.2 metres repeated drops or a 1.5 metre single drop.


Conker in action

Since the tablet was first installed on the boat, the crew were impressed, with one mentioning that on a training exercise he could plot the location precisely and provide information regarding the streets they were adjacent to other emergency services. The crew has also managed a Teams video call from the middle of the river and unmounted the tablet to show a view of what they could see to someone sat in the Tees River Rescue command room.

Rob Lynas comments on how the Conker tablet has opened up a wide array of possibilities for the charity and its teams: “Once we got the tablet installed on the boat other opportunities became apparent. We know where the boat is at all times.

“It is going to be difficult to not have it now. We will utilise it for video, pictures, reporting incidents, tracking tides, monitoring river flow, weather, video calls with other emergency service colleagues and even potential live streams from the boat back to base. It has opened up a world of options for us and I am sure we will find even more uses as we go on.

“The Conker team have been fantastic, and the tablet is a really great addition to the team – helping to keep the river safe, which is what it is all about.”

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