AMS and BZA have joined forces in a four-year applied research program

June 28, 2018

Fire department Zone Antwerp gets ready for the future.

Society is constantly changing and to be able to guarantee safety, emergency services have to evolve at the same pace. Therefore, the Fire department Zone Antwerp (BZA) invests not only in modern equipment and thoroughly trained workers, but also in research. As a knowledge and research institute, Antwerp Management School (AMS) is deeply interested in practice-oriented studies of important phenomena in our urban environment. AMS and BZA have joined forces in a four-year research program that will be the first large-scale multidisciplinary applied research on ‘the fire department of the future’. 

Important loss of cargo resulting in huge traffic jams. Extreme weather conditions and flooding. A busy and smart city center with more and more high-rise… The city and society are changing, which is reflected in the type of incidents fire departments are confronted with.
What about self-driving cars? Or an entirely covered ring road? The fire department Zone Antwerp wants to be ready for the future and is therefore continuously investing in equipment, people and research.

AMS and BZA conduct the very first multidisciplinary applied research on ‘the fire department of the future’

The fire department as an organization, but also firefighters themselves, who often have to make decisions under serious stress, have frequently been the subject of studies in social sciences. For example, studies on leadership, the decision process under stress or the well-being of employees. But never has this been combined in one big research project. The results of this four-year study should allow BZA as well as all other fire departments in our country, and even other security services, to prepare for the challenges arising from a quickly evolving society. 

“Antwerp has the largest professional fire department in the country,” mayor and zone chairman Bart De Wever claims. “Our port and the petrochemical industry bring specific challenges to the city’s emergency and security services. Antwerp must stay at the forefront in terms of innovation, and implement an innovative policy to work on the fire department of the future. For the safety and well-being of our firefighters, and that of all people in Antwerp.

Maj. Bert Brugghemans, BZA commander: “With this research, AMS joins us in finding the answers to very pertinent questions arising in the fire department, including: ‘How can we be more effective in dealing with unexpected incidents? How can we set up even better interventions with other emergency services? How can we optimally protect the health and well-being of our employees?”

“It’s the first time such a large-scale multidisciplinary study of the operation of the fire department is conducted”, AMS dean elect Steven De Haes says. “The research will consist of ten separate research projects on three levels (individual, at department level and the structure as a whole) and in three domains (leadership, design and management, and technology and organization).”

“Many of our top researchers will be involved in this project. Topics such as Artificial Intelligence, neuroscience, technology-enabled decision making, sustainable networks and big data are listed on the agenda and the ambition is clearly to bring Antwerp internationally at the forefront in terms of firefighting and emergency services. The starting point is the fire department of the future. Obviously, nobody can predict the future, but what we can do is research which skills a firefighter will need in about 10 years’ time”, AMS Prof. dr. Hugo Marynissen adds.

Several partners will be involved in this research project, including other emergency services, authorities, other fire departments but also the port authority and businesses.

More information

Press contact BZA: Kristof Geens, 0476 991376, kristof.geens@brandweerzone.antwerpen.be
Press contact AMS: Anja Tys, 0486 494 387, Anja.tys@ams.ac.be